FOP


Conveyance
05.28.2016, 3:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

blue_linecyanotype of .03 inch thick line, the average amount that waters of Captiva Island, FL are rising every ten days, from Conveyance, smudge studio 2016

We just returned from three weeks on Captiva Island, Florida as part of the Rising Waters II Confab hosted by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.  Despite the standard dictionary definition of confab (to talk together casually, and to fill in gaps in one’s memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts), our time on Captiva was not only filled with playful and casual conversation, it was also remarkably challenging and immersive.

Soon after we arrived, we learned that at such a (relatively) southern latitude, the speed at which we are riding the Earth’s eastward spin is 300 mph faster than when we’re in New York. To our eyes, sunrises and sunsets on Captiva proceeded at a palpably faster pace than we’re used to seeing off the Northeast coast.

After a few days, the sea seemed to be rising faster around us too. We did a simple math equation based on recent climate change models, to visualize scientists’ conclusions that the waters around Captiva are rising about .003 inches each day.

We drew a pencil line that is.03 inches thick to represent a ten-day rise.

The highest elevation on Captiva Island is approximately eleven feet. The average elevation on Rauschenberg Foundation property where we were staying is 3.1 feet. The property faces the risk of 285 tidally-induced flood days by 2045.*

We spent several days and evenings working inside and on the deck of the Fish House. We experienced the sensations of remoteness that it affords.  We watched pelicans glide a feather’s height above the water. We listened to the ceiling fan and watched waves. We paged through collections Ding Darling’s political cartoons here, where the renowned and revered artist, Pulitzer prize winner, and conservationist drew many of them. We were gratified by the generous and creative human spirit of Robert Rauschenberg, who acquired the Fish House and lovingly preserved it for artists to use as inspiration.

The reality of rising sea levels globally and locally necessitates migrations of many sorts, including migrations of ideas, emotions, sense of place, self and other. We sense that psychological and philosophical migrations of habitual ways of thinking and feeling are as vital to realizing the theme of the residency, “graceful migration,” as are infrastructural, scientific and preparatory/adaptive actions.

Graceful migration — how to live with the realities of massive change without being overtaken by paralyzing fear, depression, guilt.

Our three weeks on Captiva led us to invent a project we decided to call Conveyance.  Via an aperture in a shoebox, we created cyanotype images of 15 sites and structures on the Rauschenberg Foundation property.

The medial, processual nature of the cyanotype involved us in the material changing that IS these structures. We waited for the light. We noted the humidity, time of day. We collaborated with the sun to convey form and elements to paper via a shoebox aperture. We waited more. We immersed paper in cold water.

Reflections of structures came into view, incomplete images signaling from within a groundless sea of blue. The stuff that makes them and the sites that hold them will go on transforming into very deep futures.  The subtle creative spirits and histories that dwell within these buildings also are embarking on a great migration, propelled by planetary phase shifts.

We offer this series of fifteen cyanotypes as a means of conveyance, escort, accompaniment.

fish_housethe Fish House, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva Island, FL, smudge studio 

fish_house_cyanFish House, from Conveyance, smudge studio 2016

liz_boxprocess

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waldo_cottageWaldo Cottage, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva Island, FL, smudge studio

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OH_installproject installation at Rising Waters II Open Studio, Captiva Island, FL May 24, 002016


* “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment”, Coastal Risk Consulting, May 2016


** Sincere thanks to our hosts and collaborators both at the Confab and at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

 

 



Plastiglomerate: the first stone that is 100 percent human in origin
05.21.2016, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The combination of plastic and campfires has formed a wholly new sedimentary rock recently dubbed “plastiglomerate” by the geologist-artist collaborative field study team of Patricia L. Corcoran, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Western Ontario; Charles J. Moore, Algalita Marine Research Institute, Long Beach, California; Kelly Jazvac, Dept. of Visual Arts, University of Western Ontario.

