Brunel 200 Legacy Nova Group – Eleven Minutes (Lost Time Pieces).
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Eleven Minutes (Lost Time Pieces)

A group of artists, known collectively as Nova Group, produced a collection of ‘time-pieces’ suggested by, and representing, the eleven minutes lost to Bristol when ‘Railway Time’ was introduced.

During Brunel’s lifetime, mechanically-kept time and instrumentation developed into something of the utmost importance. The Victorian railways led to the introduction of standard ‘Railway Time’ or 'London Time' throughout the country. For some years after the building of the GWR, published timetables specified a different adjustment for each station on the line.

In Bristol's case, this adjustment was 11 minutes. Each station had two clocks; one showing local time, while the other hand pointed to 'Railway Time'. Occasionally clocks were fitted with an additional minute hand, which pointed to the local time, while the other hand pointed to 'Railway Time'.

Nova Group – Eleven Minutes (Lost Time Pieces).

On 14 September 1852, Bristol formally adopted uniform standard time; all the clocks went forward, erasing the time difference and the cause of much confusion. From then on, the city's timepieces were controlled, not by the sun, but by the Greenwich Observatory.

In response to the ‘loss’ of 11 minutes, Nova produced sculptures and installations incorporating a variety of media, including metal, wood, ‘redundant’ items already in situ, light and audio.

Most of the pieces included an element of movement, some were based on ‘lost’ means of time-keeping e.g. sand and water. The pieces were of ambiguous function, part time-piece, part unidentifiable scientific or navigational instrument, and were sited in relatively obscure, ‘abandoned’ spaces, within the Brunel-linked landscape of the western Floating Harbour. The installations embodied the essence of the machines of the early 19th century, but were ‘out-of-time’, enigmatic constructions.

Nova Group – Eleven Minutes (Lost Time Pieces).

This project by NOVA,

“…presents a journey through those lost or displaced minutes. Into the lost 'time-bubble' was sucked the essence and spirit of the age, including some of the essence of Brunel – as summed up by instruments, machines, time-pieces etc. These have now re-emerged in our time as strange and ambiguous altered states – scattered remnants from the void occupying forgotten spaces in the city. Neither Frankenstein nor Heath-Robinson, these fusings retain a sense of elegance and poetry, if not obvious purpose and functionality.

The locations exhibit an atmosphere of tension between old and new, past and present. Walking the route, one passes through residual layers of history, offering an opportunity for contemplation on the nature and direction of industrial progress, and some of its contemporary resonances.”

The pieces were installed at the following locations:

• The Nova Scotia Ferry Jetty
• Cumberland Basin – south side, grassy area
• Under the Plimsoll Bridge – in the area surrounding Brunel’s old swing bridge
• Notice Board on the ‘promontory’, near Brunel’s old swing bridge
• Timbers adjacent to grid-iron, and across the Brunel Lock on ‘Spike Point’
• End of Spike Island
• Outer Sluice ‘hut’ on the ‘Chocolate Path’
• Underfall Yard – near the north entrance

Three further pieces were installed in the CREATE Centre as part of an indoor exhibition.

Since the installation, several of the pieces have been left as permanent reminders of the project. They will decay gently over a number of years, their deterioration contributing to the look of the work and the enigma of the intention behind their construction. One, the notice board on the promontory near Brunel’s swing bridge, has been converted to enamel panels, giving them permanency for local residents and visitors to enjoy.
Nova Group – Eleven Minutes (Lost Time Pieces).

Quotes and feedback from visitors included

“I really loved the trail; I brought my family down the following day to show them the wonderful creations.”

“I’ve never been down here…. And I’ve lived in Bristol for 20 years. It’s a wonderful discovery.”

“I’ve been wanting to do something with that noticeboard for ages… do you think you could make the piece permanent?”

Bristol Dock Master

...and many more.

Nova Group – Eleven Minutes (Lost Time Pieces).

Map of route. Click on the map to see a larger version.

Artists from the NOVA group said

“It has been an honour to be part of a major celebration for Bristol, and Brunel. In-depth research as part of the art project has opened our eyes not just to the life and works of a prominent individual, but to the era as a whole.”

Photography: Mark Simmons.