FOP


Earth at Perihelion, Sharing Tea with the Sun (Tea in the Dark #3)

brewing tea in sunlight that traveled approx. 91,398,199 miles, on the occasion of the solar perihelion, January 5, 002020

Recently, in a glint of sunlight hitting a sidewalk or passing through a window, perhaps you felt it. Cutting through the winter sky, brilliant light looming closer. On some deep instinctual level, maybe you sensed yourself swinging through space, closer to the sun by just over three million miles.

This past Sunday, all 7.5+ billion human inhabitants of Earth orbited closer to the Sun than they will for another twelve months. Each year in early January, Earth reaches its  perihelion (closest distance to the sun) along its elliptical orbit. At 2:47am on January 5th (in New York) Earth was approximately 91,398,199 miles away from the sun. That is 3,109,435 miles closer than it will be at aphelion, its furthest point, on July 4, 2020 at 7:34 am (EDT).

Before beginning the Tea in the Dark project, the perihelion had not really registered in our awareness. It sounded like a solar oddity. Fast on the heels of winter solstice — the shortest day and longest night for us in the Northern hemisphere — we are actually closest to the sun. Perihelion could be considered the bright, fast yang sibling to winter’s solstice’s slow and long yin. Given our location in orbit around the sun and the tilt of our planet, the sun is currently sending the Earth’s southern hemisphere more energy than any other time of year. (To read about how oceans and land masses transmute that increased energy, sometimes counterintuitively, into cold weather in the global north and hot weather in the global south, check out the following link).

At the scale the solar system, the three million miles difference between Earth’s perihelion and aphelion doesn’t result in a perceptible difference to our daily lives. Yet, at a human-scale, three million miles is immense. What we humans take as being proximate, urgent, salient to the shaping of life on Earth, tends to be a matter of perspective. Yet imperceptible differences are no less materially real. Given our interest in pausing with and attempting to embody awareness of vastly different scales of material reality, this year’s perihelion became an important occasion to stage a project for Tea in the Dark.

We were extremely fortunate to have the artist Ayano Matsumae as our guest for Tea in the Dark at Earth’s perihelion. Ayano makes photographic images through a process that is highly responsive to changing planetary forces and materials and invites the sun to be her collaborator. Working primarily with a pinhole or 4×5 camera, she exposes photographic film to light, develops the negatives by by hand, and crafts albumen prints of the negatives using sunlight. The process requires deep awareness of changing environmental and sunlight conditions. The resulting prints are some of the most environmentally-attuned works we have encountered.

Ayano Matsumae, Albumen print on Gampi paper, San Lorenzo, NM, 2018

Ayano Matsumae, Albumen print on Gampi paper, Rio Grande T or C, NM, 2019

Given the recent string of overcast days, it was an immense gift to share a sunny morning and celebrate a cosmological force so central to our existence as humans and artists — the sun.

For the perihelion, we brewed tea directly in the sun with no additional means of heat. Sunlight at this time of year reaches the interior of our apartment at 10:30am. Ayano was kind enough to arrive before 10 am. For 20 minutes, as the tea brewed, the sun generated a cyanotype (solar print) of the tea utensils. We then enjoyed sun tea in Tilt of the Earth teacups. Cheers were voiced as the last ray of sunlight exited the room.

cyano_type_smallsolar imprint of tea utensils used for Tea in the Dark, Tea #3, smudge studio

Additional details for Earth at Perihelion (Tea in the Dark #3), can be found on the digital chakaiki for Tea in the Dark, listed under Tea #3.


1 Comment so far
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Very fun. While reading I could visualize being there!

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Comment by Urbana Public Bank




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