61/60 (IN WAITING) – 2016
Cymbals, cymbal stand, tape and typed letter

November 19, 2015


Due to the deferment of Agenda Item 1.14 concerning the feasibility of achieving a continuous reference time scale by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at the World Radiocommuncation Conference in Geneva today, the planned actionn ’61/60: (continuous // eulogy)’ has been postponed.

The action will now take place in 2023 when the item is readdressed - after some 252,288,000 seconds have occurred – more – should leap seconds be required.

Until this time the work will be called ’61/60: (in waiting)’ .

Sara Morawetz

Recently, the leap-second has become a controversial concept — imparting temporal synchronicity at the expense of scientific determinism. Each second added represents a discontinuous ‘leap’ — rupturing the basic continuity of our measurements of time. Yet modern technology does not yield easily to such vagaries, and there is currently a movement working to ‘abolish’ use of the leap-second entirely.

It is tempting, perhaps, to pursue such thinking — assuming that each individual adjustment carries little resonance. However, the culmination of leap-seconds is none other than the ‘force’ by which the sun is held overhead at midday, and without it, our time would become unfastened to the solar-cycles in which it is steeped. Our time would inevitably drift significantly, and in the distant future we would find that the passage of the sun bore little relation to the movement of our clocks. A wholesale recalibration of time itself would eventually be needed. 

In November 2015, a group of international delegates met in Geneva, Switzerland for the World Radiocommunication Conference, where they were to debate and vote on the future of the leap-second. I had intended to travel to Geneva and respond to this event with a a series of twenty-six single-second performances. This work was intended to serve as either a celebration of the continuance of the leap-second or a eulogy to its end. 

On the day before my departure, the conference announced that no decision was to be reached. Instead, they decided to defer any decision concerning the fate of the leap-second for a further eight years until the conference of 2023. In response, I have decided to defer my project also, and will wait until 2023 to stage this work.