Time is the one thing that can never be retrieved. Yet most of our time doesn’t belong to us.
And we keep giving it away.

This is an exhibition about time, and how we lose it.
And it's, in a way, my own story.
0. Prologue
I quit a job that no longer made me happy when I was 26, without a plan.
I’d been working for 15 years and I was absolutely miserable.
Then I realized that I need to work 39 years more in order to retire. 39 years. I couldn’t do this.
I burned out, and I wasn’t even 30.
I was depressed, and very very angry.
1. The Anger
The proposed topic for this exhibition was "heist". By definition, “a crime in which valuable things are taken illegally and often violently from a place or person.”
At 28, I thought of how my time and soul were taken from me two years before. At that point in my life, I wasn't living, I was surviving. And every time I thought about my future, I felt angry. But more than that, I felt powerless. I kept reading and finding testimonials of other burnt-out people back then, after all, I wasn't alone. I was one of the millions who quit during peak pandemic times, as a part of what ended up being "The Great Resignation". For many like me, our future and the options we had within the system were bleak.
With that, the objective of the exhibition became pretty clear. I wanted the visitors of the gallery to feel angry. To understand how little control we have over our time, and to want to take it back.
2. The Concept
The hardest part of such a personal project is moving from a personal to an objective standpoint. Especially if the concept is that connected to my own feelings. So I started extrapolating and asking: what about my anger is relatable to others?
The answer came in testimonials and conversations: work. We worked too hard.
For too many years, for too many hours and even in our holidays.
I mapped the general feelings I wanted visitors to get during the different stages of the exhibition, and given that this project is about time, stages are named after time units.

Exhibition empathy map, in rough but relatable sentences.

3. The Exhibition
About Time was exhibited in Mutuo from June 22nd to July 1st, 2022.
This is how it turned out:
A simple message framing the exhibition and a QR text with all the texts in Spanish.​​​​​​​
Years of labor
The bigger picture
A timeline of our entire life: all the years we go to school, all the jobs we’ll have, the years we’ll spend in retirement, and our probability of hospitalization.
Educational data was gathered from the Spanish Government, employment times from a study analyzing job permanence in generations, and health and retirement stats from journals citing the Spanish National Statistics Institute and the World Health Organization.
This piece intends to show the amount of life we don’t own and is also a stark reminder that our bodies deteriorate, and our time doesn’t come back.
How many hours are left?
Vacation hourglasses
These are hourglasses showing the cost of one hour of paid time off in 6 different member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD): the 3 with the highest and lowest cost of paid time off in worked hours.
Each hourglass represents a country, and the amount of sand is the aforementioned cost. So this piece intends to show the value of leisure time and an instance of geographical privilege. 
The 3 countries with the lowest cost are European, and the 3 with the highest cost are an Asian country and two Latin American* countries. Mine (Costa Rica) is second to last.

*For Mexico's hourglass, the calculation was made using the annual leave days earnable by an employee during their first year of work (6 days). In Mexico, workers are entitled to more leave days according to the years they work.
Days without rest
Unease beach
A beach with 4 objects with statistics from a survey applied in the United States about work and holidays.
The color area of the object correlates to the percentage, and the object use correlates semantically. This piece is about how work invades our vacation.
Source: MyPerfectResume (2021). Work Junkies - Why We Can’t Switch Off.
The workcation song
The ultimate image representation of this self-repression we do to ourselves. I got a bunch of pictures from these Instagram hashtags: #myofficetoday, #workcation, #remotework… and turned them into a song. 
These pictures are usually portrayed as aspirational on social media. 
This is how a successful entrepreneur does holidays, right? Well, I find them quite dystopic.
And I wanted to showcase this irony. So given that holidays and music are usually associated with rest, evasion, and enjoyment; by combining two elements with a similar meaning to evoke the opposite feeling, we get irony by juxtaposition.
So we get a satire of hustle culture and the romanticization of work invading holidays using generative music.
The laptop size defines the note duration, and the laptop position defines the musical note (A, B, C, D, E, F, G).

The happiest ukelele tune in 35 bpm

So I made a base, happy Hawaiian song to go with these horrifying images. Because this is what a vacation should look like according to modern capitalism, right? But there’s more.
I also set up a QR code with a link to a website in which visitors could answer the question “if you’ve ever worked during a vacation, how much did you actually enjoy?”
The results of the vote were projected on the main screen, and the winner set the soundtrack of the exhibition.
Having 5 moods meant composing 5 different versions of the song.
The original melody was written in F major key, a classic for Hawaiian ukelele music.
So for the "I liked it" and "I didn't mind" I slowed the tune to 30 and 25 beats per minute respectively.

