Assignment 4: Traces of Time

Assignment 4 - Traces of Time, Assignments, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons)

This project has allowed me to be more creative in my responses to the ideas of Time. There have been a few ideas that I have tried to develop as I have progressed through the learning exercises.

1. A Series of Work “What is Time?”

My everyday job involves spending all day at the computer. I work digitally and remotely for a company and so spend up to 10 hours a day sometimes moving my mouse and clicking on various parts of the screen to “work”. At the end of 10 hours at the computer, I get up and leave the desk with nothing physical to show for the mental effort. The only physical effort is maintaining my posture and moving my hands, both to type on the keyboard and my right hand to move the mouse. The mouse moves no more than a few cm to move a cursor on a screen no more than 0.5 metres in any direction. At the end of the day, I have created many bytes of data but what can I show? In the past, people would have more physical tactile jobs where after 10 hours they would have a physical product, their muscles would ache, they would have a wall, a ditch, a selection of crops, a garment they had made. The work was physically tough but they had something concrete to hold in their hands. I do not. I wanted to create something to show what I spend my time doing. My picture is the result. Something I can be proud of.

My Process

Using recording software, I screen recorded a standard work task. The software was set up so that it recorded the whole screen, highlighted the mouse movement and would flash red every time the mouse was clicked.

I then watched the recording back in slow motion, so that even a 20-minute task took over 2 hours to watch back. As I watched I copied the movement of the mouse on the screen with a white gel pen on black paper. Each time the screen flashed red to indicate a mouse click, I paused to glue a red star in the spot of the click.

I stopped to photograph the work after 5-minutes, 10-minutes and 20-minutes of real-time recording.

2. Reflection on “What is Time?”

The idea developed from a combination of Jane Grisewood’s line drawings where she walks and draws and the line drawing responses to exercise 2: marking time. Jane Grisewood’s drawings are about the performance and what they represent rather than any technical traditional drawing style which is something I tried to incorporate here. My “drawing” isn’t classically skilled, it is a simple white continuous line, like Jane Grisewood, the addition of very childlike glued on stars adds to this in my work. I am not aiming for something that looks skilled, I am aiming for something that speaks more about what it represents than something technically accomplished or stunning to look at. Time was also a big factor in Grisewood’s work that I was trying to emulate. Her works take hours to create with the mental determination and focus to complete them being a big aspect. I wanted to create something on this scale, and this work is unfinished. I would like to extend it and create a full 10 hours of screen time into this style which will take me somewhere close to 100 hours to complete.

It is odd as when I read back my reflection on Grisewood’s work, I recall that when I first saw it I wasn’t particularly moved or made to think much. But it clearly left a bigger impression on me than I realised at the time.

The inspiration for the source of the movement in relation to time came during the activities in exercise two. I chose to base those activities at my desk as it’s where I spend the most time. I commented at the time “I have chosen to base this work at my desk as it is a place where I spend most of my day and I am not always happy about spending so much time here. I wonder if the emotion of feeling trapped here will come through in what I produce.” I think that has come across in the way the drawing does create a mesh, a trap for the stars. Stars of ideas but trapped in the monotonous white lines.

The poem I wrote at the start shows the initial idea:

My Desk

Tucked away in the corner of a room
Facing a barren wall
No window to dream out of
Prisoners have more pleasure
Yet my desk remains
The source of my income and freedom
Entrapment leading to enrichment
A necessary evil?
Constant pings as people keep me here
Tasks pile up, yet the space remains clear
No papers anymore to show what I have achieved
Digital is the only mark I make.

"Digital is the only mark I make.". I want to create more. 

Whilst completing the one-line drawings in that exercise, the one that stood out was the white pen on black paper:

However, I wanted to develop the idea of drawing one continuous line into something else. I did try to create something digitally and here the red circles were the mouse clicks:

However, I wanted to move completely away from making something digitally as that is part of the message.

I am still drawn to digital as a discipline. There was obviously digital components to this. I had to digitally record and manipulate the video in order to be able to draw from it. The end result is very physical. There is a sense of depth and going back in time as the stars that end up being hidden by newer white lines go back in the piece and you get a sense they were created first. It is giving time direction and the aspect of we can’t go back to those moments that were gone as they are now hidden in the mesh of time that has since happened.

As mentioned previously, I want to develop this even more. Do a longer recording and on a bigger scale. Experiment with different techniques of creating the lines. To make something 3D involving wool or thread as the lines would be interesting. To make a giant board to represent the screen and then hammer in a nail or pin to wrap the string around each time there is a mouse click. To get a real trap, a mesh that extends forwards would be intriguing. In exercise 2, I also played with sounds a little to try and something to develop to accompany it. Just having the mouse clicks as sounds could perhaps add to the atmosphere, it would be reminiscent of Geiger Mueller counters when they click every time a radioactive substance decays. Like time decaying and we can’t stop it.

Reflection on Progress

I feel that I have progressed a lot during this project, particularly in terms of being more creative and selective about where I spend my time. The initial piece on Tacita Dean was very research-focused but since then I feel my responses are more creative. I have started to try and include more of my random experiments with different materials linked and not linked to the course directly. For example painting with wool and life drawing. Life drawing isn’t something I have ever really done before but I enjoy going to draw from observation and it is teaching me a lot about drawing quickly and in real life. I feel it will help my general painting too and ideas of the human body in terms of scale and proportion. I’ve also tried to start writing up some of my random research and ideas from the history of art I end up looking at. One day maybe there will be more structure and pattern to these!

I very much enjoyed the different creative activities and I am starting to develop them into more of a narrative to explore the idea of time. I do seem to have moved away from my idea of how the perception of messages over time evolve during this project, but I still wish to return to that.


Grisewood, J. (n.d.). Jane Grisewood Artist. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Feb, 2022]

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