Uchronia: unlearning time
Dr. Helga Schmid

Uchronian Critical Mass is an ongoing collective experiment in alternative ways of understanding and using time, launched on 1 May 2020. Convened by artist and academic Dr Helga Schmid, Uchronian Critical Mass investigates the possibilities for a new politics of time by exploring the potential of uchronian thinking. ‘Uchronia’ (Greek for non-time) opens up an unexplored space for thinking about new ways of understanding and using time. The role of uchronian thought is to ask: What time-culture is worth striving for, and what is the set of criteria by which to organise societal time?

Over the past week, participants have been working under the guidance and suggestions provided by Helga to take advantage of their time in quarantine as an opportunity to ‘unlearn’ societal time, and develop criteria for their own temporal system. Helga explains:

‘Mass quarantines across the globe due to the Coronavirus pandemic have prompted thinking about lasting structural changes in the ways we live and work—with time to unwind and reflect, and new ways of remote working and communication causing us to question commuting, consuming, care, habitation, and rhythms of work/life balance. I decided it’s time to move beyond dreaming and to use this unprecedented opportunity to actually try out new ways of living.’

‘In this experiment, I ask healthy, self-isolating participants to ‘unlearn’ societal time and develop their own temporal system, more suited to their own rhythms. The idea is to start afresh with what we call time. Currently experiments are ongoing, and on a rolling basis everyone is encouraged to take part and choose their own time-giver, live by it and document the experiment through social media.’

'Uchronian Critical Mass does not aim to create new national or global collective time systems, but invites each individual, family, or household to step outside the current system, choose their own time-giver and live by it for one week or more. This may or may not cause institutions to change established time conventions, but it will (1) prompt people to question the embedded societal rhythms and their impact on individual health and well-being, (2) create an opportunity for people to think about a time system they would like to live in, and (3) enable them to test it in practice.'

On this page Helga shares some of the different ‘time-givers’ that participants have chosen as replacements for their watches and clocks.

To join the experiment you need 48 hours - 5 days of time, and the will and flexibility to give up clock-time. If you would like to find out more and participate, email Helga: helga@uchronia.world


1. Set aside Monday to Friday (ideally) or at least 48 hours.

2. Pick a time-giver for this period of time. Develop your own time-giver (Zeitgeber), something that replaces clock time. It can be based on natural rhythms, the body, other mammals, technology... For example, the time-giver could be a deck of cards and a set of rules – drawing a card could mean a change of activity, and the card indicates the length and type of that activity.

3. Plan the experiment in as much detail as you can, and document it in a way it suits you (video recordings, writing, sound recordings, drawings, photography, ...)

4. Inform your network about the experiment (eg. telling them directly, setting an automated email, Instagram message) so they don’t expect timely replies from you.

5. Remove yourself from clock time (tape over the time on your phone, computer, microwave, ...).

6. Prepare things like food beforehand if necessary, so you don’t need to leave your own temporal bubble (except if this is part of your time-giver). The less external interruptions, the better.

7. Do it and enjoy the temporal freedom :). Stay safe and in your comfort zone!

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