Daniel Baird, “This New Ocean”

Daniel Baird, This New Ocean

Appendix Project Space


By Daniel J Glendening

At the rear corner of Daniel Baird‘s exhibition, This New Ocean, at Appendix Project Space, is a slowly turning object. It is small, about hand-sized, and is held just a hair’s breadth off of the ground. It would be easy to miss, but motion grabs the eye.

From Daniel Baird, “This New Ocean.” Image courtesy the artist and Appendix Project Space.


It appears to be a rock, painted silver. It turns on a vertical axis rising up out of the concrete floor from some unseen buried motor. The rock is sort of wedge shaped, rough contoured, pointed. It could be used as a weapon, or a path marker pointing the way. It could be cast aside—it is, after all, a rock.

It turns, clockwise. It could be pointing to the hour, the minutes, seconds, of some unmarked clock. It is an arrow, after all, but a rock, also. It turns, slowly but visibly—maybe about the rate of a second hand revolving around the face of a clock, marking the passage of time, on and on, relentless. There are no numbers on this clock face—indeed there is no face of the clock, only grey painted concrete floor, but still we know what it is.

This is a rock, and a clock, and time is moving onward, no matter what. We can see it, here, passing: one revolution, two revolutions, three revolutions.

But it is a rock and it is not a rock. It’s silver, and rocks are not silver (unless, in fact, they are silver, but this is a rock). Its surface is marked by not just rough angles and broken edges, but some regular striation, as if we could see here the layers of sedimentary earth made small—millimeters of sediment: millimeters of layered time—but this rock is not a sedimentary rock, it lacks the planar regularity of sandstone or shale and carries the broken and chipped hardness of flint, or granite or—I only know my rocks so well.

So, this is a rock and also is not a rock—it’s maybe a replicated rock—though I don’t know for sure—how can one know for sure without some unavailable knowledge? It is a rock and not a rock: it turns about a vertical axis, it is silver, its surface marked by thin thin striations of layered material formed, perhaps, by lasers and resins and 3-D printing technology. This is a fabricated rock, ejected from the smooth and fluid digital sphere into the physical world, bringing with it the layers of its digital past and butting up against a world marked by, above all things, time.

Time moves, always.

We say that maybe we can escape time, maybe we can turn back time, maybe we can bend time through the manipulation of physics we don’t yet understand and maybe we can rewrite time and come to understand time as not simply a line on a page that never ends but as a continuously folding over space that is knotted up and porous like a sponge. We, though, get old.

We die.

Does the earth die?

Does data die?

Geologic time moves at a rate we can’t see except in small punctuating bursts when something suddenly gives way, when the forces of age and change sudden pierce through and shake the surface or the tension suddenly ejaculates a flood of magma, smoke and stone.

Otherwise, we only see the evidence—hills painted with bands of color: lake sediment and ash, the mulch of leaves and fallen forests. We see mountains slowly crumbling, the cleavage of stone by ice, the carved path of a river through the desert. We see sand dunes shifting and we see where water once was and now is not, where water was not and now is. We age, our hair grays and our faces crease and we die.

Does data age? Does a stream of digits that codes for the shape of a stone for rendering in a three-dimensional modeling program replace itself over and over through time? Does it make mistakes and replicate those mistakes? Does it accidentally develop a wrinkle, or a cancer? Does time exist, there?

This is just a rock on the floor, slowly turning. This is just a relic, a piece of evidence—the ejection, the erosion, the subduction. Everything old will be destroyed, and reborn.

This is just a rock on the floor, ticking off the seconds, one by one.

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