What is Things + Time?

by Nicky Taylor

Published on February 22, 2023

Illustration by Heather Mitchell

If the Cyber Love Hotel is a garden, as Liane Décary-Chen described it in the previous blogpost, then Things + Time (T+T) is the means by which the garden’s seeds are saved – so that they may be planted again, their yield unbound by time and space. Nourishment preserved, magnified, made exponential. 

But to move away from metaphor, Things + Time is an open-source digital exhibition and archiving database. The project is home to digitized objects and artworks that can be annotated with information on their traits, uses, and other unique data.

Screenshot of a 3D Scanned Object on the Things + Time Digital Archive (Beta)

The project’s cultivation began in January 2022, and with support from the Canada Council of the Arts, members of the Cyber Love Hotel would spend the next year bringing it to fruition. Born out of the pandemic-driven loss of public and cultural space and a DIY ethos, T+T offers an antidote to the kind of forgetting that traditional archival practices allow for. 

T+T takes up critical archiving, which interrogates archival paradigms that fail to prioritize accessibility, and leave behind marginalized communities, whose objects wait in archival purgatory: backlog. In this way, T+T aims to be anti-racist and anti-colonial.

As Archival Director Prakash Krishnan, explains, T+T explores how ‘community dialogical intervention’ might germinate new forms of collective participation “through a democratization of traditional archival gatekeeping.” It accounts for the artist’s agency in archival processes, while moving beyond the individual, towards the relational, the communal.  T+T reminds us: these are our objects, these are our stories – who better to keep them, to share them, than us? 

The platform allows artists and community members to exhibit 3D scans of their work, which can then be accompanied by text-, photo-, video-, and/or audio-based annotations. A sculptor can archive a piece, attach meaning to its textures in the margins; a musician can scan a chair they wrote a song in; a textile artist could annotate a single thread in a tapestry; a poet could archive a note written on a napkin. You could archive a family heirloom, or a gift from a lover. Virtually any object can be preserved.

3D Scan done by Things+Time Resident Curator Rico Serna

The code at the root of the project is open-source, and forkable – meaning that it can be pried apart, its pieces providing the foundation for some other software. Under capitalist modes, forking is disparaged for the threat it poses to competition; at T+T, it is encouraged. It is our hope that others will take what we build, carve out their own tools, and wield them with care. T+T seeks to move away from reliance on bigtech, and contribute to the global community of people building digital systems, centered around care, relationships, symbiosis. 

In November, T+T put out an open call for a 6-week residency offered to emerging artists in Tio’tia:ke/Montreal during January and February. The ten artists selected have participated in a series of workshops, with topics ranging from archiving to project management, to 3D scanning and editing – all with curricula developed in dialogue with the artists. Their works now populate  the platform as it takes its first steps. Like the culture at Cyber Love, the residency has been  relationship-oriented, rather than task-oriented; its outcomes measured more by what the artist has learned and what the community has gained than what the individual has produced.

Like seeds and the fruit they eventually bear, culture nourishes us. Its yield is joy, connection, avenues for grief. We must protect it, and the objects that encapsulate it, from gentrification, commodification, and dispossession. T+T invites you to reimagine traditional archival practice, to upend time as we understand it, tether things in and outside of it, to preserve our most precious objects so they can be shared. 

We’re growing a digital garden – the fruits of this labour we hope to harvest in community with one another. 

Lou Fozin, Education Director at Things+ Time, demonstrates a 3D scanning technique – Photo by Aya Avalon