Virginia Woolf serves as the "ghost narrator" of About Time: Fashion and Duration. The exhibition's 60 pairings, or minutes, are accompanied with quotations by Woolf related to the concept of time. From her first novel The Voyage Out (1915) to her last Between the Acts (1941), the quotations reveal Woolf's gradual progression from a traditional view of time—a chronological sequence of events—to one centered on inner duration (durée). Below is a list of the novels represented in the exhibition with relevant time-related quotations from each.
The Voyage Out, 1915
"The morning was hot, and the exercise of reading left her mind contracting and expanding like the mainspring of a clock. The sounds in the garden outside joined with the clock, and the small noises of midday, which one can ascribe to no definite cause, in a regular rhythm."
Night and Day, 1919
"The nine mellow strokes, by which she was now apprised of the hour, were a message from the great clock at Westminster itself. As the last of them died away, there was a firm knocking on her own door, and she rose and opened it."
Jacob's Room, 1922
"The worn voices of clocks repeated the fact of the hour all night long."
Mrs. Dalloway, 1925
"The word 'time' split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time."
To the Lighthouse, 1927
"Losing personality, one lost the fret, the hurry, the stir; and there rose to her lips always some exclamation of triumph over life when things came together in this peace, this rest, this eternity; and pausing there she looked out to meet that stroke of the Lighthouse, the long steady stroke, . . . for watching them in this mood always at this hour one could not help attaching oneself to one thing especially of the things one saw; and this thing, the long steady stroke, was her stroke."
Orlando: A Biography, 1928
"But Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation."
The Waves, 1931
"The clock ticks. The two hands are convoys marching through a desert. The black bars on the clock face are green oases. The long hand has marched ahead to find water. The other painfully stumbles among hot stones in the desert. It will die in the desert."
The Years, 1937
"At length the moon rose and its polished coin, though obscured now and then by wisps of cloud, shone out with serenity, with severity, or perhaps with complete indifference. Slowly wheeling, like the rays of a searchlight, the days, the weeks, the years passed one after another across the sky."
Between the Acts, 1941
"Empty, empty, empty; silent, silent, silent. The room was a shell, singing of what was before time was; a vase stood in the heart of the house, alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the still, distilled essence of emptiness, silence."
Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984). Dress, fall/winter 2012–13 haute couture. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Iris van Herpen, in honor of Harold Koda, 2016 (2016.185). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1951. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Coulson, 1964 (2009.300.1311). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope