On Change #5: The Puff
03.01.2014, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

WIPPvideo still, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, smudge studio 2013

We’ve been watching the story for days now, though it’s far from making headline news. On February 14, 2014 radioactivity was detected in the open air above ground at our nation’s only deep geologic repository for nuclear waste, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southern New Mexico. We’ve written about WIPP several times on this blog, most recently during the production of our video project, Look Only at the Movement, for which we traveled the same Interstate highway routes that transuranic waste in our country travels — to WIPP.

What did make it into news “mentions,” if not news headlines, is the “puff” of radioactive materials that was released, which included plutonium and americium. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years.  And, workers at WIPP were exposed.

WIPP was designed to contain waste underground inside the Permian salt dome beneath WIPP for 10,000 years.  But some of the waste escaped this week, 10,000 years early.  February’s puff constitutes a change in containment status worth noting.

When such inexplicable “puffs” of radioactivity enter the atmosphere (or ocean currents), it’s worth revisiting Timothy Morton‘s discussions of hyperobjects. It’s the accumulation and free-ranging movements of uncontainable hyperobjects that, alongside human actions, co-create our contemporary moment.

There is no away to which we can meaningfully sweep the radioactive dust. Nowhere is far enough or long-lasting enough. What must happen instead is that we must care consciously for nuclear materials …the future of plutonium exerts a causal influence on the present, casting its shadow backward through time. All kinds of options are no longer thinkable without a deliberate concealment of the reality of radioactive objects.” – Timothy Morton,  Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World

On Change #4: Mobile Huts
02.24.2014, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

shantiesphotos Eric William Carroll via the Walker Art Center

We’re continuing research on what it means to inhabit change. We’re particularly interested ephemeral structures that provide shelter while being responsive to changes unfolding in the surrounding environment.

This week we learned about two notable projects. First, the Art Shanties project in Minnesota. Here, artists have created upbeat and wildly different reinterpretations of the traditional fishing shacks that dot frozen lakes in Minnesota every winter. The Art Shanties encourage community among frozen lake fishermen and art-lovers.

Also notable are two architectural models of a historic three-by-three square meter hut at Kyoto’s Shigamo Shrine. Both huts refer to Kamono Chomei’s home. The Japanese recluse immortalized his tiny house in a famous piece of literature written over 800 years ago called the Hōjōki  (translated as “An Account of My Hut”). If you’re not familiar with this ancient work, one highlight reads:

I leave my span of days for Heaven to determine, neither clinging to life nor begrudging its end. My body is like a drifting cloud—I ask for nothing, I want nothing. My greatest joy is a quiet nap; my only desire for this life is to see the beauties of the seasons.” – from, An Account of My Hut, by Kamo no Chomei in 1212, translated by Donald Keene.

Chomei intended for his hut to be mobile and enable him to relocate in response to the volatile political events in Japan that were affecting his life.  A traditional model of the house has graced the Kyoto shrine for some time.  This past winter, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma offered an ephemeral, modern interpretation, also located on the shrine’s grounds.  It’s composed of cedar, magnets and plastic sheeting.

hutsChomei’s hut by Kengo Kuma (image by Rei Niwa) and the Shrine’s original model of the hut with an oversized protective roof (image via

Uranium Film Festival, Brooklyn
02.09.2014, 11:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

McpHeegraphic by Josh MacPhee, via Todos Somos Japon

If you’ve ever wanted a movie-based crash course in how humans have put uranium to use on the planet, you might be interested in attending a film or two at the upcoming Uranium Film Festival. The festival runs for six days (February 14-19th, 2014), at Brooklyn’s Pavilion Theater. The films range from the experimental to the political, but uranium is the substance of connection. So, if you’re curious about how contemporary artists and filmmakers are responding to global atomic realities, don’t miss your chance next weekend.

We are also grateful to have recently met the volunteer coordinator of the Brooklyn-based iteration of the Uranium Film Festival, Yuko Tonohira. She is a co-founder of Todos Somos Japon, a project  worth checking out. And, in case you need an extra deck of Repository spotter cards, they will be available at the festival.

On Change #3: In the Flow
01.26.2014, 10:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

provincelandsProvincelands, MA, 1.26.14, 19 degrees F (feels like 1°), winds W 26mph

The following excerpts are from The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, a thirteen year-old Japanese boy with autism. The book’s Introduction is by David Mitchell.

Q39 Why do you like being in the water?

“We just want to go back. To the distant, distant past. To a primeval era, in fact, before human beings even existed. All people with autism feel the same about this one, I reckon. Aquatic life-forms came into being and evolved, but why did they then have to emerge onto dry land, and turn into human beings who chose to lead lives ruled by time? These are real mysteries to me

In the water it’s so quiet and I’m so free and happy there. Nobody hassles us in the water, and it’s as if we’ve got all the time in the world. Whether we stay in one place or whether we’re swimming about, when we’re in the water there’s always too much stimulation for our eyes and our ears, and it’s impossible for us to guess how long one second is or how long an hour takes.

People with autism have no freedom. The reason is that we are a different kind of human, born with primeval senses. We are outside the normal flow of time, we can’t express ourselves, and our bodies are hurtling us through life. If only we could go back to that distant, distant, watery past—then we’d all be able to live as contentedly and as freely as you lot!”

Q47 Would you give us an example of something people with autism really enjoy?