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smudge studio 2016

The new stone type, identified and collected from Kamilo Beach by the team on the southern tip of the Island of Hawaii, is made up of intermingled melted plastic from beach campfires, beach sediment, basaltic lava fragments, and organic debris.

In their published report, “An Anthropogenic Marker Horizon in the Future Rock Record,” the team explained that when plastic melts in campfires, natural sediments attach to the plastic. This makes the plastiglomerate heavy, and keeps it in place despite movements of wind and water. This increases the chance that the new rocks will be buried and preserved in the geologic record. And that means there is great potential that plastiglomerates will be part of the geologic record of the earth and act as a “horizon marker” of human pollution, “signaling the occurrence of the informal Anthropocene epoch.”

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detail:  embedded shell.  smudge studio 2016

smudge/FOP decided to create a scientific illustration of this newly formed, discovered and named geologic material.  Kelly Jazvac loaned us one of the plastiglomerate specimens she gathered from Kamilo Beach. This beach has become known as Hawaii’s “plastic beach” because it borders the Pacific Ocean current called the North Pacific gyre, which is now infamous for being the site of an enormous floating island of plastic trash from around the world. “A 2014 study estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic trash enter the sea from land every year—the equivalent of five plastic bags filled with trash for every foot of coastline around the world.”

Plastic from the “pacific garbage patch” washes up on Kamilo Beach because of how the currents there push up onto this area of the island. There, the plastic is so prolific in the sand, it’s almost impossible to have a beach campfire without melting plastic and rock/debris together to form plastiglomerates. The research team found their specimens as they explored campfire pits.

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Kamilo Beach, Hawaii.  Image:  Greenhome.com

We were curious about what new realizations, understandings, and aesthetic experiences of new material realities of life in the Anthropocene we might offer audiences by using scientific illustration to document and interpret plastiglomerates. Given our habitual ways of narrating ecological crises and disasters, to understand the significance of plastiglomerates to human and nonhuman lives and habitats often means being horrified, appalled, angered, frightened.

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smudge studio 2016

We wanted to experiment in offering a scientific illustration of the specimen that calls up something other than “objective observation” of “just the facts” of this new material — AND that also avoids emotions and conventions of “disaster porn” images related to climate change.

Ellsworth_FinalProject_composite.jpg

smudge studio 2016

Might it be possible to create a scientific illustration that invites a viewer to “be with” this new, vibrant, consequential “thing” of the Anthropocene?  To pause for a moment and take in its reality without denial or distraction? To be moved by the illustration in a way that leads audiences to keep the force of this new human-made thing in mind as they go about acting, making choices, and living in the Anthropocene?



Graceful Migration
04.29.2016, 7:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

“In principle, coastal defenses could be built to protect the densest cities, but experts believe it will be impossible to do that along all 95,000 miles of the American coastline, meaning that immense areas will most likely have to be abandoned to the rising sea.”

ship2Houston Ship Channel, smudge studio 2016

These words easily could be mistaken for a passage from J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World. But they appeared in a major article in the New York Times on March 30th, which details the (surprisingly) rapid breakup of the West Antarctic ice sheet:

With ice melting in other regions, too, the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100, the researchers found. That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.

The long-term effect would likely be to drown the world’s coastlines, including many of its great cities. New York City is nearly 400 years old; in the worst-case scenario conjured by the research, its chances of surviving another 400 years in anything like its present form would appear to be remote. Miami, New Orleans, London, Venice, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia, are all just as vulnerable as New York, or more so.

