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Maarten Baas The Count:Down Clock
The Count:Down Clock in City of Dreams Macau

World-renowned artist Maarten Baas makes his Asian debut with his first real-time countdown clock

“Although clocks have a very exact mechanism, in which every minute is equal, in reality, every minute is a unique experience”

Written by
Olivia Lai

Set your alarm clocks art lovers! World-renowned artist Maarten Baas is bringing his acclaimed Real Time series to Asia for the first time and is set unveil his latest installation The Count:Down Clock in the heart of Macau.

Following his headline-making performance art pieces Analog Digital Clock & Sweepers in Milan in 2009 and the Schiphol Clock in Amsterdam, Baas is set to take the design world by storm once again with this new creation. The installation – which features a series of 12-hour-long video performances, sees a team of actors paint, clean and re-paint the hours and minutes of a digital clock from behind frosted glass – was no small feat to create and it took Baas 10 days to capture the perfect real-time performance.

The installation is the result of a special collaboration between Baas and City of Dreams Macau to help mark the countdown of the premier resort’s Phase Three launch and the opening of the new Morpheus hotel in 2018, along with a mega sculpture designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid. We chat with the man behind the clock about the eagerly anticipated unveiling and his creative process….

Hi, Maarten! What inspired you to come up with a real-time clock and what is the message you hope to demonstrate?
The very first clock I created was in 2009. Time is something that is always related to human life and the human experience. Although clocks have a very exact mechanism, in which every minute is equal, in reality, every minute is a unique experience. With a film, I’m able to demonstrate that clearly and effectively.

What attracted you to this particular project and collaboration?
It’s great to work on a project with so many possibilities and potential and with such a creative and professional team of people. It’s a big honour to be part of such a big project!

How large is the size of the clock?
It’s life-size clock in the lobby featuring six screens, which are slightly bigger than the man that’s filmed in it, and a bit more than two-metres high. The sky sign on the hotel tower is approximately twice as big, around 98 inches.

Was it difficult creating this installation?
My works mostly show a certain simplicity: you see what you get. In this case, a man that paints the time. But in order to make it look that simple, there’s a lot of work required. When we did the 12 hour-clocks, it was very difficult to make it loop and be accurate with the actual time. We thought counting down is the same, but it’s the other way around and was much more complicated. The performer has a limited time to create a single digit. He has to be very precise and very fast. There was someone else there to clean his tools and to give him the cue when to start the next number, so the actor was fully concentrated on his job. It’s very complicated but we’re all very proud and happy it how it worked out in the end.

How does this art piece compare to your other works in the Real Time series
Counting down is something we didn’t do before. I always try to create based on new concepts and new ideas. This art piece has more to do with digital clocks, as we film and create digits instead of the hands of a round clock. But the famous Schiphol clock is similar since there’s also a life-size guy in it.

Morpheus is also designed by the late Zaha Hadid. How familiar are you with her work and how do you feel your work fits together with hers?
It forms a contrast with her work. Her work is very futuristic, based on computer models and aerodynamic shapes. My work is very down to earth, featuring a man ‘just’ doing his job. I like this contrast.

Count:Down Clock is quite the theatrical art installation. As a designer, how do art and design crossover and where do they differ?
That’s just a matter of definition. I like to play with all disciplines in every possible way. The category in which the final product fits is only a term.

The project is your first in Asia. Do you have any future installations planned in the region?
Not yet, but I’m open for it!

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