The Watch Detail



The intuitive use of new technology coupled with the creative utilisation of videodisc has lead to an entirely new way of thinking about movie making. THE WATCH DETAIL interactive videodisc installation is a poetic musing on time. It incorporates texts, a series of literal and metaphorical images related to the passage of time and a musical score, to form a fugue-like network of observations.

THE WATCH DETAIL installation consists of one NTSC videodisc, one NTSC video monitor, one Pioneer 4200 videodisc player, a Macintosh computer (MAC 2) equipped with preprogrammed Hypercard software, digital audio loops, videodisc interface, a mouse, a small reverb, a mixer, a stereo amplifier, speakers, a table and chair. The entire program fits onto two 800K floppy discs. The linear video material pressed onto the videodisc lasts approximately 1/2 hour. The disc also contains a still frame library with over 200 entries.

I was the camera person, off-line editor, and composer of the music as well as the originator of the initial set of concepts for the work. The music was generated with an Akai S-900 sampler and Yamaha DX7IIXE Synthesizer using Performer software on a Macintosh SE as a sequencer in a home studio environment. Audio Voices for the DX7IIXE were edited with the aid of an Op-Code Voice Editor and Patch Librarian on the Macintosh.

The work was programmed by myself with Mark Abbate (Videocraft, Boston) as special programming consultant in a Macintosh Hypercard environment.

A user-friendly work tation is provided for the viewer. The participant can sit down in front of two screens - the Macintosh screen and an adjacent video monitor. A printed set of directions instructs the viewer in the simple operation of the installation. The viewer is able to explore the videodisc material through an elaborate preprogrammed set of menus on the Macintosh which they access via the mouse. The viewer can click on any word or image to navigate the material. Each menu has an information button which when chosen, opens up a screen describing the functions of the given menu choices.

The Poetics of Time

THE WATCH DETAIL explores notions of the passage of time in a number of ways; the work observes the intrinsic history that objects and locations communicate in terms of the physical state in which they have been recorded; a daily sense of time is registered through the capturing of certain light qualities; a seasonal sense of time is examined through the presentation of atmospheric / weather conditions; a geological sense of time is suggested through the inclusion of a rock quarry and geological formations. The work also contains a series of short poetic texts dealing with the subject of time. These texts qualify and expand on the meanings of the images. The viewer also experiences their own sense of duration in relation to the time they invest in the work. The ability of the viewer to control the speed of playback of recorded material makes THE WATCH DETAIL a me ta-time piece.

The work is divided into a set of categories of observation:







Many of these categories overlap and are cross referenced in the work. The videodisc embodies image sequences that record some of the different states in which these objects / sites can be found.

As we live our day to day lives, we come in contact with places and objects which display their own intrinsic sense of history. We rarely follow a piece of wood from its place of origin in a woods to the chair in which we sometimes sit. A set of visual clues: scratches, gouges, the style of the chair, an inscribed date, etc. gives us a sense of the objects place in history. Our changing sense of time comes from an accumulation of experiences, memories and projections. THE WATCH DETAIL presents a set of observations which point in a sensual manner to the internal processes of memory and the registering of the passage of time. The nature of editing - collecting and correlating images, language, and sound, also abstracts qualities of time. THE WATCH DETAIL is a poetic maze which provides a mental space for personal association and introspection. It presents a realm where the viewer can explore the various qualities which the above categories suggest, as well as come in direct contact with the time-oriented exploration of the videodisc medium.

The menus allow viewers to experience the sequences of THE WATCH DETAIL in a direct manner. The longest search time is one second (the amount of time it takes the laser to scan from the beginning to the end of the disc). Two menus THE MAIN MENU and the ALTERNATE FUNCTION DEVICES menu as well as a series of sub-menus allow the viewer to move through the material in the following manner:











The viewer is able to move from one category to a different category i.e. from the "WOOD" category to the "STONE" category by choosing (clicking on) different words on the menu with the mouse.

The viewer is able to move from one image section to another within a given category, i.e. from one set of 'WOOD' related material to another selection from the 'WOOD' category. A speed control glyph is one way the viewer can navigate the material on the disc. The viewer can access disc material at specific playback rates including normal play, differing rates of slow motion both forward and reverse, fast forward and fast reverse, by choosing (clicking on) different glyphs. The viewer can choose the still frame glyph as well as step through the disc one frame at a time.

