Peacock Clock (2013)

50x70cm archival print
First shown in the exhibition Our Times no. 2, at Mexico, Leeds, UK Sep-Oct 2013

Peacock Clock shows a screen with a video documentation of a large moving peacock clock that belonged to Catherine the Great. Screen and clock is exhibited side by side in the State Hermitage Museum at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. The clock was made in the second half of the 18th century and consists of a very large golden cage and inside it a tableau with several animals and among them three birds; a small owl in a sphere shaped cage, a cockerel, and a large peacock sitting on a branching tree. Catherine the Great received the clock as a courtship gift from her lover Grigory Potempkin but refused to marry him. Manufactured by London jeweller and goldsmith James Cox it is a state of the art ‘automata’ of the 18th century, a craft which was very popular at the time because of its close resemblance to nature but perhaps even more because of its superior artificiality. According to the museum website, the symbolism of the clock expresses not the common ‘memento mori’ but rather reminds us of the ‘continuity of life’. When in function, every hour the birds would start moving one by one, the peacock unfolding it’s tail, and bird sounds would mix with a syncopated rhythm produced by the clock. Today the clock can be seen performing every Wednesday evenings, and the screen provides a possibility to see it at any other time.