Media coverage of planetary change, much like the realities themselves, seems to have intensified. It’s becoming harder and harder to recall a recent day when headlines, at least in the New York Times, don’t include details of unexpected climate change speed and outcomes.
For the past three and a half years, we’ve been attempting to trace “the Anthropocene’s arrival into widespread human + nonhuman cognizance.” Our initial idea was to track this mindset change for five years on the assumption that during that time, “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.” We spend a lot of time considering planetary change in our daily lives and work.  Still, we’re having a hard time keeping up, and we’re not the only ones.
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smudge studio, 2010
We recently had the honor of presenting our work at the Cultures of Energy 5 Symposium, hosted by The Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) at Rice University in Houston. The symposium’s schedule included a tour of the Houston Ship Channel, which serves the refineries that process 27 percent of the nation’s gasoline and 60 percent of its aviation fuel. During the tour we were surprised to learn about how  incredibly precarious this region and its infrastructures are to storm surge and rising seas.
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smudge studio, 2016
Our ability to meaningfully process the March 30 report and our recent experiences in Houston will be assisted by our residency in the Rising Waters Confab next month.  The Confab is hosted on Captiva Island, FL by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.  It will be made up of  20 makers and thinkers whose lives and work address planetary change.
Two sentences the letter describing the Confab stood out for us:  “It is inevitable that climate change will require a phased adaptation proportionate to humanity’s ability to reduce consumption.  The focus will be on the idea of graceful migration…”
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 smudge studio, 2016
In light of the recent Times article, these words resonate even more strongly for us.  We’ve been writing and thinking about graceful actions in response to emerging  (and relatively extreme) planetary circumstances for several years.  But recent studies bring realities of climate change-forced migrations very close to home. Though some humans might be willing and able to move as sea-levels rise, many others won’t due to economic, health, or deep, generations-long connections to place. And as a nation, we won’t be able to simply pick up and relocate immense and dense infrastructures we’ve built along coastlines around the world, such as nuclear power plants and their accumulating amounts of waste, which are currently reaching capacity.
Our work at the Rising Waters Confab will focus on the specifics of Captiva Island and Florida, one of the locations in North America most vulnerable to inundation by rising sea levels. But we’ll also be considering how our home, New York City, figures into these realities, as well as other coastlines around the world. This expanded view is instructive. Of course we act/feel differently when our city is one of the many facing the apparent inevitability of mass migrations and evacuations. But we’re also affected by deepening realization that the sooner we take this prospect seriously, the more time we’ll have (something that’s, increasingly, a luxury) to imagine and invent graceful ways to respond and interact with one another as inhabitants of a dramatically changed planet.
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smudge studio, 2010

 



The Time of the Last Drop
03.15.2016, 10:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
LastDrop
 the time of the last drop, FOP 2016

It has been a record breaking, warm winter on planet Earth, and New York has been no exception. After many recent warm days, it’s hard to believe that Sunday, March 20th, marks the official start of spring in the Northern hemisphere. The reports that continue to flood in make it clear that we’re now living in a time of unpredictable and volatile weather realities with direct links to climate change.

Given the increasingly strange weather, we’re finding it difficult to align our local experiences with the larger, seasonal cycles of the past. Historically, the equinox provided humans a meaningful alignment to seasonal weather on Earth. But after a string of frigid days in the Northeast, followed by several in the upper 70s, we feel as though we’re living in the Fifth Season of untimely, unseasonable Anthropocenian weather events.

In honor of the upcoming vernal equinox, which will arrive like always, thanks to the tilt of the Earth no matter what the weather, we just mailed our second postcard dispatch for the Living Deep Time Year 000001 project.  The project’s Kickstarter backers should be receiving it soon.

The most recent dispatch offers an embodied meditation on seasonality and ephemerality. In Japan, last drop of tea that falls from a tea pot is given great significance. It’s said to hold all the flavor of the tea, its fullest potential. The reality of this last drop and the potential it holds is fleeting and requires patience. To wait for it is to acknowledge and celebrate an acceptance of limits — the last, final drop that is also the fullest, most flavorful drop.

