The initial part of this project explores a history of timekeeping devices alongside a ritual of daily clock making. The process of trying to make a unique clock daily (but more realistically every other day), within the constraints of 60 days made this project as much about the structures of creativity as it is about the structures and systems of time. The resulting collection of clocks are humorous, poetic, and sculptural collages that work to reorient our sense of time and units of measurement. 

After starting, and struggling, to turn the clocks into a book as Covid-19 swept the United States, I abandoned the project for a few weeks, all my clocks, trapped in the studio. I had never been satisfied with the crappy iPhone photos I was using as temp, but nevertheless persisted to eventually finish a draft of the book. But, I was still dissatisfied; much of the feeling of being with the clocks, in person, was lost in the static pages and low-res images of the book. After sharing this dissatisfaction with Nadia, she offered to rescue the clocks from the studio and we met for a hand-off in the valley! Being reunited with the clocks again, starting to re-photograph them, it became immediately clear to me that I wanted to make a clock film instead of the book.  So this project also became about the translation between the two media, and what is gained and lost along the way. While the film is still in its earliest and roughest stages, it’s becoming a synthesis of many of the ideas that I’ve been engaging with over the last three years; the marriage of poetry with video, the translation between the book and the screen, and an examination of tactility, ​process, and the personal in graphic design.


Tests of Time is a lyrical video essay ​that interrogates our commonly understood notions of time. Through the process of disassembling and reassembling clocks, the film is a quest to better understand time through making -- the impulse to quell anxieties and neuroses through the performance of  “productivity.” The clocks act as characters, physical representations and evidence of examined ideas: time is subjective, time is personal, time is fleeting. This self-initiated examination escalates from earnest intrigue to overwhelming desperation. Why do we continue to ask questions that have no answers, strive to know the unknowable?​

Below is a rough cut of the film:


Designed / Directed by Emma Berliner

Written by Amanda Scharf 

6 min