A set of audio loops have been programmed to be called up from computer memory to accompany viewing in slow motion. Usually when viewing slow motion generated by the videodisc player, there is no audio. A different version of the work might incorporate a videodisc and an audio CD (Compact Disc) to accomplish this task with higher fidelity.

An "INFORMATION" button gives information about different menu choices when selected.

The viewer can choose "ALTERNATE FUNCTIONS MENU" and a new menu appears entitled "ALTERNATE FUNCTION DEVICES".










Using the "ALTERNATE FUNCTION DEVICES" menu takes the viewer to a series of sub-menus.

The FRAGMENT RECOMBINATION EDITOR allows the viewer to define their own edit sequence from the videodisc material. They can move anywhere on the disc with a small "MAIN MENU" and the set of speed control glyphs. They then can click on "Begin" and "End" to define a video and sound fragment. After they have chosen a series of fragments from anywhere on the disc they can hit "ENTER" and view their own edits as a short movie.

The COMPOSITE CATEGORY FINDER allows the viewer to view one of the many possible composite edits consisting of material in the primary categories. By selecting a set of specific categories with the mouse, the computer searches for one composite segment which contains an example from each category. This is facilitated by the coding of each of the edits in the work. When the viewer makes a choice the computer searches for the first edit containing the appropriate combination of code letters, then searches and plays the single composite fragment.

The TEXT/STILL LIBRARY choice leads to a library of over 200 poetic writings about time, superimposed on top of specific image frames. The viewer can move through the frames one at a time at their own pace, select a random frame, see a slide show, or view all of the frames very quickly. These texts augment and/or qualify visual material available through the other menus on the disc.

The TEXT OVERLAYS menu, allows the viewer to superimpose a similar set of writings to those found in the TEXT/STILL LIBRARY over any image or sequence of images they select on the disc. The texts, housed and called up from the Macintosh, appear on the video monitor superimposed over the chosen still frame or motion sequence as well as on the Macintosh screen. The viewer can move anywhere on the disc and generate their own juxtapositions from the provided material. This allows for a huge number of chance combinations in terms of language / image relationships. The texts and images "work" together or make sense in that they relate to each other via their subject matter (time). The viewer takes an active conceptual role in bridging the metaphorical distance between image and text developing their own projected set of relations.

The PIVOTS menu allows the participant to view edits from a set of categories by clicking the mouse. An edit sequence might consist of an image of wooden floors, a pocket watch, a stone quarry, a plane taking off in the distance... These sequences are constructed utilizing edit fragments from all of the categories found on the MAIN MENU. Again, each edit on the disc has been codified. As the viewer makes a selection, the computer searches for an example that fits the chosen category. If the viewer chooses that set of categories again, the computer searches for an alternate set of selections.

The selection of LINEAR plays the set of main categories from beginning to end the way it is laid out on the disc, in real time.

The participant is given the opportunity to navigate the material presented in THE WATCH DETAIL at their own rate and to repeat the viewing of chosen sections if desired. The viewer is able to watch the material at different playback rates and explore the various qualities of time oriented videodisc manipulation. Thus the viewer explores a poly-linear maze of language, image and music relations, which in turn deal with the poetic nature of time. The viewer essentially constructs their own video experience based on a personal set of decisions. It is the layered fusing of these time oriented observations into a poetic video maze as well as the chance juxtaposition of specific elements, which make THE WATCH DETAIL a distinctive interactive project.


A question about duration
Expanded upon for a lifetime.
Take your time.
Calm erodes the longer time is studied.
Through an alternate perspective

Apprehension decays.

Second notice.

Watching being watched.

