100 Ways to Consider Time

01.17.2016 Day 64 – Marilyn Arsem at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


On the day I went to see Marilyn Arsem at the MFA she was building a wooden self perpetuating clock.  While she worked at the desk she would ask for a volunteer to sit in the chair next to her. The volunteer would read from a book on John Harrison, his clocks, and the invention of his marine chronometer. The completed pendulum hung on the wall behind her.

The setting for the piece was in a white cube gallery seated in the Contemporary Art Wing of the MFA. One knows they are in a museum. But it was a different experience when you entered the gallery that Arsem has been inhabiting for the last couple of months.The minimal set up of a desk, two chairs, and a floor lamp were pushed to the back corner of the space across from where one entered. Even though it was sparse I thought it felt cozy watching and listening to the two performers under the floor lamp working on their tasks. My brain may have forgotten where I was exactly for a little bit.

Arsem is doing a different performance every day of her 100 days at the MFA. When she is not able to be physically present a recording of her voice plays in the space. The clock construction is the only performance that has spilled over into multiple days due to the 140 steps it takes to build the clock. The book changes for each day the clock is worked on.

“I consider performance art as both a context and a process. It is a dialogue with time, materials, physical space,and other people. It is an opportunity to engage in embodied thinking and make use of all my senses. I use performance to challenge my assumptions, to ask questions, to examine ideas through different lenses, to test my limits, to explore new realities, to experiment with processes whose outcomes I can’t always predict, and to take risks in a context that is framed and contained within real life.” – Marily Arsem (artist statement)


-I learnt that graphite (particularly HB or softer) is used as a lubricant in wooden clocks.

-I love being read out loud to and watching people build things.