TimeSculptureConstructing Social Geometries
A Mapping for a National Installation

John Sims

Ringling School Art and Design
Sarasota, Florida
E-mail: jsims@Ringling.EDU


The author/artist presents the TimeSculpture, TimeSculpture as a projected morphism, as a sculptural sequence, as a national installation manifests a journey by mapping orbits from abstract places into diverse geographies, celebrating the search for cycles in both human and natural systems. The domain spaces of TimeSculpture are familiar objects that tell sculptural stories about space, conflict, support systems and time. The objects: vases, chess sets, chairs and clocks as symbolic design codes employ concepts of order, symmetry, connectivity, and cycles to investigate a range of ideas from spatial order to human development The primary domain is a 12-hour conceptual clock of circular design then mapped into social localities for the purpose of identifying and building transcendental communities .

This sculpture narrative begins with a sequence of vases. The designs of the vases incorporates visual notions of order to address issues surrounding the captivity, organization and management of space. The chess sets use symmetry to discuss power dynamics in the arenas of Nature/Nature, Nature/Human and Human/Human conflicts. The sequence of chairs shares a story about the beauty and structure of support, family, love and loyalty stemming from human relationships. The collection of clocks mimics the human growth cycle. These four design narratives form TimeSculpture. The conceptual paradigm is summarized in the following way.

Objects Issues Concepts
Vases Space Order
Chess Sets Conflict Symmetry
Chairs Supports Connectivity
Clocks Time Cycles



Here we present and describe the sequences of objects that form the TimeSculpture.


Let us define a vase as a container of space. The black disk, in the Vase of Space pays tribute to the organic nature of the circle and its radial symmetry that cradles space as the fundamental nutrient for movement. With Vase of Vase of Flower we illustrate through a notion of iteration and composition the birthing process of an abstract flower to a real one, producing a flower clock, which reads seven o’clock. Vases of Metal Flowers follows with cylindrical and cubic vases and metal flowers that introduces the idea of complementarism as a generalization of male-female structure. The next vase in the series is Floragraphs, which shows the intersecting graphs that represent the quadratic growth of love with red roses and the linear decline of deaths with white roses. Alles ist in Ordnung is a vase for nine white roses, all of the same height ordered in a square. This construction is essentially the average between a vase for one flower and a vase for many flowers that could either promote sameness, unity and order or an army of flowers resistant to diversity, uniqueness and flexibility. This vase also admits a random arrangement. By extending the ideas of the previous vases to the six sides of a cube we arrive at Vase for Space, which is a vase designed for zero gravity.

Zoom View

Vase of Space
Vase of Vase 
of Flower
Vase of Metal
Alles ist in 
Vase for Space


Chess Sets

The chess sets provide a metaphor for conflict and the competition for space and resources. Our chess sequence starts with the Chess Set with Flowers, which frames the ultimate conflict in terms of nature versus nature.

Zoom View

Chess Set 
with Flowers
Chess with 
Chess Set for the 
Squareless Chess


Chess Sets with Nature introduces the human versus nature on a asymmetrical chessboard that illustrates the power structure and advantages that nature has over humans. The next chess set Asymmetrical Chess shows with a similar asymmetrical chessboard the power imbalance existing in human communities. The design of this particular chess set is a response to the fact that white pieces still move first in competition chess. Using symmetry, Chess Set for the Colorblind provides a game where Black and White, Cowboys and Indians and Spaniards and Incas images are not necessary to facilitate a conflict between the players. To play, the players must simply remember where they moved. The last chess set in this sequence is the Squareless Chess, where the board has vanished leaving the players to work together to construct and agree on a unit of space. The growth and then disappearance of the board structure celebrate the independence from ordered space.


The chairs sequences give a romantic story about love, family and loyalty. The story begins with the lone chair in the Sub-dimensional Chair. This chair meets another chair and falls in love in Chairs in Love. The two chairs become married in Chairs in Marriage and proceed to make a family with children in Family of Chairs. The story ends with Hyper-dimensional Rocking Chair, which shows that even through the knots of life, the chairs have formed an unbroken bond that testifies to their love, loyalty and balance of personal and shared space.

