FOP


Drink from the Tilt of the Earth 23.5º Teacup
10.22.2018, 11:39 am
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After nearly a year of prototyping and research, we are pleased to announce a new project, Tilt of the Earth 23.5º Teacup. A limited edition of 70 hand-thrown porcelain tea cups is now available.

The project draws on embodied experiences of the past year, in particular, East is a Circle and Turning into the Night.

As artists, we are curious about what happens when we attempt to hold the thought of Earth-magnitude processes, and experience them at the scale of local, daily-life practices. We consider this embodiment to be a form of environmental practice. Tilt of the Earth 23.5º Teacup signals and responds to the highly consequential fact that the Earth rotates at an angle as it orbits the sun. The planet’s tilted spin generates continuous change that directly shapes the ongoing evolution of Earth-life. It causes the transitions from day to night as well as seasons, temperatures, ocean currents, and climates. Human bodies/brains/minds literally embody these forces in our multiple biological and cultural clocks.

We look forward to activating the project in upcoming micro-productions, were we will prepare and offer tea to guests — and invite them to drink at the tilt of the earth. And we look forward to being able to offer these cups for personal use, in daily life, to anyone who is interested in creating their own practice for attuning to the tilt of the earth.

We offer this cup as a material tale. Its unique form both invites and accommodates a humble gesture — the drinking of tea — in a way that orients one’s body and gestures toward an awareness of planetary forces. We also offer this cup as means for reorienting daily life within the Anthropocene.

As the first in a series of material tales, the teacups are a departure from smudge studio’s previous projects, in particular printed works and multiples that included   text-based books, postcards, field guides and calendars. Like the multiples, the tea cups are designed to be affordable, easily distributed, portable, and taken up in one’s own daily life. As material tales, they are objects that embody, in a poetic way, smudge studio’s core conceptual interests and offer inspiration for living within the Anthropocene.

Each porcelain cup has been handmade in Portland, Maine by our production collaborators for the project, ceramic artisans Janna DeWan and Zachary Fields. Over several weeks, Janna and Zachary developed specially designed tools to create the stability and accuracy of the 23.5º tilt.

The foot of each cup is stamped with the kanji for tea (茶) at a 23.5º angle, and the year of production: 002018. Each cup is packaged with a “tale” for activating it and a handmade certificate of its limited-edition.

We welcome pre-orders now.  All cups will be shipped by December 1st, 002018.

Thank you for your support, and we hope your experience of drinking tea at the tilt of the earth becomes a meaningful practice for meeting and living the Anthropocene.

 

 



Within Dark there is Light, Within Light there is Dark: Autumn Equinox in the Provincelands
09.23.2018, 4:02 pm
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all images this post, unless otherwise noted, FOP 002018, Fowler Shack

Last night at 9:54pm EDT, autumn began in the Northern Hemisphere. We were fortunate enough to mark the arrival of this new season on the same day that we departed from a week-long residency at the Fowler Dune Shack. The shack was built in 1949 and is located in the Provincelands of the Cape Cod National Seashore, far from urban lights and sounds. It is a rare context for living in intimate proximity with the Atlantic Ocean.

Turning into the Night continues, and our time at Fowler was an incredible incubator that deepened our project of living with and attuning to the changing light of the season. We have, of course, noticed the dramatic shift that’s taken place since we started the project in late May. The sun rises more than an hour later now and sets more than two hours later than when we began. Though we aren’t sure how we will adapt and augment the project to the lengthening periods of darkness in the coming weeks, we’re committed to continuing. We feel are learn something vital from paying close attention to the transitions that sunlight is undergoing. We feel it will inform our ongoing work about living daily life in the Anthropocene. And certainly, our awareness of seasonal change is greatly increased because of the project.

On the day before we left the Fowler dune shack, we held a tea ceremony to mark the seasonal turn. This year, we used tea to pause with the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, and will make tea for the Winter Solstice in December.

Tea on the deck while half in sunlight and half in dark shadow, just as the Earth is on equinox. Tea again at 1pm (noon Sun time) while sitting on the sand upon a long, narrow paper place setting. The white paper line ran directly east-west on the side of the dune–each end pointing out the places on the horizon that the sun will rise and set only on equinox (Super 8 footage, forthcoming).

