Water Thief | Alison Scott

Water Thief is a performative work by the artist Alison Scott conceived for the True North: Rewriting Histories conference held at Timespan in March 2016. Using a water clock to shape a scripted conversation written and performed by Alison Scott and collaborator Alice Tarbuck, Water Thief questions the methodologies that we use to measure history, using past techniques for time keeping to disrupt notions of standardised time.

Thought to have been developed in response to the shortcomings of the sun dial, water clocks were used around the world in various civilisations and examples have since been found or had their use recorded in documents from the 4th Century BC. Evidence of past methods of keeping time, water clocks exist mainly now as artifacts; sources of tracking how we have measured time, through time itself.

Using the water supply, empirically learning from our resources, we locate ourselves with a time scale created in measurement to an unlimited value. The ‘universal’ principle of time is made local, through use of a natural resource, but at the same time is seen to be trans-historical; we relive and reinvent the methodologies of the Athenian courts of law, the trial of Socrates, the Persian farmers, the North African nomads to Galileo.

Water Thief reactivates methods of recording time now made obsolete through the global standardisation of time and the ‘world clock’, in order to evaluate our conception of historicity; stealing methods of the past for contemporary usage.

Water Thief was performed in at the True North: Rewriting Histories conference in March 2016. A digitally printed poster was produced for the project and given to conference participants and audience members. 

Alison Scott is an artist with a practice focussed around the cultural lives of objects, questioning what material we consider to be historic and how can an object or substance be contemporary. Her research is currently centred on non-teleological notions of time and the implications of this for the use-value of artifacts, art objects and minerals.

Alison graduated in 2014 from the Art, Philosophy and Contemporary Practice course at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee. She is currently a committee member at Generator Projects and is the recipient of the 2016 Dundee Visual Artist Award Mentoring scheme.