It’s been about six weeks now since most New Yorkers started quarantining themselves amid the global coronavirus pandemic, and about five weeks since Governor Andrew Cuomo officially mandated a stay-at-home order for the state. By now, people have started to get used to the idea of sequestering themselves at home for days on end, thereby enshrining themselves in their own bubbles for the sake of the greater good. That doesn’t mean that people are necessarily liking this current situation, though, if New York Times article is any indication. For most human beings, self-isolation is not, and perhaps will never be their natural state.
Theoretically, situations like these offer the Internet its time to shine. Over the years, though, the World Wide Web has proven to be as much an isolating force as a uniting one, especially when it comes to inspiring that dreaded feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) in people. But this is where artists can come in—to pick up the slack, using their imagination and empathy to come up with their own ways to bridge the gaps.
Jonathan Puckey is not an “artist,” per se. He is a graphic designer and computer programmer based in Amsterdam who has spent much of his career coming up with innovative interactive websites and applications meant to explore the broader social possibilities of technology. Nevertheless, some of what Puckey has created over the years has the power to remind us of one of art’s glorious functions: to draw our attention to a world outside our own and possibly bring us all together with that knowledge.
One of his most noteworthy online installations in that regard is, which Puckey created with the interactive design studio Studio Moniker and first unveiled in 2014. Dubbed a “Twitter clock,” the site was conceived as part of an exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, that, according to , “shows how the urge to continually transform and perfect manifests itself in our daily lives and how art and design both go along with and counteract it.” To that end, Puckey created a bot that culled tweets, all of which featured a particular time in it, and, on Twitter at least, retweeted them to form what he called a “novel” detailing a day of a life in real-time, over 24 hours.
Thatstill exists, though it appears that it hasn’t been active since 2018. But the website —a carousel of real-time tweets feature particular time stamps—remains active, and it is strangely mesmerizing. For one thing, All the Minutes plays like the tweet-based digital equivalent of Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010), the British video artist’s majestic supercut of film clips, with every shot featuring a timepiece of some sort, all edited together to form a 24-hour real-time montage.
Instead of the riot of visual stimulation resulting from the wide variety of film selections in Marclay’s installation, though, Puckey’s creation presents just one tweet after another, with the only visual interest being its alternation between black and white backgrounds with each tweet. Another crucial difference lies in the tweets themselves. If The Clock was fun to watch just to see trends in the kinds of clips presented depending on what time of day it was, All the Minutes dispenses with any demarcations of seasonal, geographical, and time-zone boundaries. Thus, even if you’re looking atat, say, 4:45 pm in New York in the springtime, when the sun will still be shining for at least another two or three hours, you’ll probably see tweets from people complaining about the sun setting too early for their taste.
And yet, there is a certain comfort in seeing this carousel of tweets from people globally, articulating within Twitter’s 280-character—or what was previously 140-character—limit observations and experiences that are bound to be universal. The experiences themselves may not be remarkable, but they’re indubitably human, and seeing similar ones popping up at all times of day carries the charge of reminding us that, in the end, we are all together in this life, even in the most mundane details.
If anything, though, Puckey’s most magical attempt to bring people together through his brand of digital art would come two years later after All the Minutes. Check back here later this week to find out what that is…