Five thousand years ago, due to their close observations and attention to planetary movement and change, the ancient Chinese discovered that the yearly changes of seasons and progressions of Earth’s shadow composed the what we now recognize as the ying yang graphic. They used an 8 foot tall pole to cast and record the sun’s shadow daily, and found that the shortest shadow falls on Summer Solstice, and the longest shadow on Winter Solstice (read more here).

 

image, Allen Tsai

Our project, Turning into the Night, has found a deep a home within the lines of Zen ancestor Shitou’s 1300 year old poem entitled the Sandokai (known in English as the Identity of the Relative and Absolute). We first encountered the poem several years ago. Now, both our project and the increased pressure of the Anthropocene have opened new pathways into two of its lines: “Within light there is darkness, but do not try to understand that darkness; Within darkness there is light, but do not look for that light”. John Daido Loori’s translation (available via Zen Mountain Monastery), in particular links us to the deep, enigmatic roots of Daoism, which conceptualized human existence within evolving planetary limits.

We look forward to sharing more about how we will translate this poem, our time in Fowler, and our continuing engagement with Turning into the Night into shareable works and experiences for audiences in the coming months. Enjoy the changing light.

 

 

 

 

 



The Power of Now: Opening at Pasquart Art Centre
09.06.2018, 3:28 pm
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We are happy to announce our piece The Last Eight Minutes: Everything We take to be a Constant is Changing is included in an exhibition entitled The Power of Now, opening September 8th at the Pasquart Art Centre, Switzerland.

Curated by Samuel Leuenberger and Felicity Lunn, the exhibition examines “the aesthetic and cultural significance of time within contemporary narratives and its impact on how we structure our lives and experiences. In their work, the 34 international artists selected for the exhibition explore the temporal nature of labour and leisure, politics and power, the body and representation or technology and memory. Due to the complexity of the concept of time, the exhibition is divided into four thematic groupings: Time and its Discontents, Sculpting Time, Capture: Staging the Live, Speculative and Planetary Time.”

The Last Eight Minutes is included in the exhibition under the thematic, Speculative and Planetary Time, and invites visitors to experience the 8 minutes and 21 seconds that it takes (at this time of year) for light to travel from the sun to windows of the gallery space.

installation images courtesy Samuel Leuenberger, 2018

Visitors to the gallery are offered a seat and a card that introduces the intentions the work:

For the Pasquart exhibition, we designed a unique clock that divides a single hour into seven segments of 8 minutes and 21 seconds. Visitors to the gallery can use the clock as a visual reference for the duration of time it takes photons of the sun’s light to travel 93,000,000 miles and bathe everything seen in the room and outside the window through eight minute old light.

 smudge studio designed clock for The Last Eight Minutes (7 sections of 8 minutes and 21 seconds)

The show runs until November 18, 002018.

 

 



Making Tea and Life at the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth
06.24.2018, 2:51 pm
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“Peoples who are far closer to the land than most of us are adept at reading the natural signs that predicate seasonal change, and they count their calendar not just from the skies, but from the ever-shifting relationship  between plants and animals. This close affinity to nature has been lost by most of us in the developed world, although there are still a handful of those who can tell the species of a tree by the sound it makes as the wind blows through.” – Russell G. Foster and Leon Krietzman, Seasons of Life: The Biological Rhythms that Enable Living Things to Thrive and Survive, 2009

digital camera obscura of summer solstice tea ceremony, 6:07am EDT, June 21, 002018, all images this post FOP 002018

On June 21, 002018 smudge studio held a tea ceremony at Head of the Meadow beach in Truro, Massachusetts. The ceremony coincided with the moment of summer solstice at 6:07 a.m. EDT, 5:07 a.m. “sun time.” Ceremonial tea (matcha) was whisked.

Then the two artists who had seated themselves facing North stood up, turned to the south, and sat back down to drink a bowl of tea. Their southward turn acknowledged the fact that, in one and the same moment, the angled daylight that was spilling across the Earth’s globe had both reached its northernmost limit for the year and begun its migration southward as a result of the Earth’s continued orbit around the sun. By winter solstice, the sun would rise so much further to the south, it wouldn’t appear above the horizon until 7:05 a.m.

