Friday 1 May 2020

Counting to One Million

What is the value of counting to one million? As in, if one person were to count all the way to one million, and you put a dollar value on them doing that, what would that dollar value be?

Counting to one million a totally pointless act. Nothing is gained by having someone count to one million.

So the answer is zero dollars, right? But then, a lot of work goes into counting to one million. Surely that work has to be worth something.

Fortunately, we need not speculate. In 2007 a man named Jeremy Harper counted to one million. He counted for 16 hours every day for 89 days. He live-streamed the whole thing.

I’ve been thinking about the value of pointless acts. About things like counting to a million: what their value is and why we do them.

I was looking back over the work I’d produced over the last year, planning to document the pieces I’d not written up, and realised this was a pretty consistent thread through all of them: pointless acts done simply to see what would happen if I did them.

Games that are unfeasible to play. Videos that are too long to watch. I like to see if they take on a life and meaning of their own with enough size, or enough time. I like sticking with an idea even when it’s going nowhere, simply to see what that nowhere looks like when you’re eyeball-deep in it.

Here’s what I’ve been up to.


A combination with my fascination with futile acts and a sense of being lost in time culminated in this alternative-controller prototype.

Three hourglasses control a clock: one for minutes, one for tens-of-minutes, and one for hours.

To add a minute to the timer, you must wait a minute before turning the minutes glass. To add a tens-of-minutes, you must wait ten minutes, and have turned the minutes glass ten times.

The installation measures the amount of time that has been spent paying attention to time.