About the Artwork

Silent Agitator is a large clock based upon a detail of an illustration produced by Ralph Chaplin in 1917 for the Industrial Workers of the World union (the IWW). Chaplin’s illustration, bearing the inscription ‘What time is it? Time to organize!’, was reproduced on millions of gummed stickers, known as ‘silent agitators’, that were distributed by union members in workplaces and public spaces across the US. The clock hands bear workers’ clogs or, in French, sabots from which the word sabotage is derived (sabotage was originally used in English to specifically mean disruption instigated by workers). Clocks are a ubiquitous symbol within industrial disputes as hourly wages and the extent of working hours are often the source of argument. Silent Agitator nods to the IWW’s organising for the rights to a five-day work week and eight-hour work day, and posits a future in which we further reclaim our time.

Year: 2019

A High Line Commission, Courtesy of the Artist and Rob Tufnell. Photo: © Nick Turpin


Aluminum, acrylic, paint


234 x 167.5 x 52cm

Artist Biography

Ruth Ewan

Ruth Ewan (b. 1980, Aberdeen, Scotland) lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. Ewan’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at institutions including Camden Arts Centre, London, England (2015); Tate Britain, London, England (2014 – 2018); and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark (2012). She has been featured in group exhibitions including 'Future Design', Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England (2018); 'Incerteza viva', Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2016); and 'Station to Station', Barbican Art Gallery, London, England (2015). She has created public commissions for Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland (2018); Flood House and Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, England (2016); and Artangel, London, England (2013/2007).