Time zones.
Lose a day, in still confinement.
Flying at the speed of
Continuous sunrise.
The difference in memories.
Snow falls on silence,
Blue shadow
White on white.
Rest inside slow movements,
Extended gestures.
A set of questions
Released in an open field.
Uncertain conclusions,
Dwelling in the fields of time.
A combination lock
Around a branch at age 15.
The tree envelopes the lock
The definition of eventuality grows
When an analogue clock is unplugged
The time is correct twice a day.
Listen for the clock of flames.
A watched kettle never whistles.
Trees, chain saw sound,
Rings and saw dust.
A clock’s circulatory system,
Floats the duration of a sentence.
A number signals as the clock strikes.
The earth circles another sleep.
The year slides by the sun’s indifference.
The weather seems more intense.
Change the time while no one is looking.
Change the subject.
Whittling away the days.
The space of removal.
Common desk calendars lined the street.
Compression, striations, layers,
Schisms, sink holes.
The way a sound decays.
The way it dies out.
The echo of reflection.
Time out.
A number of clocks in boats
Set adrift.
A number of watches held.
I listen to a number.
The expressions on the face
Of the clock of water
Throuheating and freezing.
Rotating schedules.
No hands.
The illusion of time, the mirage,
Holds pressure in the passing.
Enter into a Red Wood’s
Scale of time.
Spelunking Plato,
Carbide torches,
The clock of fuel.
The distance a wound travels to heal.
Mechanicoy boats
Set adrift.
A number of watches held.
I listen to a number.
The expressions on the face
Of the clock of water
Through listen to a number.
The expressions on the face
Of the clock of water
Through ons on the face
Of the clock of water
Through tion lasts for months...
Leaving at an indeterminate moment.
The slippery nature of
The exact time.
Dealing with a certain discontinuity,
Of always returning to the fear.
The inability to escape the inability.
Newspaper (yellows).
As if the color of time was a symbol.
Time is an analogy.
All at once the sign board came alive
The destinations and times spun frantically,
Making the sound
Of thousands of little clicks.
Just as fast the board stopped
And a new set of destinations arrived.
Zero degree clock of breathing.
Vapor in a person’s breath.
The duration of evaporation.
Of disappearance.
A watch without hands.
Routine inspection
For cracks and fatigue.
The young and the old,
All eyes present, observing.
Different starting points..
The perspectives of each.
All ages present in one
with many perspectives.
Time is money.
Time to kill.
Cracks in a sandstone sidewalk.
The odor of a freshly cut lawn.
The shadows of Hiroshima.
The qualities
Of the surfaces that were replaced.
The actuaal rotations of luminous hands.
Attempting to grasp
A dream on the edge of memory.
The architecture of reaction.
A duration.
Nothing sometimes feels substantial.
The building had been torn down.
Solidity and permanence
Now empty. Rendered silent.
A senspring
The shape of memory.
A nose worn shiny through touch
On a bronze statue.
The body tarnished.
The speed of darkness.
The speed of light.
Zero hour.
Impressions are left through
The architecture of impermanence.
When one building is torn down
The duration of a disaster.
The aftermath.
The loss of vital signs.
Another inch and the accident
Would never have happened.
Rubbed lightly.
Formica, sitting day after day.
Worn through.
Fake wood grain
1940, 1950, 1960... version.
The shape of a clock vast area of land burning
Out of control.
The time it has taken...
The time it takes to replace it.
A house of cards falls.
Can you hold?
A sign that has almost
Been removed, almost not there.
The traces of the lettering.
The face of a digital clock
Down without power.
The space of the light blank impressions
Cast in the blink.
The space between these impressions.
A plane crosses stretching and bending
Through waves of light.
The qualities of 200 year old glass,
Adjacent to a fixed window.
A white vapor time line
Across a blue expanse.
What there was
Before the concept,
Before the devices.
Around the clock
Construction, fabrication.
Lost in a work ritual.
Attempting to focus so as to transcend.
A clockwork repetition.
Around the clock
Allowing oneself to
Lose track of the time.
Taking on the air of history.
Sheer fabric wall,
Shear stone face,
Wall of light.
Glass worn round and smooth.
To Sand to Glass to Sand.
The positions of the tide.
Over wound.
Winding up / Winding down.
The wind up and the pitch.
Second wind
Wind up winded
Wind up wounded
Wind up lost in thought.
Make good time.
Fingernail dirt, beard growth
Sole taps, dust.
