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￼￼70° N, Steilneset Memorial, Vardø, Norway, smudge studio 2014
FOP was launched on January 1st, 002010 and recently turned five. Thanks to all those who keep returning to this site. We’ve taken up a wide range of ideas related to geologic time on this blog over the past half decade. The “geologic” certainly wasn’t trendy ten years ago when smudge studio began. The surge of attraction to the geologic groundings of human and planetary life, and now to the idea of the Anthropocene, is a promising signal that perceptions are in motion and humans around the world are newly curious regarding their entanglement with planetary forces.
In March of 2013, on the second anniversary of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, we wrote a post entitled, “The Next Five Years.” In it, we outlined an updated frame for our work and tried to anticipate new, Anthropocene-related related realities that might emerge between 2013 and 2018 :
“…during the next five years, humans will 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.”
Over the past four months, interest and awareness regarding planetary change has burgeoned in media, art, activist, and academic circles. The spirited dynamism (pdf) of efforts to grasp, in words and art, the material realities now ramifying have generated vibrant discussions that leap from reports of scientific evidence to witnessing to persuasion to philosophical reflections upon the acceleration of constant, and uneven distributed global change. Humans are no longer aiming to “stop” global warming. We are now grappling with making the transition into coexisting with unknowable future(s) and their ever open, unanswerable questions.
Many wildcards will be revealed, invented, discovered and relearned as various species meet unanticipated futures. On the cusp of 2015, we sense an absence in the frame we offered a year and a half ago that now seems essential to add. Namely, the vital importance of cultivating a capacity within ourselves, as individuals, to be with and of the changes that are here and on their way. It seems more essential than ever for humans to actively draw near to, perhaps even welcome into daily life, the reality of continuous change. And to do this not through consuming news headlines, thematic conferences, or exhibitions addressing the Anthropocene. But rather, to cultivate this capacity through intentional practices that actually live the fact that what we (Western, developed cultures in particular) have pushed away from our awareness and attention (material realities of human-made earth-magnitude geologic change) are actually right here and already with/in us — and we, within them.
As a studio, we’ve spent the better part of a decade to come to know this for ourselves in meaningful ways. And it’s only been through designing practices to meet and acknowledge our own material limits that we’ve really come to know more intimately the materialities of the “away from awareness and attention” that, actually, are right here. The process of going “there” has proven effective for these realizations. It has set up experiences and field research that invited the world to pass through us as we passed through it. We first learned this process from the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Venturing outside of the habitual pathways, looking at and from overlooked “places” (which can be right in front of you, or can be you yourself), not only have we been humbled as humans — we’ve also learned how flimsy assumptions about the world are when they are human-centered. From “there,” the edge of our driveway, the rim of a massive copper mine, sites where nuclear bombs have been detonated, or making tea at 70° North or passing trucks transporting transuranic waste, we have performed deliberate pauses. Stopping at “edges,” we have been rewarded with involuntary, poignant sensations of wonder and awe at our enmeshment within material complexities. There are no edges at all. We are within this “air,” “land,” “water,” “waste” as much as they are within us.
In coming months, we humans will be fast learning much more about how this planet is not all about us. The blunt lessons will be unstoppable. Being able to real-ly feel our exposure to forces beyond us, letting it meaningfully instruct our thoughts and actions rather than responding from the defensive, might assist us in redirecting or tempering how and what comes next.
As FOP/smudge, we’ve chosen to experiment with active, inner space as the next “away,” or “(non-)edge.” We will look to it for assistance in meeting the speed and magnitude of incoming, life-altering material realities. The task of relaying near-literal images and words from within the mesh will be task enough for now.
Intentionally designing lives made up of practices for being fully present in and as the wildly unpredictable material realities that are now arriving. This is art enough.
Here’s to the wild turn that is becoming 002015.
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