Meeting the Path of Totality: 2017 Solar Eclipse
08.07.2017, 8:43 pm
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from empty practice for meeting the path of totality, smudge studio 002017

The question of how to live the challenges and realities of the Anthropocene intensifies. It has led many in the humanities to call for creative engagement with ancient and medial human practices and cosmologies and with nonhuman beings.

David Hinton‘s * work has introduced us to Chinese sages who activated aesthetic experience as a vehicle for arriving at no separation between one’s sense of self and the cosmos.

We take up new, translational projects many hundreds of years after the ancients and from across deep cultural difference. Propelled by the growing awareness of the Anthropocene, working from here and now, we set out to devise and enact contemporary translational practices that reach across temporalities, languages, aesthetic practices, geologies and distant ways of being.

cover, smudge book of changes, smudge studio 002017

We produced a six-page chapbook that delineates these new directions for our work. All are welcome to download a PDF of smudge book of changes.  Printed versions of the chapbook will be available in late fall, 002017.

We will put the smudge book of changes into practice by meeting and creatively responding to the total solar eclipse of August 21st, 002017 — not a minor experience! (see Annie Dillard’s personal account in Total Eclipse).

For the past year, we’ve been preparing to do work at the site of the greatest duration of totality in North America.  On August 21, we will be in the path of the shadow as it enters southern Illinois at 1:17pm CDT and moves out of the state at 1:25pm.

During these charged moments, we will be hosted by the Touch of Nature Environmental Center, in Carbondale, Illinois where totality will last for 2 minutes and 37 seconds (national maps of the eclipse are available here).

The practice we created for meeting the path of totality is informed by smudge’s new directions.  We introduce empty practice for meeting the path of totality in a downloadable chapbook.  Printed versions will also be available later this fall.

from empty practice for meeting the path of totality, smudge studio 002017

On August 21, we will enact empty practice in an aesthetic gesture of meeting the path of totality.  We expect to make subsequent work that draws from our experiences that day. We’re excited about discovering what performing empty practice invites.


* Thank you to David Hinton for his translational work and insights, and the Hemera Foundation Tending Space Fellowship for Artists for support to attend Hinton’s workshop, Daoist Roots: Entering the Wilderness of Early Chinese Zen, at Zen Mountain Monastery, July 002017.

Alchemy of Awareness
05.13.2017, 4:51 pm
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“I cannot cause the light, the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.”  – Annie Dillard

Everything you see is bathed in eight-minute-old light. And for the next eight minutes, we invite you to re-establish an awareness of your direct connection to the sun, which has fueled planetary systems on Earth for the past 4.6 billion years.

Eight minutes ago, photons of light that took thousands of years to migrate from the sun’s core left the surface and traveled towards Earth. Their ongoing arrivals here and now allow you to read this text, see this space, plants to grow, life on Earth to exist.

Hold your hand in front of your eyes, and you deflect and transform particles of the sun that have just streaked 93,000,000 miles at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, to arrive here, eight minutes later.

At any given moment, we can make ourselves aware of this reality — which is the very basis for each of our lives and all life on this planet.  But contemporary life affords little context for us to pause and deliberately sense this most consequential event envelop us.

We have attuned today’s micro-production to the ongoing arrivals of photons from the sun.

The Last Eight Minutes: Everything We take to be a Constant is Changing, invites you to use your awareness to activate an alchemy of several singular and unique elements: Namely, the eight minute interval of time for a single photon’s journey from the sun, the simultaneous eight minute long brewing of water, tea leaves and time that we will serve you, and the sun’s ongoing act of releasing new and unique photons each micro-second.

Today at noon*, the photons that we experience as sunlight will have taken just over 8 minutes and 24 seconds to travel

… from the sun’s surface,

… through the windows of this gallery,

… into, and as, our life’s time,

… to illuminate all that we see.

Today’s event is co-produced by all who are present, along with the material conditions of this particular time and space. This series draws from a decade of work focused on deep time, geologic change, and the wildly uncertain futures that are now in the making on a planetary scale.

Through this project we experiment with diverse forms—architectural, gestural, theatrical, conceptual to create a focused context that serves as studio + teahouse + place of contemplation and refuge.  We translate aspects of Japanese tea traditions to create an ephemeral shelter of exposure.

The tea we will cold brew today is produced by a small cooperative in Kyotanabe, Kyoto prefecture, Japan known for its award-winning gyokuro. Several weeks before harvest, growers create this unique type of tea by shading tea leaves from the sun to intensify flavor and nutrients.

We will also serve you two small sweets called higashi.   The higashi were custom-made by wagashi asobi in Tokyo for today’s event.