The tea bowl and tea whisk were augmented to rest the angle of 23.5 degrees, allowing them to make a literal and metaphorical bow to the angle at which the planet humans inhabit is tilted, an angle that is, literally, responsible for the planetary systems that support life on Earth and shape its evolution (seasons, day/night, and countless bodily/living systems that are highly attuned to their configurations). It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that humans exist in the bodies and consciousness we have because of the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth.

This ceremony also marked the end of our 31 day experiment (Turning into the Nightduring which we lived within only natural light from dawn to dusk.

After this month, our awareness of seasonality and the spin of the earth that literally transitions our lives from day into night, night into day, over and over,  has been heightened. It has become less abstract, more material and embodied.

With significantly less use of electric lights and devices, other rhythms surfaced for us. We took special notice of how plants, light, temperature, other creatures are deeply attuned to the day/night cycle. The effects and interconnections of their different attunements are deep, evolutionary, material realities. Yet, we realized we’ve been missing most of this. By staying up long after dark, and waking up long after daylight arrives, the lived experience of the transition into and out of night, and all that it commands, is truncated. It’s typical for most humans to wake into and go to sleep out of a world/reality filled to the brim with human-centered concerns, awarenesses, and thoughts. The sense that human existence is the biggest force/reality at play easily takes center stage.

And yet, by exposing our bodies and minds to the transition of day into night, and night into day, spin after spin, we quickly realized that this daily transformation is actually much vaster and enduring than us. Over billions of years, lifeforms that led to we humans literally evolved out of and in response to the continuously moving, angled “line” of day/night. Its rhythms and effects are deeply embedded within us and play out as “us.” Our bodies and brains, eyes, cells, blood, gut bacteria, are ruled by circadian rhythms that we must live by, or else live out the consequences of futile attempts to deny them (see Foster and Krietzman’s 2005, Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing for details on the human illnesses that result from attempts to override a human body’s biological “clock”).

We’ve done a lot of reading this past month. In one startling anecdote, we learned of a survey that was given to Harvard Graduates on commencement day, asking: Why is it hotter in the summer than winter? Three out of 25 graduates answered correctly. Without a basic awareness of the forces that truly afford our existence, it comes as no surprise that many of us don’t notice or feel alarmed as the Sixth Extinction gathers momentum (many of us didn’t notice/know most of these species anyway).

Our distractions from our embodied experiences of what makes it possible for us to actually survive on Earth as humans means that many of us “know,” only intellectually, that Earth goes around the sun or that day and night are a result of living on a spinning planet. For animals, “… adaptations to this regular change play a large part in determining their survival and reproductive success. The same goes for us humans. The difference is that we have developed and adapted in such as way that we survive seasonal change by modifying the environment in which we live… but in modifying the world, we have lost contact with nature and its timing…” (Foster and Krietzman’s Rhythms of Life).

As a result of Earth’s current climate change, the ability of plants and animals to enact “biological anticipation” — the capacity to read/sense seasonal cues that increase chances for survival by finding warmth, food, safety, and reproducing, is becoming increasingly difficult. Our human abilities to adapt to planetary changes in the short and long-term depends on our ability and willingness to pay attention to them not in abstract, intellectual ways, but through real, embodied experience.

We can glance at the date and that tells us which season we are in. But if we have no understanding, no empathy and no sense of awe for the natural world, then we will not understand what is happening to us,” say Foster and Krietzman. In Rhythms of Life, Foster and Krietzman refer to Elizabeth Kolbert’s, Sixth Extinction and her observation that many non-human species are already attempting to adapt to climate change. They then conclude: “Whether they can do it in time is a question that is more for us than for them.”

By turning off artificial lights and electronic devices at around 7 p.m. each day (and actually for most of the rest of the day as well), we gained, after 31 days, a minor sense of what we’ve been missing most of our lives. We traded in the “buzz” of human culture, especially at night, for extremely quiet, early mornings. It appealed to us. And it’s had a great affect on our lives. We can also now understand, in ways more embodied and material, how our daily actions had been furthering an illusory distance between ourselves and the planet. It’s been no small realization.

