East is a Circle
03.11.2018, 3:11 pm
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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.

From the Hinge of 002018
12.01.2017, 8:59 am
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at the hinge of things, 2018, 14th annual smudge/FOP holiday card

A year ago, we started living the outcomes of our previous year’s project, Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001.  Some of you might have been putting your calendars to use throughout the past year.  If so, we hope that, as a result, your sensations of time have become more flexible, open, multiple, perhaps even released a bit from the confines of Human Standardized Time.

Over the next few days, as we continue to soar through the cosmos on our spaceship Earth, we will return to a spot (only in relation to the sun) that is relatively close to where we were 365 days ago.  At this darker time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere), we tend to think a lot about our relationship to the sun.  At winter solstice, we begin our  journey towards spring, more light — and new beginnings.

image: courtesy Durl Kruse

One of our highlights of 002017 was having the incredibly good fortune of standing in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse.  Months later, we continue to think about this experience.  We recall the elusive shadow bands we glimpsed racing across the grass at our feet, seconds before the bright world around us tipped into deep twilight. We recall the diffused filtering of the extreme Southern Illinois heat, humidity and light that occurred over 20 minutes leading up to totality. How strange and silvery our skin looked in those minutes.  Instinctual awe kicked in as we got our first direct and bizarre glimpse of the force that fuels all life on Earth.

An empty round vacuum of blackness hung in a dark afternoon sky, resembling nothing familiar.  The distance between the earth and the sun in those moments felt gapingly vast.

enigma_small images: courtesy Durl Kruse

That day, our practiced attempts to document and responsively image the event didn’t turn out as planned.  Yet, some of the unexpected outcomes ended up feeling like our best work of 002017. In celebration of our imminent turn into 002018 and the generative hinge upon which we revolve, we offer one outcome, a video short entitled hinge (不思議), shot on color negative Super 8 film.

The temporality of the film (several hours, time-lapsed into 53 seconds) conveys a small, dark marble (our Sun?!) vibrating and shimmering in a unbounded sky/world/cosmos, unto itself.

When this tiny dot shuttled into motion, flaring a black spill of light, simultaneous sensations of wonder and foreboding arose in us — sensations not unlike those that we often feel in response to living within the material conditions of contemporary life in the Anthropocene.

When reversed into color, the footage displays a multitude of wavelengths running concurrently. A spectral array of radiance reveals itself to human perception. The shift leaves us humbled and in awe.

Happy new year to all.



releasing change: empty practice chapbook
11.17.2017, 8:07 am
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all images this post from, smudge book of changes, 002017

We are happy the announce the release of a special smudge/FOP project that has been in the works since early July.  We’re putting finishing touches on a limited edition chapbook, the smudge book of changes.  This 12-page, photo-based, hand-sewn (by us) book is currently in production.

Unlike our previously produced printed works (field guides, books, postcards, decks of cards, calendars etc.), this small book presents image-sensations in ways that are poetically provocative, perhaps even mysterious.

Nested within the smudge book of changes, you will find the final version of our work, empty practice for meeting the path of totality, created in early July in response to the 2017 North American total solar eclipse.  This 8-page “practice” is a visual/poetic meditation on how our work as artists might meet vast planetary events, such as a total solar eclipse, while simultaneously attending to our species’ intensifying questions about how we might co-exist with planetary changes wrought by the Anthropocene.

The limited run of 55 chapbooks is available on our website for preorder and will ship by the first week of December.  All proceeds directly support the production of the work.

Thank you for your support of smudge/FOP, and we look forward to hearing how empty practice might resonate in your life.

Inhabiting Porosity
11.06.2017, 2:48 pm
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“The perfected one said: “The [part of] heaven [where there is] nothing is called space. The [part of] a mountain [where there is] nothing is called a grotto. The [part of] a human [body where there is] nothing is called a [grotto] chamber. The empty spaces in the mountains and organs of the body are called grotto courts. The empty spaces in human heads are called grotto chambers. This is how the perfected take up residence in the heavens, the mountains and human beings.”  — Zhou Yishan, born 80 B.C.E. (aka, Perfected Purple Yang, at the culmination of his quest for transcendence). – from James Miller’s 2017 book, China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future

* unless otherwise noted, all images this post, Super 8 stills from sleeve (無為), FOP/smudge 002017

In mid-September we had the rare opportunity to spend two nights in a house that no one had yet inhabited. The recently completed sleeve house, built by our friend, colleague, and architect, Adam Dayem, is sited on a hillside in the Hudson Valley with views of the surrounding forest, Taconic and Catskill mountains.

