Pure Land

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You are writing a Word document. You look at the digital clock in the corner of your screen, is it time for lunch yet?  A colleague IMs you, have you finished? Coffee later? It’s only 1,000 words but it’s nowhere near ready. An email alert interrupts, RE: RE: Re: Update, cc: you and 12 other people. Your phone buzzes, notification of an invitation, tonight 8:00. A calendar reminder flashes on screen, meeting at 2.30. Your phone beeps, meet at the station? What’s taking so long?

An atomic clock will neither lose nor gain 1 second in 1 million years and you have no time. You look for an antidote to the constraints of measured time, a place to escape. It is Pure Land, a place to experience timelessness away from the beat of ever connected ever shortening increments of clock time.

Pure Land is a circular structure set on tidal mudflats on the Prime Meridian close to Grimsby. Its outside is coated in polished steel panels, reflecting the flats, the fields, the moving tides and your approach. You enter Pure Land using mechanical lifts from a raised pontoon. Inside is a soundproofed seamless circular corridor. Its walls and ceiling are made of white scrim through which warm diffuse light glows, fading to darkness at floor level.

You walk. The floor is thickly carpeted and your barefoot feet pad almost silently. With every step you take your view remains identical. There is no break in the corridor, no mark you could use to measure your distance travelled or laps completed.

In the outside world you understand that to reach a place you must follow a path. Outside there are no places without paths along which you depart and arrive. Outside there are no paths without places of departure and arrival. Inside Pure Land every step is at once a place and a path, an arrival, a departure and a journey. With nothing to count, there is no time that can be counted. This is your escape from measured time into timelessness. You are free to enjoy Pure Land until you wish to leave.

Each of Pure Land’s internal measurements has been chosen as a nod to a standard measure of time: The circuit you walk is 365.2 metres in circumference, 1 metre for each day of the year. The corridor is 7 metres wide, 1 metre for each day of the week. The light you walk through dims along a vertical axis from the brightest noon to the darkest night recalling 24 hours of a day but in the seamless environment of Pure Land there are no delineated blocks to count. The light is warm, diffuse and constant and cannot be used to reckon hours. The ingrained measures of everyday life are cast aside as you enjoy a freedom from controlled counting rarely afforded to you in your daily race through time.

The polished steel surface of Pure Land makes its own temporality tangible as it rusts. Reflecting a landscape regulated by both industrial and natural time, it is deliberately sited to make the lack of fixed temporality inside palpably clear. It sits at a longitude of 00° 00’ 00”, the ground zero of time that separates the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It is in relation to this Prime Meridian that mariners set chronometers to calculate their relative longitude until eventually Greenwich Mean Time was being used worldwide as a reference time independent of location. This measured time was seen as liberating maritime workers from the uneven measures of natural time under which they had been obliged to attend the ebb and flow of the tides at all hours.

Your experience inside Pure Land can only be understood in relation to outside and to difference.  The place outside is a sensory map. The wind and the sun in the sky position you. The smell of mud and salt, field and fertiliser, colour your position. The place inside offers no such anchor. Any shift, any scent, can only be you at the revelation of a perfect and unchanging place. Outside is a world of distinct temporal objects while inside invites you to an experience beyond any form of measure.

You begin your journey to Pure Land by train or bus or car. You leave your office or home. Time starts to shift for you. Instead of counting up and down the minutes of your task list, you check your route. What connection at what time. How many miles per hour. Still counting time. If you could see your cuts through time, they might look something like this:

||||  |   |   |   |   |    |     |       |          |                                                |                |            |        |     |

That long interval is your chance in Pure Land, your chance to be excused from your timeline of habit and enter time as a playground. As you walk its seamless circular corridor, your natural instinct may be to count your footsteps, to insist on a touchstone to your way of understanding the world. Let this fall away and in the place of counting quantity, open up to a quality of time you may not have experienced since birth. Pure Land asks you not to report the passage of time; it is a place for enjoying time as you feel it.

Why would you want this timeless experience? You go to a gig, you’re down the front and your favourite song comes on. You hit the red button and hold up your screen, watching through your recording. Your live experience is already a mediated past to be enjoyed in an imagined future. How much of your time is pre-packaged for you? How many experiences do you pre-digest? In this place where time cannot be measured, there is nothing to produce, nothing that has to be done, there is just pure perception.

Can Pure Land guarantee this experience? Its single corridor is far from empty. It is filled with you, your thoughts, your feelings, your sensations. It offers you a point of entry but the rest is up to you. You may find a sense of contentment or insight into yourself, you may struggle or fight, you may feel bored and long for the outside. Primed by your experience, you decide how you will carry this other place as you return to your known reality. There is no right or wrong. Pure Land exists only for you for as long as you want it to

Plans developed in collaboration with Architectural Designer Tom Sykes

Pure Land was selected for Artangel‘s Open 100.

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