Shortly, we will ring a bell to mark the start and the finish of an eight minute, 24 second interval of time. This will help you to synchronize your imagination and perceptions with a single photon’s departure from the sun, and its 93,466,655 million mile long journey to your eyes.

While that photon makes its journey, we will be giving the tea leaves an eight minutes and 24 second long brewing.  We will ring the bell a second time to mark the photon’s arrival.

We will then serve you a sweet followed by a cup of tea.

Please join us in the work.

* excerpts from The Last Eight Minutes: Everything We take to be a Constant is Changing, staged as part of con•tin•u•ums (time beyond lifetimes)April 23rd, 002017.


all images this post: Tomson Tee

*further documentation and video can be found on on the smudge studio project page.

04.09.2017, 7:21 pm
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Eight minutes ago, photons of sunlight that took thousands of years to migrate from the sun’s core left its surface and traveled towards Earth. As a result, everything we see is bathed in eight-minute-old light. The Last Eight Minutes: Everything We Take to be a Constant is Changing, a project by smudge studio, invites visitors to re-establish an awareness of our direct connection to the sun, which has fueled planetary systems on Earth for the past 4.6 billion years. Photons (the smallest amount of light perceptible to our eyes) arrive every micro-second on Earth. Each particle/wave is new and different from the one that arrived micro-seconds before. The sunlight we experience as “given” or “stable” is constantly changing.  Many Earth systems are currently undergoing massive reconfiguration within the Anthropocene.  Far from “stable givens,” they are composed of highly complex and changing material realities.

The Last Eight Minutes invites participants and viewers to pause with and aesthetically experience the continuous arrival of photons from the sun, which take approximately eight minutes to travel to Earth. It also invites viewers to imagine and consider a moment in the future that will eventually occur — the instant when the Sun emits the last photon to deliver light to Earth.

The Last Eight Minutes will be staged as an ephemeral micro-production at the former Pfizer factor on April 23, 002017, as part of the group exhibition con•tin•u•ums (time beyond lifetimes) curated by Patrick Jaojoco. This is the third in an ongoing series of micro-productions that smudge studio inaugurated in early 002017 entitled CONVEYANCE: what’s here. The micro-productions are part of a multi-year shape shifting series of assemblages that meet the changing conditions of wherever they are staged.  The project results from a decade of work made in response to planetary changes unfolding at geologic scales and uncertain, wildly open futures in the making.

In this project, smudge studio experiments with diverse forms—architectural, gestural, theatrical, conceptual—to create participatory installations that function as studio + teahouse + place of contemplation and refuge.

The April 23rd event is offered as a focused context for experiencing singular moments of change across eight minutes.  It draws upon and translates aspects of the Japanese tea ceremony, including the brewing and drinking of green tea and the offering of hospitality to strangers and guests.

Sweets by wagashi asobi, Tokyo, were designed and made especially for The Last 8 Minutes.

By way of this micro-production, smudge studio offers the question: “What is the I that sees through eight-minute old light?”

Limited space available for the April 23rd event, seatings at 11am and 12pm. Please RSVP to

What’s here: Unrepeatable Ephemeral Acts
01.19.2017, 9:28 am
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planCONVEYANCE \what’s here/ staged on January 11, 002017 at SFAI

Earlier this month, we made our first-attempt to stage small, ephemeral, unrepeatable acts with the intention of acknowledging and living the Anthropocene. This first gesture drew from a decade of smudge studio’s experiences in addressing planetary-scale geologic change and the uncertain, wildly open futures that are now in the making.

We’ve come to sense that small, ephemeral, unrepeatable acts attuned to specific situations, moments in time, and assemblages of people could be the most vital acts for us to perform, as artists, in response to currently unfolding material, social and political realities.


CONVEYANCE \what’s here/ took place as an hour-long micro-production in the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) Gallery.  We had been in residence for three weeks, and the event arose from the conditions that shaped our time in New Mexico and from the people we met while there. Immediately after the event, we dismantled the string and paper structure that we designed to house the work and its participants. We consider this “production” of What’s Here: Unrepeatable Ephemeral Acts a first iteration of what we hope to be many subsequent and diverse reiterations.


What’s Here will briefly, and repeatedly, take form at sites and moments when we feel the necessity to create and pause within an ephemeral assemblage of place, people, events, materials.  Each staging will offer, simultaneously, both refuge from and exposure to emerging (and often quite alarming) material conditions of contemporary life.

The designed, built, and/or enacted “spaces” will function as part studio, part teahouse and part zendo, and will be contingent on contexts and circumstances. At times, the primary gesture will be architectural.  Sometimes, it will be embodied actions and movements. And at other times, it might be primarily conceptual in nature.

