FOP


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Tilting towards Change: Winter Solstice (Tea in the Dark #2)
01.07.2020, 6:20 pm
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watercolor images (top and bottom page) for Tea in the Dark, smudge studio 002019, dots/angles mark the sunset/sunrise tea staged for tea on Winter Solstice 002019


The cloudy grey afternoon had started to transition, almost imperceptibly, into the longest night of the year. Glancing at our watches, we knew we had just over an hour before darkness would envelop the space. We put a kettle on the stove, switched on the camera, and carried Tilt of the Earth teacups to the brightest part of the apartment near the eastern windows. As we approached sunset, the pace of the light’s changes sped up. Shadows deepened rapidly and filled corners of the room. We wondered at how quickly the time and space of transition from light to dark was now taking place.

Winter Solstice 002019 occurred on December 21st at 11:19pm in New York City. FOP/smudge studio marked the occasion for by preparing tea in the waning light of the 21st at 3:19pm (sunset 4:31 pm). Eight hours later solstice occurred in the dark of night at our geographic location on Earth. Eight hours after solstice, we greeted the weak morning light of the first full day of winter by preparing tea again at 7:19 am, on December 22nd. The “shortest” day of the year in New York had totaled 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight, and 14 hours and 45 minutes minutes of darkness.

The concept for our second tea of the Koans for the Anthropocene: Tea in the Dark project was to bookend nearly the 15 hours of winter solstice darkness by preparing and sharing tea within the changing light leading into, and out of, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This tea was held in acknowledgement of the cosmological occasion itself, and as an opportunity to attune our human bodies to the earth’s tilt, the seasonal changes of light and dark that it creates, and the ways it has shaped and afforded the evolution of biological life on our planet.

To document the deep dome of darkness that we spun into during these 24-hours, we photographed a day-long time-lapse of the changing light, comprised of 302 images angled at the 23.5 degrees of the earth. The time-lapse began at 3pm on December 21st and completed at 3pm, December 22nd. We varied the lapse between images to document the relatively rapid transitions through civil, nautical and astronomical twilight into night (images were taken every 2 minutes during twilight and every 15 minutes overnight).

tiltnightdigital still, from Tea in the Dark (winter solstice), 002019

December 22, 002019, 7:30am

Moving into our third month of the Tea in the Dark project, we realize that the project enables us to more easily maintain an awareness of cosmic forces and events that intimately shape our daily lives. It also supports an embodied sense of Earth’s changing location as it orbits the sun. We feel as though the sensibilities generated by marking the winter solstice with Tea in the Dark will stay consciously active between now and the June 002020 summer solstice. We are already noticing the slight changes in light that will build to the full brightness of summer.

At varying scales and temporalities, our orbital path around the sun is full of such yin/yang alignments, including March’s spring equinox and its autumn counterpart in September. These alignments aren’t merely dates on calendars. They are actual angles of light, speeds and movements of Earth though space, that casting of planet-scale shadows, warming of oceans, cooling of vast continents, triggering of mass migrations, incitements of storms and fires — all of which co-mingle unpredictably with emerging Anthropocene realities.

For us, the “dark” of Tea in the Dark doesn’t refer to the literal darkness of winter’s night. It is a medium for exploring ways that humans might live within the uncertainties spawned by the rapidly changing material conditions on Earth — and for inviting the humility required to acknowledge that these changes are not all about us.

While the 23.5 degree tilt of the earth is the primary force behind seasonality and the long dark winter nights in the Northern Hemisphere, a complexity of forces is currently affecting longtime patterns of how weather and climate unfold on Earth. As winter solstice took place in the north, December 21st marked summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere. Sunlight bathed cities such as Sydney, Australia in nearly 15 hours of intense, relatively direct sunlight. And as we write this post in early January of 002020, summer wildfires in the Southern Hemisphere have fast become some of the most severe on record, compounding the worldwide material consequences of the urgent climate emergency underway.

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Additional details for our winter solstice tea can be found on the digital chakaiki for Tea in the Dark, listed under Tea #2.

 

 



Koans for the Anthropocene: Tea in the Dark (Tea #1)
11.22.2019, 10:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

image: for Genzan and Naoko, Tea in the Dark (Drinking Tea, Foot Before, Foot Behind (cleaving dusk/dawn), smudge studio 002019

Ancestor Exalt/Gazing at the Sacred Peak

What is this ancestor Exalt Mountain like?
Endless greens of north and south meeting

where Changemaker distills divine beauty,
where yin and yang cleave dusk and dawn.