The question of how one wants to live and what one wants to experience might appear to be a philosophical one. But as artists who have been invested in addressing the complexities of the Anthropocene for more than a decade, it’s become increasingly hard to voice concern and create work about the effects of the Anthropocene on the “environment” without taking stock of the direct connection between the Anthropocene and our own daily habits, distractions, and choices. The material realities of how humans in 002018 communicate, travel, eat, sleep and think each and every day have deep impacts on Earth systems, even if we happen to be acting with the intention of making a difference through our work.

For this reason, despite having completed 31 days of Turning into the Night, the project will continue on in forms that we will invent and learn from along the way, especially in the coming months as the duration of daylight begins to shorten. We feel as though our engagement with the simple, but profound, reality of the 23.5 degree angle of the Earth has just begun. We look forward to seeing how we can translate our living with, in and through intentional awareness of this reality into aesthetic and embodied experiences that are shareable with others.

 



Some Kind of Blue
06.12.2018, 9:04 am
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all images FOP, 002018

Day 21: Twilight into Dawn, from the project, Turning into the Night

This blue, it just won’t stop. Ever moving. Unfixable. Somehow, without clear demarcation, this sun-filled day began to dim into the most minute of gradients, into shades of blue that are more glow and quality of light and diffusion than color. There’s no stopping this change, yet it’s silent, seamless and graceful in it’s profound shift (the earth is continuously turning after all).

An overall feeling of rest and “winding down” is felt and heard in the air. This is what living beings do. Sensors in our eyes, glands, hearts, minds, are attuned to this. They “clock it” and their sensings are continuous, every day. Lowering light triggers their signaling.

Meanwhile, the bombardment of photons is never ending, as far as humans are concerned. Photons cruise towards our planet from 93,000,000 miles away. Some, a bit to the rolling “west” of here, will bounce off and illuminate all that makes place in that direction, such as “California.” The photons arriving near “here,” at twilight, as we ride “eastward” on the edge of the roller coaster hump that is the earth’s curvature — might just miss the earth entirely and soar on past, infinitely, into deep space, and never alight.

IMG_6058.jpg

Those that do strike our edge, make “sunset” here.

For now, the cones and rods in our eyes are doing their evolutionary jobs. They are winding down. This un-arrestable glow-shade we call twilight is actually movement, change, as are all things and time. And when we wake around eight hours from now, at the prompting of the highly sun-attuned bird songs outside the back door, we’ll be in a blue-ing of some sort or other again. The glow will be emerging in the sky from the “east” (instead of west) and, until around noon, our particular location on the planet will roll “downward” on its axis, at which time, it will begin to roll “upward” toward around midnight.

Meanwhile, this 8:30 p.m. twilight-ing blue is seamlessly connected with and deeply akin to the some kind of blue that will be tomorrow’s 5:00 a.m. dawn-ing.



“And Yet it Moves”: Galileo’s echo, 400 years later
06.04.2018, 9:42 am
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image by Copernicus, Library of Congress

We are 14 days into our Turning into the Night project and it already feels like we are engaged in a life and perspective-altering project.  Here are a few zuihitsu-like musings from within the process.

It has been relatively easy to conform the structure of our lives to the form of the project. We have left evening events early, in order to be away from artificial lights by the time the sun “sets.”

Each evening, we have closely observed the transition into darkness. So far, we’ve been up at or before dawn every day. Our particular Earth-location’s transitions from night to day and day to night has quickly and easily captured our interest and imaginations. They are now events that we look forward to twice a day. These transitions have started to register for us less “times” of day and more a the literal, ongoing movement of the planet. Pausing to observe them is restful. And it’s becoming easier to sense and experience the Earth’s spin in real time than to try to imagine it or analyze it cognitively. And we’re gaining an increasing, background awareness (and sensation) of Earthly movement throughout the day.