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back of postcard dispatch #2, from Living Deep Time Year 000001

The postcard dispatch includes a very special bag of gyokuro tea. It comes from a tea growing region in Kyoto prefecture known for its gyokuro. Gyokuro is a rich and full tea that requires shading from the sun for the final weeks of its growing season. The shade concentrates its flavor and nutrient content. The company that we buy this tea from, Maiko Tea, is part of a tea cooperative and has taken great care in cultivating gyokuro for many decades. As many know, tea cultivation in Japan is serious business, and is deeply attuned to seasonal change. We are very happy to share this tea with our supporters.

Of course, this tea is entangled with complex Anthropocene realities. Everyone receiving it has had it shipped to them across oceans and continents. Massive global flows take up this tea, this exquisite outcome of sun, rain, human cultivation, earth and season, and transform it into a product of packing, shipping, and economic concern. In our cups, the tea leaves mix with waters entangled with human design and impact upon planetary systems.

In this time of strange weather, we sense it is important to take a moment to pause.

The vernal equinox, historically a time of balance and alignment, is an appropriate time to turn toward and simply be with a few of  these realities. We’ll brew a cup of tea — in all of its complexities — and usher the last drop into its time, and ours.
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 front of postcard dispatch #2, from Living Deep Time Year 000001

 

 



Now, A Leap in Time
02.26.2016, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

4329118566_e81fe89ef5_osolar cyanotype, image courtesy Lawrence Hall of Science

Next week, a feral day is coming to a calendar near you.

Welcome to “intercalary day,” also known as a leap day.  It arrives this Monday, February 29th. We are feeling very lucky that the calendars are aligning, so to speak, as this special day happens to occur during our Living Deep Time Year 000001 project.

Given our ongoing research on all kinds of time, we’ve been giving extra attention to anything that helps frame and illustrate the creeping misalignment of standardized human time.  Our current 2000 year old calendar was instituted by Julius Caesar and refined by papal proclamation (by Pope Gregory XIII) in 1582 to include leap years.  This innovation of the Gregorian calendar reflects one human attempt to keep our lives running steadily and “on time.” American colonies didn’t adopt the calendar until 1752.

It actually takes approximately 365.242189 days  (or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds) for Earth complete one orbit around the Sun.  That’s a number that doesn’t divide nicely into the 24 hour intervals that some humans have assigned to what we call a day.  If we didn’t add a leap day every four years, our calendar year would “lose” 6 hours annually.  After 100 years, we’d be “off” by around 24 days. Ironically, even with the complex system of leap years, the Gregorian calendar requires future humans to drop a day in about 3,000 years.

What we find most inspiring about February 29th, and leap days in general, is that they are “inserted” into the otherwise standard Gregorian calendar in an effort to materially re-connect our daily lives to their literal, spatial and temporal connections to the sun — and all the useful meanings that our planet’s location in space affords for human life and culture (seasons, months, myths, rituals, metaphors, etc.).

leap

We invite you to take some leaps on Monday.  Instead of pondering the leaky nature of calculated time, re-sync with the driver of our evolutionary temporal rhythms — the sun. You’ll realize that February 29 isn’t really a “bonus day.” There’s really no more time than usual in existence this month (even though if you’re working on Monday, you’ll be getting an extra day of pay this year).  Consider astrophysicist Adam Frank’s point that “There are simply the Nows, nothing more, nothing less.” And take a moment to leap into the comments of zen master Dōgen (made 800 years earlier):

“Real existence is only this exact moment, all moments of existence-time are the whole of time, and all existent things and all existent phenomena are time. The whole of existence, the whole universe, exists in individual moments of time. Let us pause to reflect whether or not any of the whole of existence or any of the whole of the universe has leaked away from the present moment of time.” (from Chapter 11 of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, “Uji”).

You can read more on leap years here. 

klein_leapartist Yves Klein leaps into the void, Le Saut dans le vide (Leap into the Void);
Photomontage by Shunk Kender of a performance by Klein at Rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, October 1960



Beyond Human Standard Time
02.04.2016, 10:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

lockscreen_blank.jpgdigital copy of postcard dispatch #1, from Living Deep Time Year 000001

The first round of postcard dispatches for the Living Deep Time Year 000001 project are in the mail and should be reach their destinations soon, just in time for the start of the Lunar New Year on February 8th. This month’s postcard is the first of four that we will send out this year. And as promised, we are also sharing digital versions of these postcards to all, here on FOP.