Each iteration of What’s Here will be intentionally composed — a shifting assemblage of those who attend, what they bring with them, and the changing conditions that compose the hour(s) during which the micro-production unfolds. Each staging will attend to the highly singular and particular, one-time meeting of human and non-human forces composing the site, its moment and its context.

At SFAI, we convened What’s Here as a floating teahouse of sorts. Eight, thirty-foot strings of jute spanned the gallery, forming a cube-like space and creating a porous structure that offered metaphorical sight-lines into deep histories and futures in the making. Given the thin, barely visible string, humility and attention were required of the guests (SFAI staff and artists-in-residence under the current residency theme of Water Rights) as they stooped and carefully stepped over strings to enter the space. Tea made of the complex tap water of drought-ridden Santa Fe (described in the artist statement below) was prepared and drunk.sfai_micro







sketchplanning sketch for CONVEYANCE \what’s here/

*all images FOP 2017 + sincere thanks to the Santa Fe Art Institute staff for hosting us and to our fellow residents for their participation.

Time Keepers
12.29.2016, 9:06 am
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We modern humans are always looking for a little more time, and 002017 starts off with a slight delay for us to enjoy.

Inhabitants of Earth can luxuriate in an extra moment this New Year’s Eve thanks to Earth’s variable movements. A leap second is being added to all clocks on December 31st at 23:59:60 UTC. This happens at 6:59:60pm in New York City. This little second will be helping keep us in sync with the sun, for all time to come.

What we like most about this insertion of “time” is how directly it illustrates the human-constructed nature of clock-time (which we’ve been calling “Human Standardized Time”) itself.  It’s a nice reminder that clock time is something humans constructed and made up for our own time-keeping purposes.

We “need” to add a leap second because the highly mechanized, precise time keeping methods we’ve created for the sake of global communications don’t sense Earth’s varying speeds. Which means if Earth’s current rate of change rotation stayed the same and we didn’t add a second to our clocks every few years, a few millennia from now (5000 years, to be exact), our clocks would be out of sync with the sun by an hour. We need this little second to maintain a meaningful connection to the vastness of the astronomical environment we evolved in and live by (sun “rising” and “setting” etc.) even if we often forget these material realities and the fact that they aren’t actually about us at all.

From a human perspective situated on Earth, time “is” movement through space around the sun, galaxy, and in its own rotation. These movements change speed. Earth “days” (rotations) are actually slowing down due to the force of ocean tides.  The Earth’s rotation speed also can change due to the distribution of mass in the Earth’s molten outer core, the movement of large masses of ice near the poles, and major earthquakes. Variation is common in Earth’s movements and timings.

If you happen to be one of the brave few who are practicing living time differently this year (everyone is welcome to join in on the fun, anytime) through our Living Deep Time Calendar Year 00001 project, this could be an appropriate week to practice “the times of the Leap Second.” You might want to spend a few days sensing how both the idea, and the human-constructed reality of a single second of clock time ramifies through the first few days of your new year  — and how this second helps Human Standardized Time to maintain its human-Earth connection throughout our next circuit around the sun.



Wonder and meaning that won’t go extinct — even in the Anthropocene
11.25.2016, 4:57 am
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A new year is on the horizon.  smudge studio’s current project, Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001, is an interactive calendar that creates contexts for you to live time creatively and practice time differently in 002017.

Read more about the project and order calendar sets through the smudge website.  Orders placed by December 5, 002016 will ship by December 15th.

Maybe like us, you think it’s time to change the way we humans are living time on this planet.

Maybe like us, you think art can be a mysteriously powerful vehicle for doing just that.

When you practice Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001, you connect to the many, and often strange, time beings beyond yourself.

You put into effect a channel for creating wonder and meaning in your life that won’t go extinct — not even in the Anthropocene.

Live Time Differently this Year
10.31.2016, 10:10 am
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11_kruse Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001

There is one week left to activate your chance to live your own Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001, and gift the experience to friends.  Calendar rewards are available until November 8th via our publications campaign.

38_1from Living Deep time Calendar Year 000001

Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001  includes a set of 46, 4.5” x 5.25” elliptical cards.  The cards are composed of original artwork and photography resulting from our year of performative research.

This calendar doesn’t simply track weeks and months – it puts you in relation to time-scapes that are much larger and much smaller than the ones depicted on usual desk calendars. Activated throughout a year, it offers an intimate experience for sensing how we, and all other beings and things, are made up of the times of other things and beings.

It invites users to sense material connections to the deep geologic past and deep geologic futures.

Its invitation to creative engagement is designed to offer a means for discovering ongoing wonder and appreciation for time’s forces, challenges, and surprises in this new epoch called the Anthropocene.