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New York City's Metronome Clock is a public artwork found in Union Square in New York City. The work includes a digital clock, which features 15 LED digits called "the Passage," which tells the time in a 24-hour format. The work also features a large void surrounded by concentric circles that releases plumes of white steam from the center throughout the day. The whole piece is 10 stories high. In 2020, the Metrome's digits changed to a countdown for how much time humanity has before the effects of climate change are irreversible.
Designed in 1999 by Kristen Jones and Andrew Giznel, The Metronome is "an investigation into the nature of time." It one of the costliest private commissions of public art ever at $4.2 million. On October 26th, 1999, "The Metronome" was dedicated.
In their artist statement, Jones and Giznel write:
Metronome is an investigation into the nature of time. The work references the multiple measures of time that simultaneously inform and confound our consciousness of the moment. The composite work intends to evoke contemplation on the dynamic flux of the city. The elements suggest the instant and infinity, astronomical sequence, geological epoch and ephemerality. Metronome is meant to be integral to the very history, architectural fabric, spirit and vitality of the city.
Debate Over Meaning
For years, many expressed confusion over the Metronome, unable to tell what the digital numbers mean. However, the digits tell the time in a standard 24-hour format. It tells two digits for hours, two digits for minutes, two digits for seconds. Following those, the clock tells how much time remains in the day. Bloomberg explains:
The numbers, however, do tell the time. The 15 digit LED display (there are 76,800 LEDs total) is called The Passage (okay, that's a little pretentious) and on the left-hand side, you have the time (in a 24-hour format)--hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths of a second. The central digit counts off one-hundredths of a second. The digits on the right show the number of hours remaining in the day, in the same format; basically the left side counts up and the right counts down. You can think of it as time draining from right to left; a sort of horizontal digital hourglass.
In commemoration of Climate Week, on September 19th, 2020, artists Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan reprogrammed the clock to include the message "The Earth has a deadline." The clock also shows the numbers in years, days, hours, minutes and seconds until the effects of climate change become irreversible.
On September 21st, the Washington Post shared a photo of the clock. They wrote, "A new digital clock unveiled in Manhattan’s Union Square over the weekend promises to tell you exactly how long the world has left to act before an irreversible climate emergency alters human existence." The post received more than 505,000 likes in less than 24 hours (shown below, left).
That day, Twitter user @AmayaNYC shared the post on Twitter, where it received more than 92,000 likes and 50,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, right).
 New York Times – A New York Clock That Told Time Now Tells the Time Remaining
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