The postcard dispatches are original works of mail art that share a practice that anyone can try out as possible ways to live, experience, and get to know new and wildly deep aspects of time. Each practice will be something that we have discovered during our year-long research process for the Living Deept Time Year 000001 Project.

As our last post explained, we’ve been thinking a lot about the multiplicities of time and have been attempting to pay attention to temporalities beyond those that modern clocks and Gregorian calendars track and calculate. This takes practice.

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back of postcard dispatch #1, from Living Deep Time Year 000001

Over the past month, we discovered that we have a tendency to “come back onto” linear, standardized time each time we look at the clock on our phones. So, for this first postcard dispatch wecreated an artwork for each of our backers (and a digital copy for all FOP readers. It can be used as a home screen on smart phones. The image on the postcard visually suggests the multiplies of “nonhuman” timescales, temporalities, and timescapes that are entangled with the one represented on our clocks. It’s a poetic reminder that the time we’re calling here “human standard time” isn’t the only kind of time.  For us, having this image appear each time we want to know the time has actually helped us practice new kinds of time. We hope it does for you as well.

postcard dispatch #1 as iPhone lock screen, from Living Deep Time Year 000001

The following two digital images are available as open source downloads. Feel free to share and distribute them widely. If you use one as your home screen image, let us know if and how it helps you tune into new and other tempos and realities of time.

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all images FOP 2016

 

 



Sitting with Time
01.21.2016, 11:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

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the times of all things and beings pass around and through us
9 minutes, 44 seconds, one continuous line, 1-5-002016, smudge

When we first arrived at our residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI),* we weren’t sure where or how to begin living out the first days of our year-long project, Living Deep Time Year 000001.

There was no switch that we could flip and suddenly make “deep time” accessible to us. So we began reading. Our list included Paul Kingsnorth’s essay “The Witness”, which appeared in Tricycle last spring. We had read the piece months ago, but now, on second reading, a particular section stood out. In the closing, Kingsnorth describes a personal question of what he could “do” in the face of so much environmental loss. A zen teacher offers him the following advice:

… sit with it. Sit with what is, and what you are, and watch it. If you are concerned about the forest, go to the forest, sit with the forest, and pay attention. And then you may know what to do.

We swapped out the word “forest” for “time.” Suddenly, this simple advice offered us seemingly obvious footing for how to begin our work this year. We copied out the following words and hung them at the entrance to our studio:

… sit with it. Sit with what is, and what you are, and watch it. If you are concerned about time, go to time, sit with time, and pay attention. And then you may know what to do.

Before we could make or understand anything about the project we were undertaking, we needed to sit with time itself and pay close attention to it.

In the past ten years we’ve thought a great deal about time, but always in relation to the challenges of designing for long spans of time, or the impacts human activities on planetary systems for deep geologic futures, or our attempts to imagine geologic histories. We often did this thinking while in motion, conducting research or driving through the American West.

Now, for this project, could we “just” sit with the on-flow of this moment? Hang out with the things and beings that were producing the human and non-human temporalities unfolding around and through us? Such an approach felt foreign, wide open, and fantastic.

Over the past five weeks, we’ve done a lot of sitting with spaces, silences, people and things as they produced their various temporal durations, speeds, scales, intensities, styles. We’re not sure that much of what has resulted constitutes “work.” But we are doing time in new ways. And days have felt meaningful and generative in new ways.