"I liked it" song. F major key, 30 bpm.

"I didn't mind" song. F major key, 25 bpm.

For the sadder melodies, I had to get creative. So this is when some musical theory comes in.
In music, a tritone is defined as "a musical interval composed of three adjacent whole tones". When the same melody is played in two tritonal scales at the same time, it comes out dissonant because of the distance between the notes.
So the "I disliked it" song has the same melody in F major scale and its transposition in A major playing at the same time for moderate dissonance. And the "I hated it" song uses a transposition in B major to achieve the maximum stridency possible within this tritone.
This is music mathematically designed to be annoying.

Source: Drabkin, W (2001). "Tritone" Oxford Music Online.
Special thanks to Mario Jiménez for teaching me this. ✌🏻

"I disliked it" song. F major + A major key, 20 bpm.

"I hated it" song. F major + B major key, 18 bpm.

To be able to show the songs to the audience, I coded a remote that allowed me to change the music of the exhibition with my phone, from anywhere.
(And also, most of the time the winning songs were a bit too annoying... so as a favor to everyone in the gallery I changed the tune once in a while 😅)
The end
The final piece is a chiringuito board with the menu of the day: some points I wanted visitors to get from this exhibition.
A simple, uplifting message to remind visitors that they deserve better: a healthier relationship with work and rest.

1 In 2016, 3.7% and 6.9% of all deaths from ischemic heart disease and stroke were attributable to exposure to working ≥55 hours/week; as were 5.3% and 9.3% of all disability-adjusted life years from those diseases. (Pega et al, 2021). So yes, working long hours could actually kill you faster.
Pega, F. et al (2016). Global, regional, and national burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke attributable to exposure to long working hours for 194 countries, 2000–2016: A systematic analysis from the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury. Elsevier, 154 (106595).
2 Soojung, A., & Pang, K. (2016). Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. Basic Books.

6. Bottom line
In the end, visitors felt powerless, got angry, surprised and curious.
Some shared my feelings. And the ones who didn't, told me theirs.
The exhibition sparked a conversation between me and the visitors, and between groups of people who didn't know each other before.
And they talked about time, about work, about holidays, about privilege, about rest, and about the time we own and deserve.

This project was also mentioned in an article by Clara Laguillo in Cercle Tecnológic de Catalunya.
This project wouldn't have been possible without:
María Fabuel, Pedro Lipovetzky, Pau García and everyone from Domestic Data Streamers
Ane Guerra, Toni Llácer and the Prototype Lab team from Elisava
Santi Vilanova from Playmodes
​​​​​​​Andrey Núñez
Mario Jiménez
Tomás Bellagamba
Luisa Corradi
Taisuke Muto​​​​​​​
The Bigger Picture
Compulsory Education
Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional (n.d). Educación Infantil
Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional (n.d). Educación Primaria
Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional (n.d). Educación Secundaria Obligatoria
Higher Education
Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional (n.d). Bachillerato
Ministerio de Universidades (2021). Datos y cifras del Sistema Universitario Español. Publicación 2020 - 2021.
(pp. 59) Duración media de los estudios de Grado (en años) según su duración teórica por ámbito de estudio y sexo. Cohorte de egresados 2018-2019. 4 años duración teórica, total.
(pp. 62) Tasa de transición de Grado a Máster por tipo de universidad y sexo. Cohorte de egresados en Grado en el curso 2017-2018 que acceden a un Máster en 2018-2019. Tasa global de transición, ambos sexos.
Asenjo Domínguez, A. (2021, Sep 29). Cuál es la edad de jubilación en el resto de Europa. El Independiente.
Bakerjian, D. (2020, Jul). Atención hospitalaria en los ancianos.

Vacation Hourglasses
Gobierno de México (2017, Jul 4). ¡Entérate! Al cumplir un año de servicios tu patrón te deberá otorgar vacaciones
The data for this hourglass was calculated considering the vacation days of someone who's only worked one year (6 total paid vacation days). Mexico is the only country in the list with this differentiation.
Costa Rica
Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social (n.d.). Vacaciones
South Korea
United Kingdom
Gov.UK (n.d.) Holiday entitlement
FerieKonto, Feriepengeinfo and Lønmodtagernes Feriemidler (2022, May 25) Holiday allowance
Global Payroll Association (2022, Feb 24) [Germany] 10 things to know about paid time off
International Labour Organization (2011) Germany > Hours of work, weekly rest and paid leave

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