The primary materials of this house are raw and elemental: shousugiban (wood), glass and concrete. These same materials are used inside and outside, creating a deep blend between the interior and exterior, which often become indistinguishable. The massive glass windows reflect and project images of landscape and moving shafts of light onto interior walls and, at times, onto facing windows. These reflections can create an infinite mirroring of landscape projections inside the house, further blurring the division of inside and out.

interior glass reflection on left,  view outside window on right

We’ve been struck by the lingering impressions that we gained from this rare chance to inhabit a domestic structure before it’s been domesticated — to dwell there before a particular human experience of living there has “settled in.” There were no clothes in the closets, no artworks on the walls, no family photos, no dishes. There were no personal or family stories residing in the house with us.

Only after spending several hours in the house did we realize how few, if any, architectural spaces (let alone domestic living spaces) we’ve been able to inhabit while they were this “empty.”

Most dwelling spaces mirror human culture back to their inhabitants at nearly at every turn. Even spare architectural spaces such as many contemporary art museums, traditional Japanese houses, meditation centers, or remote dune shacks, hold charged imagery and materialities that pull a human brain, mind, body into culture.

Until residing in the sleeve house, we had never encountered a house that allowed, if not commanded, a certain kind of disappearance by its inhabitants. In the absence of clutter, traces of language (books), habitual ways of seeing (photos), and tools that presume a particular mode of daily living (domestic objects), a human brain/body is prompted to  sense and align with other forces at play in any given moment — such as the movement of the sun.  We slowly realized how deeply, maybe instinctually, we each crave contact with such forces, with emptiness, and with what becomes possible when distractions from within and outside of our own selves disappear.

Time and experiences of day and night unfolded in surprising ways for us during these 48 hours.  What wasn’t there allowed the house’s glass, wood, concrete, light, shadow, and reflection to speak volumes through its expansive soundscape.

We found it hard to stop ourselves from simply looking out the windows and watching  trees wave and light change. We had come with other plans, but the landscape and active building materials were too captivating and engrossing.  We had been given a front row seat with a view onto planetary change and we took it up, alongside local deer, crickets and coyotes.

While the sleeve house is a powerful, even forceful work of conceptual architecture, what it made sense-able to us was highly nuanced and delicate: the fluid relationships among ground, sky, body, and shelter.  For us, this resulted in feeling as if we had no choice but to let ourselves be made aware, 24 hours a day, of our very literal movement around the sun.

Both sun and moon cast sprawling shadows and light on interior surfaces.  The shadows moved through day and night. The absence of curtains or shades on windows made us acutely aware of moments of sunrise, moonrise, sunset, and moonset. From the second floor, the sense of being lifted by the site’s hill was heightened, and we literally felt the sleeve house become toboggan-like in its suspension above the forested landscape.

Despite our fixation on 360 degrees of surrounding views, we managed to take photos and reset the time-lapse on a Super 8 camera several times.  In the moment, we weren’t sure whether what we were making would end up being worth keeping.  But, when the processed film was returned to us, we recognized in the images the powerful and somewhat disconcerting feelings of emptiness that we experienced while inside sleeve house.  Those feelings, and the house, looked back at us through the photographs and film.

Through time-lapse film, we witnessed the ongoing generative power of planetary forces. Clouds and light continuously appeared, shifted, disappeared, appeared again. All is in shape-shifting motion. This is a world where where shadow, reflection and materiality exert the same weight, leave equal impressions.

Earlier this month, we learned of scholar James Miller’s new book (China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future) on Daoist practice and its potential relevance to the age of the Anthropocene.  In it, we found words and ideas that speak to the power of our time at the sleeve house. For over ten years, we have made work that engages forces of change at planetary scales and across immense spans of time.  We have been interested in how to bring these forces and scales into meaningful relation to human life, aesthetic experience, and cognition. The sleeve house was a profound and stark provocation to our work because of the ways it activated emptiness as the medium for our experiences of deep connection with its structure, site, and interactions with time.  This emptiness was the ground for experiences of deep connection.

sleeve house, composite of in-camera double exposures, medium format film, FOP/smudge 002017

Miller writes of Daoist practice in a ecocritical context, and his words about emptiness give us perspective on our experiences of sleeve house:

“The uniting factor of this cosmology is the term wu 無, which is usually translated as “nonbeing” or “emptiness.” The quotation relates three kinds of wu: the emptiness of heaven, or the skies; the emptiness of the mountain; and the emptiness of the body. An ecocritical reading of this text should note two things. The first is that these three dimensions of existence — the sky, the mountains, and the body— can be read fundamentally as locations. … therefore the most significant cosmological details is that these three dimensions of the cosmos — the body, the mountain, and the sky — are to be understood fundamentally as locations in which things take place, most notably the encounter with gods or perfected beings, who “take up residence” in the sky, the mountains, and the body. In order for them to do so, they require an “empty space” in which to be located. The key aspect of this Daoist cosmology, therefore, is that it is the interior emptiness of things that constitutes their ultimate significance. … The kind of emptiness that is significant in this text, therefore, is a locative emptiness: The Daoist relates the body, the mountain, and the sky together because of their foundational spatiality. The body is significant because it contains spaces in which the gods can take up residence and be encountered. The mountains are significant because they contain the caves where gods can take up residence and be encountered. The same is true for the sky, which is also constituted largely by empty space.

