Metronome (Yes, The Union Square’s Countdown)

Many people, walking around Union Square, used to ask themselves: what is that? It happens when they are in front of the Metronome – or the “big countdown”, or even easier, the “numbers of Union Square”.

Just a few people are aware of the meaning of the Metronome. It is a public artwork that the One Union Square South commissioned in late 1990’s to Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel. The artwork was installed in February 1999 and officially inaugurated eights months later.

The orange numbers are fifteen. “The Passage” displays the time in the 24hrs format by using the firsts four digits starting from the left side. The seven leftmost digits show the time in the 24hrs format as hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths of a second. The seven rightmost digits show the time remaining in the day, also using the 24hrs format. The center digit represents the hundreds of a second.

The two artists defined the “Metronome [as] an investigation into the nature of time. The work references the multiple measures of time that simultaneously inform and confound our consciousness of the moment. The composite work intends to evoke contemplation on the dynamic flux of the city. The elements suggest the instant and infinity, astronomical sequence, geological epoch, and ephemerality. Metronome is meant to be integral to the very history, architectural, fabric, spirit, and vitality of the city […]“.

So now, you are aware of the meaning of this artwork and what inspired it. I used to enjoy to see people’s faces looking at it – initially, I was one of them, I asked to myself: is that a countdown to the end of the year? Is it the time spent from a specific date? Is that just a social experiment? Finally, my curious mind prevailed – I asked people around, I made some researches on the Internet and that’s it! Mystery solved!

Sara Belligoni