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Some outcomes:  A daily practice has emerged as the process of drawing one continuous line until a very long sheet of paper is filled. We time each line’s emergence as a way of “sitting” — and moving — with the minutes it takes to make the line. We’ve also “sat” with the concept and memory of “ten minutes” by writing the words “ten minutes” over and over until ten minutes expires on the clock. We’ve watched clouds in the New Mexico sky change shape and size radically from minute to minute, dissolve from freezing fog to crystalline blue.  And we’ve intentionally witnessed a sunrise or sunset nearly everyday.

treephotowinter tree, one continuous line, 4 min., 10 sec., 12-29-002016, smudge studio

We continue to feel like complete beginners in our efforts to sit with various events of ongoing change that produce what we call time, and to “live time differently.” We quickly realized that contemporary American culture has taught us little about sensing timescapes that are other than our own habitual,”Western,” human-centric temporalities which are typically directed towards productivity, efficiency, deadlines, and punctuality.

One of our initial attempts to think outside of the steady stream of standardized time that is our usual temporal habitat was to research uniform time keeping.  We realized just how arbitrary it  is. The Western Gregorian calendar has been in use only since 1582. That’s just over 400 years out of the planet’s 4.6 billion year history. And it’s far from the only calendric system still in use. The wikipedia page for Gregorian calendar lists approximately 30 other calendars that are running concurrently with the dominant system. These other calendars are all, of course, human-generated as well.  But their multiplicity reminds us that we humans have many, if not infinite, choices in how we might live and make sense of time. The Holocene calendar, for example, tells us that this year is 12,016 of the “Human Era.”  This calendar places the first year near the beginning of the Neolithic revolution and “makes for easier geological, archaeological, dendrochronological and historical dating, as well as that it bases its epoch on an event more universally relevant than the birth of Jesus.”

Early in our residency at SFAI, we decided to make a concerted effort not to live solely on “human time.” This meant, among other things, disrupting our habits of looking at clocks and cell phones the first thing in the morning. We started to feel that morning glances at the cell phone inadvertently pulled us back onto human-centric time, that particular experience of time that is filled with self-referential narratives, rituals, functions and purposes which quickly take hold of our attention and go on to fill out the entire day in all the “normal” ways.  But there’s more to time than this.

The day after we arrived in New Mexico, Roy Scranton’s latest opinion piece was published in the New York Times, titled:  “We’re Doomed. Now What?”  The short excerpt below made it onto our studio wall, and into our sitting with time process:

“…it’s at just this moment of crisis that our human drive to make meaning reappears as our only salvation … if we’re willing to reflect consciously on the ways we make life meaningful … and what we do every day, day to day, and how we do it … then it’s also true that we hold within ourselves the power to change our lives — wholly, utterly — by changing what our lives mean … We need to work together to transform a global order of meaning focused on accumulation into a new order of meaning that knows the value of limits, transience and restraint… Most important, we need to … understand that truth is found not in one perspective but in their multiplication, not in one point of view but in the aggregate, not in opposition but in the whole. We need to learn to see not just with Western eyes but with Islamic eyes and Inuit eyes, not just with human eyes but with golden-cheeked warbler eyes, coho salmon eyes, and polar bear eyes, and not even just with eyes at all but with the wild, barely articulate being of clouds and seas and rocks and trees and stars...” Roy Scranton, “We’re Doomed. Now What?” NY Times, December 21, 2015

Scranton’s words invite us to set out into our daily lives and boldly begin to question what meanings various kinds of time might offer to us. What practices and experiences might we invent to help us sense and hold connections to nonhumans and to the multiplicities of time that they produce both “for” us and without any regard to us? We began to sit with such questions as we sat with time.