The second element of an ecocritical reading of this text would be that this very locative emptiness is what brings together these three dimensions of the cosmos in profound interrelationship. That is to say, because the body, the mountains, and the sky are pervaded by the same “emptiness,” they are ultimately related to one another. In their interior spaces, the Daoist finds the same wu, or empty space. This thus points to the fundamental ecological and cosmological nature of human beings. Humans are pervaded by spaces in which vital energy flows and in which gods take up residence. It is precisely this interior emptiness and accompanying porosity that also deems humans bodies at the same time landscape bodies. Human bodies are ineluctably constituted and pervaded by the same emptiness that lies within the mountains. In this sense, although different from that of mountains, in terms of the internal disposition of bodyscapes and landscapes, humans and mountains are exactly the same. The empty spaces of our bodies are the same as the empty spaces of the mountains.

The same can also be said in terms of the relationship between the human body and the far reaches of the cosmos, namely the stars that occupy “outer space” and the “outer space” that divides the starts from one another. In the Daoist imagination, the stars were understood to be palaces for perfected spirits, occupying the vast “emptiness” or “nonbeing” (wu) of the sky. Just as human bodies are in their interior emptiness identical with the mountainscapes that they inhabit, so also, says Perfect Purple Yang, are human bodies identical with the skyscape of the heavens. In other words, human bodies are not simply the product of their fleshy frames, skeletons and cells. They are also the product of the emptiness within, an emptiness that is identical with that of the natural world, and with that of the heavenly world. Human bodies are, at the level of their being empty spaces, at the same time ecological bodies and heavenly bodies. Their emptiness is the emptiness of their ecological relatedness, a relatedness not constituted by matter but by emptiness.

The emphasis on “empty space” draws on a tradition of Chinese religious practice know variously as “pacing the void” or “flight beyond the world.” (p. 95-6)

What we see in the film and photography we created in response to the sleeve house is an intense event of porosity:  an ongoing exchange; content emptied out; an invitation from a “house” emptied of distractions and channeling elements of the universe through windows and through us. Who was doing the looking?  We, the house, the sun and moon? The sleeve’s porous channel of exchange generated sonic, visual, and temporal shiftings into nameless and moving trans-formations–invitations into mystery, aesthetic experience, wonder, and at times a sense of humbled foreboding at our own apparent porosity.

We read and experience the sleeve house’s commanding disappearance as generative, life-flourishing emptiness.  Arguably, this is a notable turn from contemporary environmental activism and projects of “sustainable” design in the Anthropocene.  It’s the hinge that motivates our current and present projects.

“… ecological relationship from the perspective not of the individual practitioner but rather the physical spaces in and through which such transitions take place. … the important characteristic that this gives to any Daoist ecological discourse is that the transfiguration of the body is seen as the inevitable functioning of the Dao in the world. As a consequence, the goal of any ecological ethic that may derive from such a view cannot focus solely on environmental conservation or preservation of some natural space in an absolutely wild state. The Daoist focus on transformation within nature and the concomitant transfiguration of the body through the porosity of the flesh suggest a radical process of continuous cultivation as the best mode of engagement between the individual and his or her environmental context. In such a context, the individual, the social world, and the cosmos are locked together in a process of coevolution and mutual interpenetration. Subjectivity is distributed radically throughout such an ecological matrix, dissolving the boundaries between self and other in favor of a continuous ecology of transfiguration. 

Such a transfiguration is, in the traditions of Daoism articulated here, an act that takes place in specific locations and requires an understanding of the Taoist construction of space and place.” (p.88)  – James Miller, China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future, 2017.

We offer the resulting film from our inhabitation, sleeve (無為), shot on Super 8 color negative film:

Time Intensive
10.30.2017, 1:13 pm
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bask in the light

and open medium

of time.

-from The Mastheads, 10.13.002107

Welcome to The Mastheads. Your writer’s residency, housed on the grounds of MASS MoCA, in North Adams, Massachusetts. There are no requirements for your residency and the time is free.

