It’s never long before the traffic lights swing back around from green to red and bring traffic to a halt. Below, wannabe race cars rev their engines into the red, at full throttle as they eye the starting line. Racing past, a scarlet fire engine roars as it tears through the streets. Uniting urgency and emergency, the colour red compounds all the ways that time pressures us and our daily lives.
The cover of The cult of urgency: A time-sick society by Nicole Aubert (Flammarion)
is not red. Yet look at the heads of the three rushing businessmen, transformed into timepieces, and red clearly takes centre stage. The author, a sociologist and psychologist, decodes our lives’ eternal race against the clock
. Some of us are intoxicated by this frenetic rhythm. As the deadline rushes nearer, we are stimulated, inspired and efficient... Others, however, gain nothing but stress from this eternal treadmill. As the hours, days and years go by, we feel like time is slipping further and further away from us
This essay, broken down into chapters from “The children of Cronos” and “Our ever-changing relationship with time” to “A life of urgency”, was published in 2003. Released before the advent of ubiquitous internet, it may as well date back to a previous century. Since then, the perpetual influx of information, instant messages, video-conferences and live feeds stream in from the superhighway and do much to distort how we perceive and experience time. Everything has sped up, and we too must speed up or lose out.
In 2018, Nicole Aubert released a second work, The search for time - Hyper-connected people and an accelerated society: tension and transformation (Erès)
, in which she dissects how new technology has accelerated our lives. Urgency and emergency
were once confined to a few specific fields, such as medicine. Now, however, they’ve spread into every part of our world
. Look at your smartphone and you’ll see the little red dot, demanding your attention for an unread message, alert or notification on every application - from work to your private life.
You’ll also see a little red dot in the centre of the new Klokers watch
, whose index (also red) shows the hours, minutes and seconds. Thanks to the turning dials on these timepieces
, this time will never slip away from you or speed up when you’re not looking. In varying shades of red
, the matching strap
offers another nod to the men’s and women’s fashion collections this autumn and winter. The colour of urgency is also a symbol of power, prohibition, danger, passion and love. All of these are intense, vivid and - all too often - fleeting.
Text: Frédéric Martin-Bernard
Photos: Erwan Hesry, Unsplash