Wasting Time: The Thinking Behind ‘Knowmore (House of Commons)’


Session Title:

  • Sustainability

Presentation Title:

  • Wasting Time: The Thinking Behind ‘Knowmore (House of Commons)’




  • The future is travelling towards us shaped by all that which we have historically thrown into it.  Much of what we have designed for our world embodies an unacknowledged time debt – that inadvertently continues to redesign our present and future.  This dangerous omission manifests in climatic instability and a growing range of social and environmental dysfunctions. We are a predominantly ‘chronophophic’ peoples – in that we do not effectively ‘think in time’ and so as a result we design for ourselves this serious legacy: The future of many of the myriad species and things that form today’s ‘naturalised artificial’ are therefore under serious threat. Their/our time is running out. What may once have seemed infinite is now revealed as finite. Time has become finitude.

    Slowing this king tide is an extraordinarily complex, shifting problem that challenges us to our ontological core. Science and technology are arguably less than half of any possible solution. Beginning to solve a problem this vast  – a ‘problem of us’ – pre-supposes a profound cultural shift.

    Beginning with a core understanding that ‘everything has its time’ is an unexpectedly powerful thought in that it allows us to frame our journey towards action as ontological. Set within this thinking, the paper examines the motivations behind a recent major media artwork Knowmore House of Commons, (premiered at the Mediations Biennale in Poland in 2010) – a large scale interactive installation that engages with these cultural dimensions of sustainability. A large circular table spun by hand and a computer-controlled video projection falls on its top, creating an uncanny blend of physical object and virtual media. Participants’ presence around the table and how they touch it is registered, allowing up to five people to collaboratively ‘play’ this deeply immersive audiovisual work. The work subtly asks what kind of resources and knowledge might be necessary to move us past simply knowing what needs to be changed to instead actually embodying that change, whilst hinting at other deeply relational ways of understanding and knowing the world.