Pick your studio for the next three hours.  Each, a “spatial interpretation” of the homes of American Renaissance writers Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

May you be inspired by the history, the context, the time, the light, and the landscape. Enjoy!

This is how we took up our three hours at The Mastheads last month. No one actually said any of this out loud to us, but for weeks, we had been carefully considering how we might activate our time at The Mastheads.

A micro-residency of silence and solitude is the perfect thing to help “busy” New Yorkers experience a three-hour interval of time in a conscious, creative way.  The irony was not lost on us that such an interval filled with such potentials happens eight times each and every day.

Yet it was clear that for us, having a such a context to “grasp” three elusive hours and activate them with meaningful thinking and making had become, well, necessary.  Recently, sustained focus hadn’t been easy.

When we arrived, there was suddenly so much to do!  How to not squander this unrepeatable span?  Would we sit and watch the light?  Would we write?  Would we draw?  Anything was possible.

As it turned out, most of the above did happen, and more.

Light angled across the page of a notebook.

Roaring lawnmowers came and went, and came again.

Leaves rustled on the hills.

It was close to freezing at 11am, but by 2pm the sun had warmed everything.

Carry-in lunch was eaten on the steps of the studios in silence.

Other residents came and retreated inside their spaces.

No effort was required to maintain an attentive awareness of the transition of light, thoughts, and shifting energies throughout these three hours.



The time was lived.

And then it was over.

And there had been an inexplicable, yet joyous shifts in us and our work, as a result.


The Mastheads were created by Berkshire architects Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson as writers studios.  They debuted in Pittsfield, MA last summer (applications for summer 2018 open on December 1st).

At MASS MoCA, where the studios were installed and open for residency in September and October, the residencies were much less structured.  During this time, anyone could book a free, three-hour slot.

Though some minor writing did occur in our studios, overall the residency became a practice for us, as most things usually are for FOP/smudge, in deliberately activating the medium of time.

Time was spent considering why we had been so intently looking forward to having three hours in the studios at all.  These three hours became a stopgap, a pause within the onflow of life and information overload.  It became clear that this manageable duration had provided a means for us to intentionally take up and let go of certain ways of living of time. Phones were not on inside our Mastheads. Without an internet connection taking us elsewhere, doors and windows onto the hills and autumn landscape grounded us, right here.

The porosity of the spaces provided just enough shelter of exposure to retreat from the wind, but also allowed us to be warmed by the sun. October 13th in the Berkshires felt like one of the last days of the year that we could sit still in open-air shelters and remain comfortably warm. It was the hinge of seasonal transition.  Our time and space at that hinge were a gift.

As a means for arriving at The Mastheads, we spent the first thirty minutes sensing where we were and what else was also here with us.


For FOP/smudge, one medium for doing this is a process of interactive photography.  We attach a camera to a cardboard box fitted with a pinhole aperture and a translucent paper projection screen.  We photograph the upside down image that is visible on the paper screen.  The transformation of reflected light that enters the box brings us into contact with a material exchange of light, surfaces, and human eyes that happens all the time, but is hard to perceive through habitual ways of seeing.  An object that appears like this to our usual, “encultured” cameras …

… appears like this when we revert that camera to a way of seeing that “captures” what it felt like in our human body/brain/mind to meet and address The Mastheads.

Taking the digital camera obscura images involves us in a dance-like exchange with all things that are present and in constant movement.  An open sky carries the same weight as solid wood.  All things become mediums of shifting palettes of light.  The resulting images are not “of” architecture, but rather, are image-sensations experienced and then made through responses that are performed inside movement and fields of color.

The obscuras, which we have been making for close to 10 years, has become a means for us to tap into various registers of the unfolding that takes place around us.

For those who has visited MASS MoCA recently, looking through the obscura box may recall the spectral color change that takes place inside James Turrell’s piece, Perfectly Clear.  In both experiences, a different visual/cognitive register surfaces while the familiar world is temporarily suspended.  Things never quite look the same again, even after you exit Perfectly Clear, or end a session with the digital camera obscura.

Perhaps in ways also similar to Turrell, our intention in making the digital camera obscura images is not to disorient or “warp” reality.  Instead, it is to engage the embodied, locative dynamism that is unfolding all the time, even though it might be challenging to access in daily life — especially when we don’t seem to have the time to sense it.

The Mastheads are on view until November 26th, 002017.

Thank you MASS MoCA and The Mastheads project, for the residency opportunity.

all images FOP/smudge studio 002017.

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 chapbook that delineates these new directions for our work, the 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 share empty practice for meeting the path of totality in the smudge book of changes chapbook.

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.