Every moment was articulated
Through a visceral beat.
I could hear my heart through an ear infection
a 1ot been explored.
A day where I would
Attempt to do nothing.
A day spent recalling that day.
Discomfort seems to slow.
A work in abbreviations about longevity
An abbreviation that is
Under construction for a lifetime.
All of the houses one has lived in.
All of the houses one will live in.
The housing of this memory,
Nested and projected.
Fix the time.
We are different ages in memory.
Clockwise, Counter clockwise.
Real time (a realm other than).
A room in wrapped in string at seven.
The nature of focus gives duration
To a chosen element in a field of vision.
Growth drawing
Pencil lines from the tippy top.
A child’s stature.
A measure of change.
Second hand positioning.
Second hand furnishings.
Second hand information.
Second hand clothing.
Second hand words.
Second hand light.
Second thoughts.
Puns and paradoxes.
Quartz and pendulums.
Oscillating constants.
The balance of conclusions.
As many histories
As the perspective of everywhere
One cannot be.
Accumulated subjectivity
Appears to be objective.
The boat is driven in a figure 8,
Over and over.
I am not yet a teen-ager.
The symbol for infinity is drawn in water.
Our slippery hour.
Turning around and about.
The little hand and the big
Exchange places.
The left becomes the right...
The right, the left.
We never see the same thing twice.
A subtle quality of aging.
At 13 the boat is driven
In a circle full speed.
Lines spiral out.
Until the water regains flatness.
The function of forgetting.
A violent event
As seen from this distance.
Define a resonant situation
Where time is concerned.
Where concern is timed.
Inside out.
Collapsed time.
Black holes.
Memory fails.
Time folds.
Clocks are sometimes empty.
The history of nothing is not.
After, (always)
the re-composition of the event.
Unless the event is the act of re-composition.
Second wind.
All of the books on the shelves
One hasn’t read.
Temporary repairs.
Moving music for relativity.
The pitch of passing vehicles.
An ephemeral light event
Arrives unforeseen,
Leaving t book of notice open.
Is there leisure time?
No. But there are leisure suits.
Within the dimensions of a memory.
Just outside
The time it takes a clock
To run down and stop.
Dice - the quality of the throw,
The call, the roll, the fall.
The instances
The Watch Detail.
The night watchman is only one.
A compression
Or expansion within
A moments notice.
Before and after
The flow of glass.
The decay of wood.
The life of stone.
Within the house of time.
An informed sense of probability sings
To the navigation of possibility.
The unknown also sings.
On the road,
The ticking of the broken white line.
Spring rain
Erodes a temporary passage.
A person picks up a stick
And scratches an alternate rut.
The clock of erosion is diverted.
The internal clock of light.
When I hear a song from those years...
November Light
Long Shadows.
Futuristic Car design of 1950.
A broken dashboard clock.
Awkward Clothing.
Burning the candle at both ends,
A circular wick re-invents the wheel.
Night drawings
In passing - bending
Headlights follow
The angles of the walls
The way sound gives clues
To the day.
Cicadas on a white hot day.
The drone of traffic.
The physicality of silence.
Day to day life observes
Lost time.
An average day.
Infinite information
Finite time.
Two Loons on a moonless night.
The sound in a vacant house.
Worn stone steps.
Distant highway metal bridge grid work.
Melting ice.
Memory fails.
Breaks down.
Lost in a moment.
A suspended sense.
When repetition
Breaks down perception.
The scale of time is lost on us.
A watch held.
Left in the street.
Run over and over.
Broken shards
Embedded in tar.
Just lost in the viscous warm black.
A clock from a distance
Just out of range...
Almost real time.
A slight slowdown.
An internal clock sometimes sings
With a note of friction.
Bathing in the light of blue gravity.
Red in the light of evening
Goes on into blue light escaping.
Headlight lit details.
Threshold into black.
Revolving door - counter clockwise
Ever so slightly,
The characters were altered.
Speed was more important
Than intricacy.
Her handwriting
Became barely legible,
Against slow words
Hand held.
A shadow
Follows intricate directions.
Attempting to take in
The specifics of the moment.
Night driving trajectories of
Color in light motion.
Night flying over light energy grids.
The qualities of notice
In relation to velocity.
The shadow of a decoy
In artificial light
A drone holds a place
where the scale of time is erased.
Drifting where water is all horizon.
As if sound events were landmarks
For navigation.