This has lead us to wonder to what degree most educated people alive today know in/through their bodies what Copernicus, so controversially concluded in 1543? The Copernican Revolution placed the sun, rather than the Earth, at the centre of our solar system. But how did this change public imagination? Was everyone suddenly dreaming at night of Earth moving around the sun? What real, embodied meaning did this scientific reality hold for the public? It seems to be a reasonable question to ask today, given how humans presently inhabit the planet, and given the quickening pace of the Anthropocene?  

In 1610, Western-encultured minds had a second chance to reorient themselves in relation to the cosmos. This is the year Galileo published findings that described his telescope observations. This time, it wasn’t just Copernicus’ math that proved we Earthlings were not the center of the Universe. It was empirical observation that anyone with sight could see. Many Western cultures were still not quite ready to look through the telescope. Thinking at cosmic scales of time and space quickly bleeds into matters of spirit, and Galileo was subjected to the Roman inquisition because of his work. Heliocentrism contradicted Holy Scripture (i.e. Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that “And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place”). Galileo was found guilty of heresy and placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life (see Losey’s film version of Bertolt Brecht’s play Galileo). Even after Galileo was arrested, he still could not help but utter the poetic words, “And yet it moves.”

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that, for thousands of years by this time, numerous ancient cultures (see the Tibetan Kalachakra, Australian Aboriginals, Anasazi, Hopewell cultureDaoists and more…) had been closely observing stars and movements of celestial bodies without the theological struggle. Without the mind/body split so deeply embedded in many Western ways of thinking and perceiving, many ancient cultures based their ways of knowing on embodied practices, and they built physical sites that materialized their embodied cognitions and observations of the cosmos in architecture and sculpture, and in their daily life on Earth. This wasn’t just science, it was life. And for many humans, it still is today.

It took nearly 100 years and the work of Newton before Copernicus’s conclusion about Earth’s place in the solar system to become broadly accepted in the West. In 1924 Hubble helped Western minds to project imaginations even further — proving that even the Milky Way is not the center of the Universe. And more recently, theories of the multiverse ask us to stretch imaginations even further.

Over the past 14 days, we have realized the degree to which technology and media have been directly inhibiting our abilities to pay attention to and note planetary change and movement. It’s becoming clear to us that media devices and their illuminated screens truly block our attunements to, and curiosities for, attending to the world and ourselves in it. The devices offer up infinite amounts of distraction from the fact of the embodied world that shapes us and that we shape in turn. A few weeks ago we might have asked, why sit and pay attention to the movement of the planet when we “know” it moves already? Now we ask, what kind of knowing do many of us alive today actually have about the fact that the ground of our lives spins?

Werner Herzog’s recent film, Lo and Behold, explores the effects of the internet on human interaction in modern society. In the film, Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss hesitates to make predictions about the future, but aptly states, “becoming your own filter will be the challenge of the future, because the filter isn’t provided … the internet is going to propagate out of control and people will have to be their own controls.” In many ways, we feel that Turning into the Night is turning us into our own filters. In doing so, perhaps previously obstructed Earthly/Cosmic signals that we suspect could be vitally inspiring and practically useful within the Anthropocene will make their ways into our awareness.

Also during this past week, we realized that about two months ago, we missed an important date. On March 11, 2013 we wrote a post entitled, The Next Five Years, Passing ThroughIn it, we speculated on what might be arriving in the coming five years. We were ready to reorient our practice in order to pay attention to and note the anticipated, but as yet unknown changes that we felt were afoot, and we announced that we would be “enacting an updated frame” for our work. We were motivated in part by our sense that, between 2013 and 2018, humans would, grasp the speed, scale, and material realities of planetary change events more concretely.  Arguably, thoughts, dreams, actions and creative gestures that we humans make in response to our first inklings and shared experiences of Anthropocene events will set the stage for their potential consequences.”

Five years later, we feel that this has indeed become the case. In ways that were not yet concretely real in 2013, there is now widespread awareness of global-environmental change, even though the “potential consequences” that will result from this change remain far from certain.

In late April we were guest presenters at a symposia at Hunter College Art Galleries, held in honor of the environmental artist Juan Downey. At the conclusion of our conversation, a member of the audience asked us about the ethics of our commitment to thinking at a planetary scale. Couldn’t such thinking remove us from urgent, local realities? So much work needs to be done right here on the ground, in the human-social world.

