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3 / History and Memory

Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archaeology of a Racetrack
Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archaeology of a Racetrack
Artist / Origin Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Region: North America
Date 2007
Material (Still from) Three-channel high-definition video installation
Credit Image courtesy of the artist

expert perspective

Shimon AttieArtist

Racing Clocks Run Slow: Archaeology of a Racetrack

» Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)

expert perspective

The track was closed in 1994 and in its heyday everybody raced there—Paul Newman, Mario Andretti had his worldwide debut there, Dan Gurney, all the big names. But there is a community of several hundred people still around whose lives intersected at that track.

I filmed former race car drivers, spectators, flaggers, racing officials, press, paparazzi, the track announcer, pit crew, mechanics—the works. I filmed them in a kind of ‘de-contextualized ballet’ (heavy quotation marks), loosely based on that law in physics which states that for very fast-moving objects, objects approaching the speed of light, time slows down. That’s why the piece is called Racing Clocks Run Slow. So I filmed these individuals together with their former racing possessions and with ruins from the former track.

Racing Clocks Run Slow is a three-channel, high-definition video installation which we situate—when the piece is installed, it’s installed as what I call a beveled environment almost like a diorama—three screens that are at forty-five degree angles to each other. And the piece has surround sound—360 degrees of sound that’s moving and crisscrossing the space in very dramatic—just as it would be at a race track. For the piece, we actually used archival audio recordings that were made at the track.

When I was approached to do this project, I said to the individual who invited me, Bob Rubin, who used to own the track, I said to Bob, ‘Well, I am not into racing and I’m not into race cars,’ and these are sort of the two mortal sins to say in such a context. But I said, ‘However, if you allow me to reinterpret the elements such as speed, velocity, distance, time according to my own artistic sensibility, I would indeed be interested.’

These people are no longer racing there, they are not cheering in the bleachers there anymore. I’m actually asking them, in a sense, to perform their memories of the track, that’s what they are doing in the piece—of course, with a lot of artistic interpretation and liberty thrown in there as well. In fact, we wrote a very simple poem at the beginning of the piece, to kind of set the stage, which goes like this: ‘Racing clocks run slow / their memories of speed hold still / they play themselves not others / and recall a circuit.’” 

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