Elena Knox

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Nemesis Clock


Public artwork for the NSW Justice Department installed in the atrium lobby of Coffs Harbour Court House in 2015.

Nemesis Clock is a custom, fully-functioning neon clock that presents an ever-changing poetic phrase. As time goes by minute by minute and hour by hour, the clock's numbers affect the sense of the illuminated text, which expresses subtle fluctuations in the weighting of an individual’s (or a government's) virtue.

Nemesis Clock eloquently demonstrates balance, counterbalance, and the shaping of society by human attitude.

concept schema

Project rationale

Nemesis: Greek goddess of reprisal, proactive balancer of the scales of justice. Nemesis dealt out comeuppance for both evil deeds and undeserved good fortune. She directed human affairs in such a way as to maintain equilibrium. Happiness and unhappiness were measured out by her, care being taken that neither was too frequent or too excessive. She was attendant to Themeis, goddess of law.

‘Nemesis’ comes from νέμειν [némein], and means ‘dispenser of dues’. Romans also used the Greek name to refer to this personification of the moral reverence for law, of the natural fear of committing a culpable action, and hence of conscience.1

Due to her constant non-partisan redistribution of fortunes, Nemesis is often called the remorseless goddess. Another occasional name for her was Adrasteia, meaning ‘the inescapable’. Time also gets called ‘remorseless’. The restless cycle of day/night marked out by a clock cannot be altered or escaped; it is both a socially-instated and a ‘natural’ order. The Nemesis Clock by Lull Studio concretises the shifts and plays of the cycle by integrating the legible, real time within a textual phrase, e.g. take 11 chances, give 45 in return.

When the number of hours is less than the number of minutes, the moral standing of the human is in credit. But when the hours are greater in number than the minutes, the moral order flips and the human’s ethical account is in arrears. For one, and only one, minute in each hour, there is perfect equilibrium.

The concept of ‘taking a chance’ signifies an act of self-assertion in society that could go well or ill. It could even land you in court. The concept of ‘giving a chance’ speaks to a necessary humanitarian relationship with others, of philanthropy and forgiveness. We live, we learn and the clock goes ‘round’.

The lobby is a space for all users of the court house, not just those who hold sway of power in court. The message of the clock does not privilege one group over the other, but indicates that all people ‘suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’2, and that no-one occupies a position above the reach of Nemesis. Pride, particularly, is penalised by Nemesis, resulting in the ‘fall’. However, we at Lull Studio feel that the attentive nature of the goddess’s tending to judicial balance means that for all, even the most plagued by misfortune, there are hope and better times in the very near future.

1 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
2 Shakespeare, Hamlet: Prince of Denmark.


Design compendium downloadable here