We answered this question with an anecdote from a residency we had in Wendover, UT. Despite the seeming indifference of geologic to the social and political issues of humans, over the past 13 years of our practice, we have found the geologic has offered us useful and relevant ethical perspectives. Perhaps these perspectives are something similar to what humans were offered (and were so afraid of) in Copernicus’ and Galileo’s geo-cosmological observations. When we think at/within large planetary scales of time and change, we open ourselves to learning about and from our deep embeddedness within the world/planet that we humans share with living and non-living beings. And one of the most consequential things we learn is, the world/planet is more than just we humans.

The morning after the symposium, an additional but important response to this question occurred to us, one that has emerged from our work over the last five years. The process of our art practice requires us to take the time to sit with and attempt to feel for ourselves the vast time, change, and movements of geologic and cosmic materials and forces. Doing so, we’ve come to realize that the “indifference” of the geologic “to us humans” is, in fact, inextricable from how very well the geologic “takes care” of us. We are the cosmic and the geologic. What else are these lungs breathing oxygen? These retinas receiving photons from the sun? This iron composing our blood, and this calcium of our bones There is no separation between we humans and the cosmic mystery that we exquisitely evolved with. Humans are showered with geo-cosmological affordances with each breath.

The planet has readily supplied these affordances but it’s up to us to actually acknowledge them and scale our actions as a species in response. Perceiving our drinkable (to us) water, breathable air, living soil through the lenses of vast geo/cosmo timeframes, we quickly see our species’ existence on Earth as the rare exception it is. By failing to have an embodied awareness of how the local links to the geo/cosmo in our daily lives, we miss opportunities to engage such deeply meaningful material realities. Humanity’s distractions from those realities could be one of the biggest challenges to finding social-political means for navigating the Anthropocene.

 



Turning into the Night
05.18.2018, 7:45 am
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image FOP 002018, from a LinkNYC station at Madison Avenue and 53rd Street

Greetings from the hinge of a month-long experiment — Turning into the Night. We are excited to be embarking into this project as of next Monday May 21st, 002018.

The project is motivated by our sense that now is the time to explore what happens when we attempt to hold the thought of, pay close attention to, and track Earth-magnitude change on local, daily-life scales. In ways related to our East is a Circle project, we wonder what creative, spiritual, cultural, and material consequences might result from living this awareness.

We have been inspired by the night walks of Clark Strand. He writes of his own experiments of living without artificial lights in his 2015 book, Waking up to the Dark:

“Waking up in the dark is a way of reaching around the Anthropocene to catch a glimpse of what might have existed before it — a time when it was still possible to recognize a human being as part of the landscape of the world, before it become what it is now: a dazzling figure against the ground of nature with such an overwhelming sense of its own destiny that the ground it sprang from is virtually invisible to it now. It is as if it had no backdrop, no context, and no home. As if it were a thing unto itself, glorious, self-determined, and alone.” 

For the next month, we will make every effort to live without artificial light from dusk until dawn. During daylight hours, we will reduce our time on screens (of all kinds). As evening approaches, we will live the transition into night and darkness. As much as possible, as night ends, we will be awake and paying attention to our planetary transition into day. The project will end on summer solstice, June 21st.

Even though we can’t control the degradation of our “photic habitat” by the excessive artificial light that floods streets and buildings in highly industrialized, densely populated areas, we plan to greatly reduce the presence of artificial light in our lives by simply leaving interior lights off, staying off phones/TVs/computers, and not riding in cars after dark. Though we might miss a few evening movies and dinner gatherings with friends, we hope to gain a singular chance to “[reach] around the Anthropocene to catch a glimpse of what might have existed before it,” and practice a way of inhabiting our lives and our planet that makes it possible to sense and appreciate the earth’s daily turns into and out of darkness.

During the month, we will relay signals from the project to this blog. At the end of the project, we’ll publish “field notes” from the experience. Eventually, we plan to make specific aesthetic responses to Turning into the Night.