Your Time, My Time

Writer: Grace Noh

What time is it there?

What is it about time that we get curious to ask on the other side of the phone or over text messages when we talk to someone in a different time zone? We imagine what that person might be doing, eating, or thinking at the very moment when the time and place are different from where we are. In fact, we are communicating with someone who is, literally, living in the past, present, or future from us. If we are seeing the sunrise at this moment, someone might be seeing the sunset though it is the same sun we are both seeing.

Having friends and family living in many different countries, I am quite used to calculating different times in my head and often wonder what time it would be in the different parts of the world. Sometimes these thoughts occur unpredictably when I look at a clock. Perhaps it’s not up to my consciousness to explain why such thoughts arise, but it may have to do with my desire to stay connected with them.

On September 12, 2015 – Ram Jung and I were talking about our MiA’s upcoming exhibition in Beijing. At the time, I was preparing for my trip to Berlin from New York while Ram was preparing his trip to Beijing from Seoul. We realized that our two different trips were occurring on the same dates. We were both traveling for art shows and were about to become the “foreigners” of the new cities.

Then we became curious. What would each of us be doing in two different time zones and places? We were already in two different places and times, Seoul and New York, but we were about to spend the next eight days in unfamiliar places with limited communicating skills of Mandarin and German. We had an instinct gut to do something about it: record ourselves on a certain time of the day while we were out of our comfort zone.

My first image of this “dual-journey” project was taken on the airplane right before the departure. I felt awkward to hold up a camera with my arm stretched to capture the watch on my wrist against the background of the airplane window. It was only me who knew what kind of action I was making at the site. The very moment of taking the photo was strange, but the instinct reaction after taking the first image was a smile of satisfaction.

There was a sense of comfort and connection when thinking about the fact that there was someone who has done the same “uncomfortable” act though I couldn’t see it with my own eyes. It wasn’t to simply conduct something “cool” or fun. Each day we set up a time and without reminding each other, we checked the time, stopped from what we were doing, and took a photo. We continued to do so for the next eight days.

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What were we trying to do? What did such action mean to us and to others? The answer is nowhere close to something grandiose. Photographs taken during the eight days were fundamentally the visual representations of certain times of the two people’s promise. The literal presentation of time, whether with a clock or a watch, allowed us to provide emotional and meaningful touch to the photographs. In a way, the photographs were not merely in the time-based medium any longer, but in dual reality of time in image and image in time that could be perceived by and shared with others with various points of views.