8 Avatars of Time

by Marc Boumeester

Theorist Sanford Kwinter draws on Waddington’s concept of the epigenetics landscape when he states that the concept of the Chreod must be regarded as “the most important concept of the 20th century.” [i]. The epigenetic landscape deals with the progression of non-linear systems of time that can be seen ’as an invisible but not imaginary future in an invisible but not imaginary landscape’. [ii] The very moment the virtual becomes the actual can be called an event, which according to Massumi ’is a time that does not pass, that only comes to pass’[iii].

Time is divided into static time and dynamic time, the first to be called aion, the second to be called chronos. Aion is the incorporeal, omnipresent host of events. Chronos however, is time in being. If we regard chronos as being quasi-objective – the mere passing of equal parts of time – then kairos would express how this time is being. Therefore I claim that any shape of kairos stands to chronos, as an Euclidean space stands to a Topological space.

Previous work with students (in cinema and architecture) made clear there were no instruments precise enough to describe different states of time. This led to the development of a taxonomy of the appearances of time, which are reflections of the progression of time from the moment it transformed from aion into chronos.

This paper will present this taxonomy, called ‘8 avatars of time’ which knows the following categories: Volume, Significance, Necessity, Sequence, Bearing, Indexical, Simultaneity and Proximity. It will also elaborate on how this nomenclature is helpful to bridge these philosophical concepts of time with the practice of manipulating time.

[i] Kwinter, Sanford (2001), Architectures of Time: Toward a Theory of the Event in Modernist Culture, Cambridge: MIT Press, p 9.

[ii] Ibid, p 10.

[iii] Massumi, Brian (2002), Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham: Duke University Press


Marc Boumeester is the dean of AKI, academy for arts and design. Previously, he was a researcher at the Delft University of Technology, department of architecture, specializing in the emerging capacities of the relation between cinema and architecture. He has co-founded and led the Interactive /Media /Design department at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. His research focuses on the interplay between the non-anthropocentric desire, socio-architectural conditions and unstable media, cinema in particular. He publishes on media-philosophy and art theory.