When I saw from far away the poster with an old pocket watch on the gate of the Art Museum in Timisoara, I thought of Pink Floyd and their song Time, which will outlive me and you, like time itself. As our mind is grinding its thoughts and fantasies, almost without our permission, in a continuous monologue that accompanies our lives like a subtitle of another movie, never perfectly synchronized, it wasn’t surprising that I found myself in the middle of the busy square, hearing the apocalyptic sound of clocks ticking and ringing louder and louder. It was the intro of the work of genius by Pink Floyd in which we are warned about our life slipping through our fingers, as we try to keep up with the sun, in a race impossible to win, marked by enthusiastic beginnings, unfulfilled plans and missed chances.
But no, this is not a review of a Pink Floyd concert, no matter how much I wanted it. This would mean to go back in time, which is not possible. And still… I get closer to the museum and I read on the poster: „The history of a craft. Petru Kindlein: clockmaker and jeweler”. The exhibition really took me back to another world, to another time, when man could be a master in his craft, which brought both a sense of accomplishment deriving from the feeling that your work is valuable and meaningful, and the appreciation and respect of the community. These constituted solid reference points, making the order of things and the meaning of a life more clear. And such a life, of which one knew it had a meaning, was in some way a defeat of time.
The exhibition was made possible by Emil Kindlein, who found in the attic of his grandfather’s house – Petre Kindlein – tools, furniture, advertising boards, catalogs, stamps, bottles, glasses, boxes, drawers, photos, certificates, documents and around a thousand watches and clocks, which were used to reconstruct the clockmaker and jeweler shop opened in the first half of the 20th century. From Emil’s stories, I pictured his grandfather as a skillful and energetic man, riding his bike, a good photographer and referee, speaking German, Hungarian and Romanian, like people used to speak in this multicultural region, surrounded in his shop by the ticking of cuckoo clocks, alarm clocks, hand and pocket watches.
The exhibition reminded me of a craft that is slowly disappearing today, a craft that implies working on complicated and delicate machinery with patience, care, surgeon-like precision and skills accumulated through years and years of practice. How could such a craft survive in our times, ruled by technology, speed and consumerism, by the law of buy – throw away – buy, which turn the wheel of economy and of our lives faster and faster, in a mechanism that resembles the running wheel in a mouse cage.
It moved me when Emil spoke at the vernissage of the exhibition about honesty, punctuality and diligence – qualities that were mentioned in the certificate his grandfather received from his master clockmaker – qualities that today sound obsolete. It touched me to hear a story about being fulfilled, happy and free, in spite of the hard times, when „History” – as we learn about it from books, from a safe distance – meant going to war, deportation, communism, political persecution, nationalization. Petru Kindlein was not spared either by The History. He was sent to fight in the war, while his wife was deported in Russia. In spite of all these, when I saw at the exhibition the photo in which Petru Kindlein is offering a rose to his wife, both old, with white hair, smiling brightly in the garden of their house, I knew that Emil was right: his grandfather was happy.
The vernissage ended with „Collector’s music” – a concert by Acoustica (Emil Kindlein – voice, guitar, harmonica and Daniel-Silvian Petre – voice, harmonica, blockflote) – in Carturesti, a bookshop and tea house nearby the museum, where a handful of people huddled in the dimly lit room, on chairs and on the floor, drinking tea and listening the heart-felt acoustic interpretations of songs by The Doors, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, and also original Acoustica songs based on poetry by Romanian writers.
I would have liked to end this with a poem by a Romanian writer, but as it’s so difficult to translate poetry, I will end it with the lyrics of Time by Pink Floyd:
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.
For the Romanian version of this article go here