Silent Agitator

Illuminated clock, 2019

Silent Agitator is a large clock based upon a detail of an illustration produced by Ralph Chaplin in 1917 for the Industrial Workers of the World union (the IWW). Chaplin’s illustration, bearing the inscription ‘What time is it? Time to organize!’, was reproduced on millions of gummed stickers, known as ‘silent agitators’, that were distributed by union members in workplaces and public spaces across the US. The clock hands bear workers’ clogs or, in French, sabots from which the word sabotage is derived (sabotage was originally used in English to specifically mean disruption instigated by workers). Clocks are a ubiquitous symbol within industrial disputes as hourly wages and the extent of working hours are often the source of argument. Silent Agitator nods to the IWW’s organising for the rights to a five-day work week and eight-hour work day, and posits a future in which we further reclaim our time.

Silent Agitator was originally commissioned by High Line, New York, 2019 and has been shown since as part of Sculpture in the City, London, 2021 and at Collective, Edinburgh, 2022.

See a text on Silent Agitator on the High Line Blog.

Installed at High Line, New York

Photo: Ruth Ewan

Installed at Corner of Bishopsgate & Wormwood Street, London

Photo: Nick Turpin

Photo: Barney Laurance

Installed at Collective, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Photo: Tim Nolan