Helga Schmid
Uchronia: Time Utopia
Dr Helga Schmid is an artist/designer, researcher and educator. She is a resident at Somerset House and Course Director for BA Graphic and Media Design at London College of Communication.

In 2018, she was a Designer in Residence at the Design Museum in London. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, including the Serpentine Gallery, the Design Museum, Dia Art Foundation NY, Z33 in Hasselt and V&A Museum. She has received international awards including the Art and Type Directors Award, as well as a Fulbright and DAAD scholarship. In 2020 she published the book Uchronia: Designing Time

Uchronia Manifesto

1. The perception of having ‘no time’ is not only an individual issue. It is an essential, structural concern in Western societies, which needs to be addressed in the politics of time.

2. Technologies shape and are shaped by society. They are neither the problem nor the solution.

3. Deadlines—not bound to any laws or regulations—cross all the boundaries of labour and leisure, public and private, across all time zones.

4. We are imprisoned in our own system of clocks and calendars, but even so, they are only one element in the interplay of temporality (lived time).

5. Time is the true metric for human satisfaction and welfare, rather than economic prosperity.

6. Now is the time to question our existing working patterns and our current temporal structure.

7. Now is the time to unlearn clock time and gain temporal freedom.

8. No one can hold us back from consciously experimenting with the design of time, on an individual and societal level.

9. Time is like an orchestra. It is about the right timing, with time spans reaching from one moment up to deep time.

10. It is time for Uchronia, the temporal utopia.

Short Essay

Mass quarantines across the globe due to the Coronavirus pandemic have prompted thinking about lasting structural changes in the ways we live and work. The time to unwind and reflect, and new ways of remote working and communication, cause us to question commuting, consuming, care, habitation, and our previous rhythms of work/life balance. 

Our sense of time is encoded into us from birth, based on societal norms of work and school, and technologies such as artificial light. But all cultural systems are constantly changing, and ours is increasingly driven by increasingly precise timing technologies and the dominance of screen-based devices. Such algorithmic structures and inhumane rhythms conflict with natural rhythms and the human biological clock. How much of each day do you spend outdoors, exposed to daylight? How long do you sit, staring at a screen? When is the best time of day for working, exercising, napping, daydreaming?

This project invites you to imagine a world without clocks and calendars, where our bodies and the environment tell us what to do when. It’s time to move beyond dreaming—let’s use this unprecedented opportunity to actually try out new ways of living. You are invited to ‘unlearn’ societal time and develop your own zeitgeber (time-giver) over the course of 24 to 48 hours. The idea is to start afresh with what we call time. Create your own Uchronia (time utopia)!

Time Experiment - Instructions 

I. Set aside 24 to 48 hours or more.

II. Pick or develop a Zeitgeber (time-giver) for this period of time, something that replaces clock time. It can be based on natural rhythms,  the body, another animal, a technology. Be inspired by the example cards, eg. Random Rhythm, Felt Time or A Dog's Life.

III. Plan the experiment in detail, document it in a way it suits you (video or sound recording, writing, photographs …)

IV. Inform your network about your experiment (eg. tell them directly, set an automatic reply) so they don’t expect timely replies from you.

V. Remove yourself from clock time (tape over the clock on your phone, laptop, microwave …).

VI. Ideally prepare things like food beforehand, so you don’t need to leave your own temporal bubble (except as it is part of your time-giver). The fewer external interruptions, the better.

VII. Do it and enjoy the temporal freedom! Stay safe and in your comfort zone.

VIII. Share and upload one image of your time experiment to the Uchronia Platform, and describe in a few words your time-giver!

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Robert Poynton
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Advocate of the ‘pause’, Robert draws upon the world of business, spirituality and experiencing life changing moments to invite us to consider whether taking a break might be the best thing for us.