"Only the present is our happiness” - Goethe

This is an exhibition of 40 works on paper each created by hand within the duration of 1.5 seconds.

The duration of 1.5 seconds was chosen because it has been suggested as a possible rough estimate of the maximum duration of a typical specious present*.


We live in the present. We know that the objective present is without duration but we experience the present as a short interval of time between the past and the future. This is the “specious present”, an experienced present, the site of our sensory awareness, feelings, thought and action; our point of contact with reality.

Making works in this limited way is an exercise that pays attention to the present. I call it “speed poiesis” (to bring into existence within a single specious present something that did not exist before).

In addition, these works were made with aesthetic intent and selected with an aesthetic sense. While thought preceded action, at the time of acting there was usually little conscious thought although there was always an awareness of the time limitation.

In 1.5 seconds a great deal can happen and we can experience some of that. The senses gather large amounts of data although the conscious mind can only process a small amount. A great deal of processing takes place after initial collection but most of that is outside conscious control and there is a delay of up to half a second in processing sensory input (to an extent we live in the past).

We use language internally in the present. Apparently we can form thought at a rate of about 25 to 75 words per 1.5 seconds, read at a rate of 5 to 6.25 words per 1.5 seconds for non technical material (1.25 to 1.8 for technical material). We can act with language through speech and usually speak at a rate of about 3.12 words per 1.5 seconds although a rapid speaker such as an auctioneer can speak at about 10 words per 1.5 seconds.

Besides using speech there are many other ways we can act in the present, including acting creatively but 1.5 seconds provides limited time to act. That limitation is here embraced.

*Dainton, Barry, “Temporal Consciousness”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition) Edward N. Zalta (ed.) p. 152 (search online for “Estimating the Duration of the Specious Present”).

Bill Morrow
October 2020