Chest heaving breathes out cloud, and eyes
open dusk bird-flight home. One day soon,

on the summit, peaks ranging away will be
small enough to hold, all in a single place.

Tu Fu (717-770 C.E), translation David Hinton

It was a grey morning in Kyoto and at 6am it was still very dark outside. 7,000 miles away, a cloudy day was coming to an end in Brooklyn and we were completing the final preparations for the project that was about to begin.

Kyoto 6am Nov. 19th | Brooklyn, 4pm Nov. 20th

One day a year, there is an alignment between Earth and Sun that creates an experiential connection between Kyoto, Japan and Brooklyn, New York across great geographic distance (approx. 6,872 mi or 11,059 km).

On November 19th, 002019, sunset in Brooklyn occurred at 4:35 p.m. (local time), while in Kyoto at the same moment, sunrise occurred at 6:35 a.m. on November 20th, 002019 (local time).

Within that same minute, the two locations passed briefly and simultaneously through the sweeping, diffused edge of the shadow cast by the Earth. Earth’s rotation animated this edge. In Kyoto, humans passed through the transition from shadow to light: dawn. While in New York, humans passed from sunlight to shadow: dusk. This shared moment held within it two perspectives of one vast and continuous planetary motion — the cleaving of yin陰/yang陽, dusk/dawn.

“Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before and the foot behind.” — Sandokai

Through the project entitled, Drinking Tea, Foot Before, Foot Behind (cleaving dusk/dawn), we, in Brooklyn, prepared and drank tea with friends and teachers living in Kyoto, while honoring the non-duality of “day” and “night,” “dusk” and “dawn,” “light” and “darkness.” For 30 minutes, via an online video connection, we enjoyed conversation, ate seasonal sweets together, observed the quickly changing light in both locations, and then prepared tea for one another. Our drinking of tea at 4:35pm EDT/6:35am JPT, as Earth spun simultaneously into “night” and “day,” collapsed the scale of the planetary to the scale of the human. We acknowledged the intimate planetary forces that all humans share, and the ongoing rhythms of Sun that arise and pass away, generating all life on Earth. 

whisking tea together, Kyoto 6:30 am Nov. 19th | Brooklyn, 4:30pm Nov. 20th

By experiencing this specific changing moment with other humans living on the “opposite side of the planet”, we rethought conceptions of separation and duality. We embodied the realization that day and night, light and dark, are the same thing—they are the ongoing transition-spin of Earth.

drinking tea together, Kyoto sunrise Nov. 19th | Brooklyn sunset Nov. 20th

scroll selected and hung by Genzan and Naoko for the occasion in Kyoto, “Tea is exactly the source of the longevity” Kan-un, 100 years old, Rinzai sect, 1859-1959

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Drinking Tea, Foot Before, Foot Behind (cleaving dusk/dawn) was the first tea of Koans for the Anthropocene: Tea in the Dark

From November 002019 through December 002020, we will co-create inventive forms of tea practice across widely varied geographies, times, spaces and forms of conduct. We will experiment with tea’s potential to enable skillful improvisation, poetic transposition, empirical observation, ritual conduct, and hospitality as a medium for intentional co-existence.
Each tea event will be part of growing archive of projects for Koans for the Anthropocene: Tea in the Dark, including a ledger of production details, traditionally called a Chakaiki (茶会記).
We see the preparation and consumption of tea as a mutually responsive practice of hospitality. Making, sharing, and drinking tea within varied conditions and forms exposes us to sensory experiences of change. It also inserts pause and reflection in habits of mind, gesture, and pace.
Tea practice can transmute vast scales and cosmological forces of elemental change into a humble, liveable human experience.
In this way, Tea in the Dark serves as an ecological act that assists in re-weaving modern consciousness into cosmological rhythms of continuous change, thereby easing life in the Anthropocene.

In the spirit of the ancient wandering tea monks who have inspired us, we welcome friends, colleagues and strangers to allow us to make tea with and for them as Koans for the Anthropocene: Tea in the Dark.  Please let us know if you have ideas you would like to share for micro-productions, private teas, or ways to collaboratively activate smudge studio’s Tilt of the Earth 23.5º Teacups.