Award-winning designer Maarten Baas has unveiled a unique art piece to mark the countdown to City of Dream’s launch of Phase 3 next year, which includes the new Morpheus Hotel designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid.
To make the clock, Baas and his production team filmed six actors in real time as they carefully paint and then wipe away the numbers denoting all the hours and minutes in the day on a hazy etched glass face. Every number is therefore unique, with the filming alone taking 10 days.
The art piece, located at The Countdown Hotel, is the latest edition in Baas’ acclaimed “Real Time” series, a collection of 12-hour films in which actors indicate the time minute by minute. For the Count:Down Clock, Baas has dressed the actors in black tie to create a more stylish aesthetic.
In our interview, Baas, who's also collaborated with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, Dior and Berluti. talks about his career, his unique concept of time, and the creation of the Count:Down Clock, the first of its kind in Asia.
What first sparked your interest in design?
I first discovered design when I was 15. It suited me perfectly, allowing me creative freedom while working within the discipline’s boundaries. Today, more and more people see me as an artist, one who expresses himself through functional objects.
Your Real Time series, begun in 2009, seems to indicate a long-term obsession with time. What concepts, relative or otherwise, do clocks allow you to express?
Time is always related to both our human lifetime and the way we experience time. Although clocks have a very exact mechanism, in which every minute is equal, in reality every minute is a unique experience. In film, I can clearly demonstrate that difference.
Timepieces are often described as cold and relentlessly logical. Yet your art and design work appears to be driven by intuition. How do you reconcile that paradox?
That’s exactly what it’s about. The strict logic of time versus the human perception. Intuition is the most important tool for a human being; it’s what makes us different from an intelligent computer.
How is Count:Down Clock different from other works in the Real Time series?
For this project, obviously we wanted to do something with the theme of counting down. Yet, there are plenty of ways to count down. The first thought was to make it look like real people were each individually making a digit. There are digits for hours and digits for minutes. So some digits have to go very fast, while others only change every 100 or 1,000 hours. So there was this contrast between the activities, which I liked. I gave them all a black suit, as if they are chic servers of time, similar to personal butlers. I was also inspired by the luxury lifestyle in Macau.
Has Morpheus, the new hotel designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid, had an influence on your design for the Count:Down Clock?
It forms a contrast with her work, which is very futuristic, based on computer models and aerodynamic shapes, whereas my work is very down to earth, “just” a man doing his job. I like this contrast.
Throughout your career, you have been a risk-taker. How has this approach contributed to your extraordinary commercial success?
Well, it often also contributed to my commercial collapse, ha, ha! But I like to make a difference, I like to take the next step. This energises me, and the people around me, resulting in a positive reaction to my work. It’s a human tendency to move forward, so people like to invest in others who dare to take the next step. I’m glad to be part of that.
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