A Storm is Blowing/Timekeeper

A Storm is Blowing_CathyHaynes_©Sue Barr_small casesCathy_Haynes_A_Storm_Is_Blowing_Stoic_Circles_Photo_Sue_Barr


From January to October 2013 I was Timekeeper in residence at the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London, supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. The tiny Petrie Museum is housed in a former horse hospital off Gower Street but holds a highly significant (and very tightly packed) collection of ancient Egyptian and Sudanese artefacts.

My project inside this extraordinary space explored how time is modelled, mapped, measured and lived. As Timekeeper, I began by programming and hosting a series of multi-disciplinary public events, interviews and workshops with contributors ranging from the materials expert Zoe Laughlin to the philosopher Robert Rowland-Smith and the composer David Toop. The project created a model of engagement that has since been adopted widely across UCL culture.

In response to this collaborative research, I then created the exhibition A Storm Is Blowing at the Petrie over Summer 2013, pictured above and below.

A Storm is Blowing is a kind of a 3D diagram that links 35 historical pictures and models of time with background notes, and a take-away Report on Progress (below), with drawings and text by me – or rather by my persona, the museum’s Timekeeper.

My selection of objects in the ‘diagram’ included an ancient Egyptian game of life in the form of a coiled snake, the future figured as a many-horned goat, a five-metre chart of history as a stream, the ancient Stoic circle of life, and the Facebook timeline alongside its 18th-century forebears.

Some of these artefacts were already on display in the museum (see photo, above), some are part of the Timekeeper’s personal collection, and some were made specially.


The project ended at Midsummer with Gaggle leading us in a glorious rite, ‘The Eye of Ra’, pictured below.

I invited Gaggle to devise a performance inspired by the Midsummer rituals that ancient Egyptians would make to appease Sekhmet, the lion-headed daughter of the Sun god Ra (or Re). Sekhmet is also known as the Eye of Ra. She was tasked with protecting her father from demons during his nightly passage through the chambers of the Underworld. That’s why you need to appease the Eye of Ra: she has the power to give time its right shape.


To read an interview about the project in TiP (Thinking in Practice), click here.

To hear me talking about the project on Monocle radio, click here.

Images: Installation photos by Sue Barr; Report on Progress written and drawn by Cathy Haynes and designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio; Gaggle performing the Eye of Ra, 22 June 2013.