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We quickly realized we would never be able to “sit with the time of the golden-cheeked warbler” if we didn’t regulate how much we allowed ourselves to be consumed by one single version of time — human time. So each day, we set aside 30 minutes to an hour and attempted to think in terms of at least two non-human scales — one “ephemeral” and one “geologic/cosmological.” We did that by trying to attune to something other than the human world. We gravitated to the things before us that we typically overlooked or took for granted as affordances that seemed to require no attention from us. Suddenly, we had strange sounding questions to ask them, such as:  “What is the time of this peanut I’m about to eat?” Turns out, peanuts have been part of the planetary system for over 7,500 years. Their leaves are highly attuned to the time of sunlight and close up at night (nyctinastic). We switched our attention and questions, then, to a less ephemeral, more geologic/cosmological temporal scale:  “This air I’m breathing…what is the time of the atmosphere?” Unlike the peanut, the Earth’s atmosphere is nearly as old as the planet. It’s material makeup is intimately linked to the peanut, via nitrogen. The atmosphere is composed of 78% nitrogen. Peanuts fix some of that nitrogen to the soil they grow in, “enriching” it for plants. It seemed magical to serendipitously learn that the evolutionary systems of peanuts and the atmosphere are deeply connected by the slow, evolutionary force of time on this planet. But all beings and things share in that “magic.” Right now, the time of the Earth’s atmosphere is speeding up.  The speed of the changes it’s undergoing seem likely to outstrip the abilities of more ephemeral things (like many plants) to co-evolve with it.

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After several weeks of these practices, now, when we look at the clocks on our phones, a “feral” thought arises: “This digital clock is keeping ‘human standard time’ – but I’m not actually living only on that anymore!” Each glance at the clock is becoming more and more the occasion for making a choice:  Will I re-enlist the participation of my brain and body in the production and living of contemporary habits of time (human standard time, Anthropocenian time)?

Living according to how modern technologies are producing contemporary human standard time can be extremely useful and meaningful. It allows us to connect and align with people, places and things that we care about deeply. But there are innumerable timescapes of things and beings other than ourselves that have the potential to be extremely meaningful to human lives.  Some are undergoing disruptions and disturbances —fibrillations — because of intense temporal pressures from human timescapes.

And so, the practices continue.

We’ve begun to check email less often.  We’re seeking less informational “instant gratification” from our digital devices and the internets. We’re choosing to take more time with the information that does make it through. Instead of speed-reading our emails and immediately, distractedly moving on, we recently tried out a different approach. We took 20 minutes and spent those minutes looking at just one photo from a large group that our friends had sent us from a trip to Newfoundland last summer. During their trip, they had documented icebergs that had broken off of Greenland and floated past the Canadian coast as they melted. We spent 20 minutes with the image below. We looked at this singular iceberg’s contours, its colors. We imagined the time that its changing was producing: a temporality that was now accelerating, disappearing. We thought about how our friends had been there in person to see this event of change-as-time, time-as-change.

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iceberg off Newfoundland, image courtesy Valerie Triggs and Michele Sorensen

Other things and beings are producing other temporalities that are now unfolding around us, concurrently with “ours,” running alongside and through us and everything else. Many of our “modern” cultural activities don’t encourage us to meaningfully note or pay attention to how our individual life’s time is enmeshed in the wildly disparate times of others’. Our project is based on the hunch that the forces and effects of feral temporalities will command human attention more and more directly in the near future. Personally-felt pressures of others’ temporalities might encourage humans to wake up to the fact that the Anthropocene is not only about human impact on the planet. It is also about a great new humbling of humanity by non-standardized temporalities and changes which are now being produced by both domesticated and untamed planetary systems.

It takes time and effort to pay deep attention to what we often mistakenly think of as the rest of the world. When we do, at first, much of the world may appear to be mute. But the planet’s uncountable temporalities deliver into each present moment a great deal of information (potential knowledge) that humans might find useful, if not crucial, if we attend to it. Much of how we humans do time is a choice and habit, not a necessity. We are all beginners at living time in, and as, the Anthropocene.

 

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*Sincere thanks to the incredibly supportive staff and residents at the Santa Fe Art Institute.  The work and quality of time that we lived during our residency has set the foundation for this year-long project.  Being in-residence made it possible for us to, literally, live time differently in incredibly productive and generative ways.  We are grateful.

 




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