How to Construct a Time Machine

How to Construct a Time Machine

MK Gallery

Tehching Hseih, Punching the Time Clock, One Year
, 1980–1981. Photo: Michael Shen. © 1981
Tehching Hsieh. Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly
Gallery, New York.

January 17, 2015

How to Construct a Time Machine
23 January–22 March 2015

Preview: 22 January, 6–10pm

MK Gallery
900 Midsummer Boulevard
Milton Keynes MK9 3QA
Admission free

T +44 (0) 1908 676 900
info [​at​]

What is time? How do we order the past, the present, and the future? Why are artists interested in time? How is art a machine, vehicle, or device for exploring time? How is art a means by which time “travels,” and how does art permit us to travel in time? These and other questions provide the rationale for How to Construct a Time Machine, an exhibition presented at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, of over 25 historical and contemporary works that explore how artists transform our experience of time, curated by Dr Marquard Smith of the Royal College of Art, London. 

The exhibition’s title is taken from an 1899 text by the avant-garde French writer Alfred Jarry, written in direct response to H. G. Wells’s science fiction novel The Time Machine (1895). Wells invented and popularised a distinctively modern, fictional concept of time travel, with the time machine as a vehicle that could be operated “selectively.” Jarry’s response crafted a pseudo-scientific fiction that presents the time machine and time travel as an instance of “the science of imaginary solutions.”

Taking this idea of the time machine, time travel, and perhaps even time itself as an instance of “the science of imaginary solutions,” the exhibition is divided thematically and includes works by John Cage, Martin John Callanan, Jim Campbell, Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher, Mat Collishaw, Ruth Ewan, Tehching Hsieh, On Kawara, the Lumière Brothers, Chris Marker, Kris Martin, Manfred Mohr, Melvin Moti, Nam June Paik, Katie Paterson, Elizabeth Price, The Otolith Group, Raqs Media Collective, Meekyoung Shin, Sun Ra, Thomson & Craighead, Mark Wallinger and Catherine Yass, amongst others.

Film work ranges from George Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon (1902), an iconic silent movie which follows a group of astronomers as they explore the moon, to Thomson & Craighead’s The Time Machine in alphabetical order (2010), a complete rendition of the 1960s film version of the Wells  novella re-edited into alphabetical order.

Sculptural work includes Mark Wallinger’s Time and Relative Dimensions in Space (2001), an aluminium version of Dr Who’s “Tardis” police box that simultaneously disappears into the space-time continuum and reflects its own surroundings, and Ruth Ewan’s We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be (2012), a decimal clock which divides the day into ten (rather than 24) periods, echoing a bold 18th-century French Republican attempt to redefine and rationalise the day.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring an extended introduction by the exhibition’s guest curator Dr Marquard Smith, Head of Doctoral Studies/Research Leader in the School of Humanities at the Royal College of Art, London. It will also include a translation of Jarry’s How to Construct a Time Machine, together with essays by Dutch cultural theorist and video artist Mieke Bal and radical philosopher Peter Osborne.

Preview and in conversation
The preview takes place on Thursday 22 January 2015 from 6 to 10pm, and is open to all.  At 7pm exhibitors Mark Wallinger and Ruth Ewan will be in conversation with exhibition curator Dr Marquard Smith. The preview and talk are free but pre-booking is required via

Exhibition supporters
Exhibition supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. With thanks to the Royal College of Art, London.

Press office
Katharine Sorensen: ksorensen [​at​] / T +44 (0) 1908 558318 

MK Gallery is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Milton Keynes Council.


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January 17, 2015

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