Bearhtmhwile, the Old English for a twinkling moment, is a circular light installation conceived for Swansea Bay’s coastal setting. The audience walk through segments of a disc of light, designed to evoke daily tasks and activities, housed in a spiral structure. When the segments combine to form a full disc of light, all temporal measure falls away. Bearhtmhwile acts as a lighthouse and beacon, warning of the dangers of racing through artificial divisions of days while offering a safe harbour for another experience of time.
Your alarm clock rings. It’s 7:30. A day of tasks unfolds before you. Shower, 15 minutes. Get dressed, 8 minutes. Eat breakfast, 15 minutes. Brush teeth, 3 minutes. Walk to the station, 7 minutes.
You arrive at work and the tasks continue, overlapping, slice of time upon slice of time, each broken from the whole, labelled and assigned a use purpose. 23 minutes, 17 minutes, 1 minute, 1 minute, 9 minutes. On and on for 8 more hours. You may be lucky and enjoy an hour’s break for lunch. Otherwise that too becomes another brief slice, the time it takes to buy a sandwich, return to your desk and carry on; your break lost as it merges with the demands of yet more slices.
24 hours in each day, an arbitrary measure of time once dreamt up by man to wrestle power away from capricious gods, run you as you run through them. Life’s a journey, not a destination loses its charm if you are locked into a system that encourages you, not to stay a while to enjoy a moment, but to step in time to a forwards-moving productive march.
Bearhtmhwile’s coastal setting serves as a reminder of an era when the artificial measure of clock time was not a universally adopted system. Time happened, instead, on a local scale, measured through common tasks. In Swansea Bay’s maritime setting, both time and task would have been closely linked to the changing tides and cycles of daylight and darkness.
You enter Bearhtmhwile and find familiar task-time slices rendered as segments of a disc of light. Here they are stripped of their productive designations so, though their succession is familiar, all stressful association is lost. In the place of the jarring rhythm of your every day, Bearhtmhwile invites you to step to a different rhythm of time, natural time predicated by the movement of the tides. In Bearhtmhwile, each segment of light is linked to and shaped by this tidal movement. The gradual process of ebb and flood allows for a meditative experience of time, away from overloaded schedules and endless task lists.
Segment follows segment until a blast of light, full circle. You now stand surrounded, in a disc of pure light. Where sections of a 360° circle mark clear relationships to the 60 minute and 60 second tours of a clock face, giving you the potential to trace links to hours and minutes, a full circle offers nothing to count. When the circle comes into focus, at low and high tide, all sense of time falls away. Relax. Breathe. This is time as it could be. As it is, for you, now. Bearhtmhwile’s full circle of light offers you an experience of temporal freedom. This is not a tea break, a lunch break or a weekend mini-break. This is a time break.
Bearhtmhwile’s disc of light is powered by the tidal lagoon and rendered either by a projector or a circle of programmed LED lights. Its segments are formed using a spherical mirror. A very fine spray of sea water fills the internal structure to afford the segments maximum visibility. Bearhtmhwile’s free-standing structure is made of corten steel. Developed in collaboration with Architectural Designer Tom Sykes, the structure is a spiral enclosure, allowing the audience easy entrance while creating a light trap. The spiral shape marks a simple form of labyrinth while the single path you follow to enter and exit evokes the ebb and flood tides. The floor and ceiling are marked with spirals that both recall the turbine technology at work in the bay and tease out links between clock time and natural time. The projector or circle of programmed lights is at the structure’s centre. At night, the segments and circles of light are projected from a further light rig on the roof.
Bearhtmhwile is a light installation conceived for Swansea’s Tidal Lagoon that moves you from an experience of measured time, of diaries and to-do lists, synced calendars and automated reminders, to a possible experience of the constant instant through a meditative encounter with the tides.