East is a Circle
03.11.2018, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

What does it take for two artists|humans to continuously sense and attune to the spin of their Planet? What creative, spiritual, philosophical and material consequences might result from living this awareness?

We’re starting an open-ended project to help us find out what it means to co-exist with an awareness of our planet’s eastward spin.After a week of informally experimenting with this idea, we’ve realized it’s actually quite difficult to hold an awareness of our eastward spinning. Part of the challenge has to do with English word such as “sunrise” and “sunset.” These concepts actually work against our efforts to imagine, let alone sense, the reality of our eastward spin.  Card #23 of our Living Deep Time Calendar Year 00001, “The Times of the Sunset,” takes this up.

When we land creatures face the sun and watch it disappear over the horizon at sunset, we’re not watching it “set.”  We’re experiencing our personal horizon line rising “up” and “away” from the sun as our planet continues its constant spin eastward.  An excerpt from László Krasznahorkai’s recent book The World Goes On, from the chapter, “On Velocity” puts it more poetically:

“…in my desire to move faster than the Earth in whatever direction this thought has taken me, for everything has converged to such a point of departure, leaving everything behind, leaving behind the Earth, and I set off, rushing instinctively, doing the right thing by rushing, because it isn’t East or South or North I am heading or in some other direction in relation to these, but West, which is right, if only because the Earth spins from left to right, that is to say from a Western to Eastern direction, that is right, that’s how things are, that’s how it felt right, was right, from the first half-fraction of the the instant in which I started, since everything moves most definitely from West to East: the building, the morning kitchen, the table with its cup, the cup with its steaming emerald-colored tea and the scent spiraling upward, and all the blades of grass in the meadow that are pearled with morning dew, and the empty reindeer-feeder in the dark of the forest, all of these—each and everyone—moves according to its nature from West to East…”

Using English words such as “sunrise” and “sunset” encourages us, on a daily basis, to forget that we and our planet spin eastward all day and all night long, making possible the optical events we inaccurately call “sunrise” and “sunset,” along with the sun’s arcing progression through the sky throughout the entire day (a.k.a one Earth spin).

We (and everything on Earth) are continuously “Easting,” all day and all night long.

Head outdoors.  Face East. Sense the location of the sun. That eastern edge of the horizon you see out there?  From your perspective as a two-legged ground dweller, it’s always tipping “forward” and “downward” in relation to the sun at a angle of 23.5 degrees (Earth’s axis of rotation).  We’re used to thinking of the sun as moving through the sky. But stop imagining that it is the sun moving overhead. Fix the sun in space in relation to where you are. Allow the Earth to be set into motion instead, the motion that it actually, always is performing.

There have been 4.5 billion years of “Easting” here on planet Earth. Our eastward spin is born of supernova inertia.  As the Earth coalesced, its “angular momentum” set it spinning eastward at a pretty regular rate. It’s a lovely fact to imagine and know that Earth spins continuously Eastward, as does every other body in the solar system (except for Uranus and Venus, which, according to theories, were struck by objects large enough to knock them into a westward spins).

That movement never stops. Many of the concepts and words we habitually use  don’t actually express this material reality. Our project, East is a Circle, accepts the material reality that cardinal directions are arbitrary concepts humans invented to help make sense of our continuous movement in space.  At times, this all can feel like a paradoxical trap of our own making. For example, because of the language we use, it’s hard to makes sense of the material reality that even when we’re flying “west” from New York to LA, the planet is moving east beneath us. While in that airplane, flying West, we are going in one direction (West) and the planet is going in another (East).

As the pressures of the Anthropocene increase, it feels increasingly important to make note of how our language distracts or misleads us from this material reality. Our project is more than just an effort to update outmoded language (though we do expect to come up with some new concepts and words to assist us in sensing our “Easting” motion). 

As artists living the Anthropocene, we are increasingly curious about what happens when we attempt to hold the thought of, pay close attention to, and track Earth-magnitude change as it plays out on local, daily-life scales. To explore that question, we are reshaping everyday actions and developing and honing new capacities of perception and attention at scales that are beyond our usual habits of mind. As conventional languages of “sunset,” “sunrise” and “east” begin to change meaning for us as a result of our performative research, we will change the stories we tell of them. As we multiply our perspectives on Earth in creative response to its ceaseless changes in direction, we will cultivate  ways of “knowing” and “seeing” ourselves in relation to the planet that are, likewise, in-motion. Making such shifts in scale, language/concepts/meanings, and perspectives is one way that aesthetic practice might address, and live, the Anthropocene.

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I have my Card #23 of our Living Deep Time Calendar Year 00001, “The Times of the Sunset,” with me for Easting. Thank you, fop!!

Comment by donnafleischer

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