“We do take pleasure in one thing that you probably won’t be able to guess. Namely, making friends with nature. The reason we aren’t much good at people skills is that we think too much about what sort of impression we’re making on the other person, or how we should be responding to this or that. But nature is always there at hand to wrap us up, gently: glowing swaying, bubbling, rustling.

Just by looking at nature, I feel as if I’m being swallowed up into it, and in that moment I get the sensation that my body’s now a speck, a speck from long before I was born, a speck that is melting into nature herself. This sensation is so amazing that I forget that I’m a human being, and one with special needs to boot.

Nature calms me down when I’m furious, and laughs with me when I’m happy. You might think that it’s not possible that nature could be a friend, not really. But human beings are part of the animal kingdom too, and perhaps us people with autism still have some leftover awareness of this, buried somewhere deep down. I’ll always cherish the part of me that thinks of nature as a friend.”

On Change #2: Open Avenue
01.23.2014, 11:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

fifthaveFifth Avenue and 13th Street, Manhattan, January 22, 2014, 12:30 pm EST, 15 degrees F (feels like 3°), image Meridith Kruse

Last Wednesday a major water main broke under Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The 36 inch pipe, dating to 1877,  was one segment of the  7000 miles of water mains that run through New York City. Age and recent temperature fluctuations are credited for causing the burst. This particular event was prominent on our radar not only because it disrupted public transportation and flooded a number of basements, including that of The New School’s University Center slated to open this week, but also because it opened up the street to reveal otherwise hidden infrastructures that are always undergoing change. The gaping hole in the street lays bare the city’s vital connection to distant reservoirs and ancient geology (PDF) that deliver fresh water—one billion gallons of it each day—from upstate New York.

On Change #1: A new start
01.18.2014, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“How to grasp fully the effects of a warming global temperature may require some originality of thought and action that is not yet clear to us. Routine and revelation have always been steadfast allies, and it is my suspicion that such an imagination arrives most frequently through measured work, and that local epiphanies are a common product of rote discipline. At a time when apocalyptic rhetoric so often colors the conversation around changing global ecologies, it may be useful to consider what are sometimes called repetitive motion tasks.” – Akiko Busch, from The Incidental Steward

imageBrooklyn, New York, 1.13.14, 10am EST, 42 degrees

It’s a new year and we’re trying out a new format. In 2014 we will aiming for short-form posts and different content here on FOP. For the next little, or perhaps long while, we will share quick, unfinished thoughts related to observations on impermanence and responses and practices related to change itself.

These relays might take the form of short statements, questions, sets of images, field sketches or data recordings made at various locations. The content may or may not be as literally geological as it has been in the past four years.

We’re doing this because we feel that we’re in the midst of a changing world-reality.  That reality clearly includes monumental geologic change that is Anthropocene-epoch making in scale. But, in order to get a sense of how the monumental plays out at the scale of human lives, we will start small and cultivate practices for regularly and simply paying attention to change itself  as it occurs in our daily lives — on its way to adding up to much larger world realities.

The planetary change that humans already are embedded in activates forces that we associate with the geologic, geographic, seasonal, cultural, economic, environmental, linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional — and more. It’s from various perspectives on change that we aim to blog in 2014. Our friends back in the Pleistocene were also engaged in observing and practicing monumental change as they began to stand upright, find food, and develop communities as means of adjusting to evolving daily life realities of their own epoch of climate change.

So, we look forward to “being with” the realities of change itself as it unfolds this coming year. We will use this blog to develop ways to make various forces of change relevant to contemporary conversations in the arts, sciences, media studies, and beyond. We are scheduled to take up two extended residencies in New Mexico and Norway in the early part of 2014.  We sense that they will be key locations from which to signal the work as it’s in progress.

So, starting from where we are, literally from what’s right in front of us outside the window:  We offer an image of the white brick wall we now look out on here in Brooklyn. After more than a decade facing a bright red building, FOP has moved locations.  We now face a fundamentally different view. Though such a change might appear minor, overall, the move has shaken loose all kinds of habitual assumptions and perspectives that had taken root, many without us taking note. This blank slate is where we will start again.

We’re currently dis-located, and from here, it’s easier to notice details large and small. Pretty much everything feels new and somethings feel entirely foreign. We’re not quite sure yet where we’ve landed.  We appear to be in a generative time and location to try out new thoughts and practices while the changes and new sensations are still raw.

image_4Brooklyn, New York, 1.13.14, 12pm EST, 45 degrees

From a Temporal Edge
12.30.2013, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

NASA-STS-127.81181356_stdImage NASA

Poised together here on Planet Earth to begin our next big circuit around the sun, while we also move into our fifth year of FOP, we wanted to pass on a link to Akiko Busch’s recent opinion piece in the New York Times, “Life on the Edge.”

From the fertile vantage point just before the impending new year, we concur with Busch:  from this charged edge, we can sense the potential of actively renewing and inventing wholly new intentions and practices for meeting the change that will mark the coming days. From this temporal edge, where what has come before meets and blurs into what will come into being, much is still undecided.  This edge of the new year “is where the action is, or the place you push things to for the best results.” (Busch)

Here’s to 2014 becoming a year of ongoing edge-ness — one that sustains a cresting wave of actions and wild potentials — one that springs into reality the generative changes that material realities of contemporary life now call for.  Happy New Year on the Edge!


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