Slow light just now reaching
A very distant source.
The speed of a neural response
The velocity of a thought.
The in-between.
From time to time there is
Rapid change.
Temporary repairs...
Masking tape,
Flimsy plastic, etc.
A piece of plywood.
The bottom of the Ford Falcon rusted out.
One could see the road as a blur
through this hole. Age 12.
I become unsure of my age.
Search time.
With one hand.
The memory of a diary collecting dust.
An analogy
That sometimes seems
To stands still.
It can never be held.
Still life room
When light streams in.
Dust hovering,
Slowly circulating.
Forgetting the date and day.
The properties are mapped
Onto devices.
A tree merges with a fence
Through growth.
Up-rooted after a storm.
The branches removed.
The distance of time
Smoothes the violence of an event.
Black trees after a rain
Lit in bright side light.
A strong early morning wind.
The splitting of a log.
A rusted wedge.
Concentrated energy motion
Breaks the rings
Rust transferred by fingers
Binding the grafts.
Circling the branch.
Translating the thought.
Into the gesture.
Worn arc
Where a tree
Has blown against a house.
A tree.
The same location.
A set of atmospheres.
A Tree removed, becomes this chair.
This paper, this light.
Stone sanctuary.
Shadow on a sundial.
A carved chess set
In the last position.
A sundial lit at night.
Yard light.
Sharpening a sense of clarity
The sound of all the clocks
Striking together, slightly off.
Trying to Determine which clock is
Correct by the sound.
A wash of rust down a brick wall.
Copper bleeding across a stone face.
The delicate expression of erosion.
A proximity to a Hotel empty of activity.
The occupants have left traces.
Crystal chandeliers-vacant hall.
Cut granite facade.
Each room holds many stories.
Each story holds many rooms.
From a distance
A tall building speaks eloquently
Through schedules of light.
The perfection of a particular chair.
The way light enters.
Blue housing.
Blue evening light escaping.
Threshold lit by a headlight.
Standing before empty stands.
Scratches around a worn handle.
The gardener’s wrists and hands.
Time lines in leather gloves.
To maintain, to seed, to trim,
Then cutting back.
The dank odor of soil,
Temperature and humidity.
Greenhouse light.
The old rotary push mower.
Walking the lawn spreader.
Fertilizing row by row.
The sound of garden shears
And the electric trimmer.
Watering schedules.
The coiled hose.
Coverage in winter.
Wooden guards stand watch.
Boats in bright blue plastic tarps.
An hourglass resting on it’s side.
The internal mechanism of a clock tower
With moving figures.
Obscured torso.
Someone falters and adjusts.
The gestures that go on inside.
Time lines.
Winding motion.
Runway architecture.
Airport lights.
The control tower.
All of the places designated
For observation.
Landing gear.
The moment of deployment.
Breaking the timelessness.
One plane relative to another
Crossing at different altitudes.
Shiny black shoes.
Old black shoes.
A proximity to a person watching.
A group of people looking on
After an accident.
People waiting to see something
Then going about their business.
Someousings of light,
Of luminous hands.
A gold watch,
Silver hair,
Bluing the grey.
Rust, amber and black.
The color of time.
The song of the unknown.
Seeking a resonance
Through many passages.
The voice of clockwork.
The litany of the labyrinth detail.
Maacent structure wears
A past life of stairways,
Rooms, doors, paint, wallpaper.
All of the years of growth
Were removed from a structure
For protection.
The building stands naked.
A timeless odor.
Diamond cutting.
Tree cutting.
Diamond matches
Diamond structure
For protection.
The building stands naked.
A timeless odor.
Diamond cutting.
Tree cutting.
Diamond matches.
Diamond ring.
Projections and paths suggesting
The future of difference.
The stillness of a fresh snow,
A shiny black piano and
A wind up metronome.
Just a sec.
When time dysfunctions.
The distance shrunk.
Lightening strikes and lights
A field on fire.
A nd up metronome.
Just a sec.
When time dysfunctions.
The distance shrunk.
Lightening strikes and lights
A field on fire.
The time at the tone will be...
You sound so close.
Biological standard
Internal frame.
The child waits longer
Having lived less.
People who wear watches
Keep time.
The locations of
All the clocks in the city.
A part of memory
That hasHaving lived less.
People who wear watches
Keep time.
The locations of
All the clocks in the city.
A part of memory
That has one obscured / hands fidget.
Hands in pockets.
Trying all the keys to see which one fits.
Emotional architectures.
The gestures that go on inside.

Bill Seaman 1989