The Propagation of Uncertainty

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the official time standard that airports, stock markets, and wireless communications rely on, is anything but absolute. Through a month-long process, collected asynchronous data from 82 master atomic clocks around the world is processed at the International Bureau for Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris. Once reckoned, BIPM produces a monthly report known as the Circular T – or the world’s most accurate clock.

The Propagation of Uncertainty takes its name from the statistical calculation used in the Circular T’s creation, an equation that assumes error in every value and accounts for variables such as drifted local clock readings and noise interceptions during data transfers. Using a “post-real time” process, the report illustrates how a multiplicity of deviated pasts inform our future’s official, singular “present.” Ultimately clock time is an estimation of potential errors and a calculation of unknowns.

Filmed in Canada’s official time dissemination room at the National Research Council in Ottawa, the project collages together eighteen “talking clock” recordings from thirteen time zones as the video’s soundtrack. As a meditation on the temporal body at odds with time’s infrastructure, the work moves through moments of discordant simultaneity, a chronological survey by time zone and a bass-heavy beat of resistance.

  • Emily DiCarlo
  • Emily DiCarlo
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short, Other
  • Genres:
    art, experimental, three-channel video, installation
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 40 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 25, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    1,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - University of Toronto
  • The Art Museum
    October 28, 2020
    Canadian premiere
  • The Material Life of Time (conference)
    United Kingdom
    March 17, 2021
    European premiere
  • 18th Triennial Conference, International Society for the Study of Time
    July 3, 2023
    Japan Premiere
Distribution Information
  • Independent
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Emily DiCarlo

Emily DiCarlo is an artist, researcher, and writer whose interdisciplinary practice considers site, temporality and collaboration as the foundational principles for meaning-making. Evidenced through video, installation, text and performance, her work connects the infrastructure of time with the intimacy of duration. Her work has been shown internationally, with most recent exhibitions at the Art Museum in Toronto and SÍM Gallery in Reykjavik, Iceland, as part of their artist-in-residence program. She is the recipient of the 2022-2023 Canada Arts Council Research-Creation grant, the 401 Richmond Career Launcher Prize and held the 2019-2020 Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research grant (SSHRC).

As a long-time ISST member and acting Communications Officer since 2016, she co-edited a special issue of KronoScope “Anthropocenic Temporalities” and recently contributed her chapter, “Transcending Temporal Variance: Time Specificity, Long Distance Performance and the Intersubjective Site,” to the current volume of The Study of Time (Brill Publishing). She lives and works in Tkarón:to/Toronto, Canada.

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