Cosmos Night: Flood of Light
08.08.2019, 10:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

FOP/smudge 002019

The night sky isn’t dark at all. Literally, within what we’ve been calling darkness, there is a radiance of light.

There is a way to empirically experience the flood of photons flowing through the seemingly dark sky: view the Moon at night. As you allow the photons bouncing off of the moon to enter your eyes, visualize the “dark” space between the earth and the moon, the moon and the sun, indeed — the entire 360 degree space around the sun — as what it actually is: brimming with blindingly bright photons that are missing the moon as they wave past and away from it at the speed of light.

Many people might be familiar with the sutra made famous by Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. It uses the analogy of a finger pointing to the moon to remind us about mistaking the pointing finger for the moon. It’s a lesson in realizing that the word we use to describe an object or experience is not the object or experience it points to.  

Grammars of western languages compel us to think in terms of subjects and objects, insides and outsides, me and that-other-over-there. But the space-time continuum of the night sky is a non-duality. Light is moving within the dark, and dark is moving within the light.

Light. Darkness. Not one. Not two.

Our current project, Cosmos Night: Flood of Light, is a micro-production for engaging these ideas. We will stage its first iteration at Arts Letters & Numbers early next month for a group of resident artists, culture workers and community members. We offer it, and its various future iterations, as radical acts of hospitality for living daily life within the Anthropocene.

The work is part empirical observation, part moon-viewing gathering, part act of self-cultivation and part participant co-production. It will include experiencing the waxing September moon, a 22-page risograph zine created for the occasion, and a moon-viewing tea service. Tea will be offered in the spirit of the Taoist sages, court poets, tea monks, and all others who have taken time to pause and find aesthetic means for aligning their lives, bodies, and minds with the vast forces of the cosmos.

We have created this micro-production for the joy and meaning that results when humans cultivate relationality with vast, geo/cosmo forces. We see it as being a practice for working with our minds and the languages we use as we live through the unprecedented change of the Anthropocene. Our aim is to provide an aesthetic medium for accessing what is magnificently beyond us by re-weaving brains, bodies and minds back into the cosmos.

Each time we nest seemingly commonplace activities of daily life–such as moon viewing and tea drinking–within cosmological forces and scales, we perform a vital aesthetic-ecological act.

from the program for ALN micro-production, Cosmos Night: Flood of Light, risograph zine

Our research and preparation for the project found quite a few examples of human awareness of the material reality that dark exists within light, light exists within dark. Our risograph zine produced for Cosmos Night: Flood of Light is our creative response to these examples. One is the Sandokai, a Chinese poem from the 700s (which we’ve written about before) reads in part: 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.”). And, in David Hinton’s translation of a collection of Zen koans (No-Gate Gateway), Case #39, entitled “CLOUD GATE ALL WRONG” begins, “A monk asked Cloud-Gate Mountain, Radiant brilliance silently illuminates this Cosmos vast as Ganges sands…”

We are inspired by the history of humans sitting still, observing, sensing, thinking, and creating in relation to the vast material realities that shape our lives intimately—while using nothing more or less than their brains/bodies/minds. 

Cosmos Night: Flood of Light aims to be an occasion where, together with participants, we will empirically experience the 360 degrees of wild, blinding light stretching before us for billions of light-years, and unhinge a few of the names we’ve used to point at (and miss) the wildly unpredictable forces that are neither nameable objects nor binary opposites: night, day, light, dark, sun, moon. We hope to do this in an undistracted state, using the “technologies” of our bodies, the out of doors, the night sky, and aesthetic experience. We hope to gain (re-discover?) an embodied experience of reweaving our selves into the cosmos. 

Additional documentation will be posted in October 002019.


Cosmos Night: Flood of Light is part of a larger, ongoing project Koans for the Anthropocene, through which we aim to offer local, ephemeral, unrepeatable acts of aesthetic hospitality. Through Koans, we invite audiences to pay close attention to the ever-shifting and impermanent conditions of life on Earth by enframing seemingly commonplace activities of everyday life (the drinking of tea, the awareness of sunlight) within perspectives on time, landscape, and interactivity that are geologic in scale. By offering embodied experiences of the Anthropocene nested within the cosmological, we aim to deepen collective abilities to re-scale human expectations of stability and predictability, without sinking into distraction or despair, and to creatively inhabit Earth’s ever-changing conditions.

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