Zoom View

Chairs in Love 
Chairs in Marriage
Chairs in Family
Rocking Chair



Zoom View

Fertility Clock 
Child Clock 
Traffic Clock
Grandson Clock


With the clocks sequences we chart the growth the development of a clock as it mimics the human growth cycle. The Fertility Clock is a clock whose shadow has the image of an African fertility doll. The Child Clock, with round fat face shows the innocence of youth, while the Self Portrait Clock with the newly emerged square depicts the intellectual birth in human adolescents. This clock measures over six feet tall. The Traffic Clock shows the relationship and traffic between three modes of times: personal, community and global. The time on this clock is revealed by averaging the times of the three clocks. The ten foot Grandson Clock speaks of the grace, wisdom and maturity that comes with age. Note that this clock has return to the Fertility Clock in form.

VaseChessChairClock --- TimeSculpture NYC: The Map

The VaseChessChairClock is a symmetrical sub-installation that includes a vase, chess set, chair and a clock providing a site of transition for the Timesculpture NYC and a center site for the completed TimeSculpture USA. The TimeSculpture NYC, as a collection of twelve objects will be placed in New York City in publicly accessible places; for instance shops, hospitals, hotel lobbies, etc. These objects will be connected by a lighting system that will light each object one after the other. Posters will be distributed around the city to advertise the locations of the objects. Auxiliary projects will include a novel, animation film and a sonic clock installation.

VaseChessChairClock TimeSculpture NYC: The poster image


TimeSculpture USA


After the TimeSculpture NYC has been completed, it will be extended to TimeSculpture USA by joining together the vases, chess sets, chairs, clocks and intersecting the sub-installation. These objects, as models for outdoor public structures, will be mapped into 23 communities that speak to the breath and complexity of the American spirit. The structures in these communities will be connected by both a lighting system and website (www.timesculpture.com).


A Mapping for a National Instalation

The TimeSculpture is an attempt to use familiar designs to convey the depth in meaning of objects around us that have encoded ideology and consciousness of past generations. By using mathematical ideas to promote new ways of seeing and designing objects around us, we have created a plan for a national installation that tells short visual stories concerning the issues of Space, Conflict, Relationships and Time. As the structures of the TimeSculpture are placed across United States, it becomes a collection of transformations, embeddings, and mappings that allows one to travel across abstract spaces, time zones, cultural stratifications, and diverse geographies, witnessing the richness of variations and the density of connections that characterize the evolving power and presence of globalization in the seductive search for universal cycles.

The author wishes to indicate the following references as visual and intellectual inspiration for the TimeSculpture.

1. Braitenburg, Valentino, Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetics Psychology, MIT Press, 1984

2. Braxton, Anthony, Reflection Paper No.1, Unpublished, acquired in 1996

3. Browder, Sarah and Sims, John, Dance/Installation, " At the Tone the Time will be..." Wesleyan University Fall 95, Spring 96

4. Christo, CHRISTO: WRAPPED WALK WAY, Harry N. Abrams, Inc, Publishers, New York, 1978

5. Dali, Salvador, Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion, 1954

6. Friedman, Dan, Dan Freidman: Radical Modernism , Yale University Press, 1994

7. Sims, John, TimeSculpture, Artbyte, May-June, 2000

8. White, Robert, Cellars of Cosmic Manipulation : A Micro-Installation, 1995


The author acknowledges the following sources of support for this work in progress. 

¨ Mathematics Department and Machine Shop at Wesleyan University, Middletown CT 

¨ Ringling School of Art and Design, Sarasota, Fl 

¨ DFN Gallery, NYC

¨ Sarasota Visual Art Center, Sarasota Fl

¨ Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven CT 

¨ Rush Arts Gallery, NY, NY