Artwork imagines an explosive future

by Sharon Ann Holgate
September 2012

Sharon Ann Holgate views an artwork linking time and technology.

When I first saw conceptual artwork The 300 Year Time Bomb, the final-year project of Diego Trujillo, MA graduate in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art (RCA), I admit that I was slightly scared. But closer investigation showed that I needn’t have worried.

Trujillo’s project, exhibited in the RCA’s annual summer show in June, and now living on through his website, examines the relationship between time and technology via a mock-up of a working bomb.  The vast decreasing number on the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) timer display shows the countdown in seconds to the explosion set for 300 years’ time.  

In the fantasy scenario that Trujillo creates, this “time bomb” is mislaid then discovered a century into its countdown.  Fascinated by the device, in the way that we now find First World War ordnance historically interesting, our descendants house the time bomb in a blast-proof building so that the eventual explosion becomes a safe and spectacular display.

Considering this concept made me think about the different timescales measured in physics research, and exactly how much meaning vast or incredibly small numbers have in a more everyday context. This was exactly the sort of response movie buff Trujillo was hoping for.  

“I was really interested in how the way that we interact with time is connected with the technology that we use. For example, with electric light the idea of a day changes completely. So I wanted to present something that people are familiar with from action movies and generate philosophical debates around technology and time, [such as] why we might make a technology that would last for so long,” says Trujillo, who has a BSc in biology.  

Trujillo chose OLEDs for the timer as they require low amounts of power, so could theoretically work for a very long time. They were bespoke made by Sedgefield-based R&D and manufacturing company Polyphotonix, who sponsored the project. Its chief executive, Richard Kirk, got involved after meeting Trujillo at an event that aimed to connect RCA designers and artists with plastic electronics and photonics technologists. He was intrigued by the project concept and the artist.  

Kirk – a former professional artist – has experience of promoting emerging technologies via sponsoring and collaborating with artists and designers. Their use of your technology at international art or design fairs brings it to the attention of industry product designers who in turn are highly visual and adopt it in ways that scientists and engineers don’t normally envisage, he explains. “A lot of tech companies think people are seduced by technology and they never are. It’s all about the strength of the design and creativity that goes into high-tech products.” 

The 300 Year Time Bomb can be viewed at

© Institute of Physics 2012. Reproduced with permission.