Grand Arts Presents:
Deep Time + Rapid Time


Spurse, working diagram for DT+RT, 2008-2009.

People do not take into account of how the PLO has had to invent a space-time in the Arab world. – Gilles Deleuze

Today we inhabit a world full of multiple new temporalities—or what Deleuze refers to above as space-times. But what does it mean for us that we inhabit multiple new forms of time? What is the impact of this in our lives? What is the impact of this in our bodies, our ecosystems, our languages, our ethics, our vision? Spurse’s project with Grand Arts, Deep Time Rapid Time, began three years ago with this question as a provocation to research and experimentation.

So what are these new temporalities? Let us look at one example of a new form of deep time. Think about the half-life of nuclear materials that range into the millions of years. What does it mean to have developed a material that is highly disruptive for a future that is far longer than all of human history? What new forms of causality can even attempt to grasp this duration in terms of prediction for present actions? What challenge does this have to ethics systems that are primarily face to face in the here and now? Then think of rapid climate change, life style and event-based consumer subjectivities, the logos of empire and the forms of resistance that Deleuze mentions—these are all new forms of time sweeping through us and our world.

This demands things from us. And in a clear sense we are all responding to these deep and radical questions. But, at the same time, how do we respond to time itself? It is quite apparent that we need to respond to these events such as rapid climate change, but it is much less apparent how or why we need to pause and re-think time itself. This is really where spurse begins this research project. They want us to look closely, to follow our curiosity and perplexities towards an experimental relation of temporality. In the space of Deep Time Rapid Time, perplexity is a tool—a tool that slows us down and speeds us up to anomalies, curiosities, and ruptures within the contemporary multiple unfoldings of time. They note for themselves in one of their research statements a series of propositions about time that develop from these ruptures and anomalies:

1. We are of time. We are not merely “in” time or in the world— separate from our environment but we are of it.

2. The world no longer has a finitude. The atomistic, mechanical, and thermodynamic models of addition, clockwork transcendence and exhaustion are no longer viable.

3. Time has become and is directional—we are being pushed into a future without return, reserve or recourse—swept along by time and of time.

4. The directionality of time is also involved in emergence: the emergence of wholly new forms of time. We are of and swept along by the emergings of time. This emergent time is more than an extension of the present. It is outside of prediction. It is the unknowable emergent property of present forces, systems and things capable of making a wholly new—a wholly unknown—becoming of temporality.

5. Emergent time is time before measurement. It is the qualitative logic of time and not the quantitive logic. Quantitive time is the time we are most familiar with; it is the time of appointments, of one moment following the next, chronology etc. Emergent time is the time of change itself—qualitative transformation.

6. Qualitative transformations of emergent time are sensed and felt. They work primarily at the level of affect.

7. We need a new system of tuning towards sensation and affect to come to terms with qualitative systems of change. How we are of the world and of the immanence of its multiple unknowable but sensible becomings is where we wish to locate our research.1

8. Where standard notions of critique imagine a position outside of time, time needs a new form of entangled and emergent criticality that is sensitive to the experimental spaces of becoming. A critical becoming that is ahead of itself.

What are new forms of qualitative transformation? What are new forms of time developing today? This project is an attempt to activate this question. Rather than asking what should I do next, this work begins by asking what can a body do? What can an event become? How do these changes, which function on the level of altering the affective capacities of bodies, systems and events, produce difference? What is to be done?

Spurse began by developing a series of research areas into sensing within forms of temporality. They include: (1) Building an emergent cosmology generator as a way to begin generating hypotheses (2) Investigating deep time of the site (Kansas) by doing paleontological research into the Western Interior Seaway that covered much of North America from 120 million years ago to 60 million years ago (3) Consulting with the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas on their research developing plants that reach back towards the early prairie and into the future conditions of climate (4) Working with Kansas City Art Institute students to develop prototypes for clothing as mobile architecture for migration/sensing time (5) Conducting Situated Visualization and Augmented Acoustic research with David Jensenius and Sean White at Columbia University (6) Exploring rapid climate change and cultural logics of time in Nunavut (7) Conducting archival research at the Linda Hall Library on histories of systems for sensing and conceptualizing temporality (8) Developing proprioceptive and multi-scalar wayfinding systems for the Cuyahoga River, Cleveland (9) Testing ways of listening to entangled systems as politics in Denver (10) Setting up the gallery space at Grand Arts as a laboratory/training ground for sensing new forms of temporality, and (11) Conducting ongoing research and workshops during the period of the exhibit.

We are always surrounded by, within and of a riotous and improbable mix of objects, sensations, textures, cues, systems and headings—and we find our own way through, laying down the path as we go.2 This responsive entanglement of us and the world in all of its complexities and dynamics across multiple scales is both where we sense time and where the actuality of lived experience unfolds. The sidewalk, with its little bits of scum and paper, seems as impossibly scattered and difficult to decode as anything, and yet, when we lift our gaze to wonder at the cities we’ve built for ourselves, and consider the ecologies and qualities of the lands beyond, things grow more complex still. How do we read the particular, postcard blue of a vast Kansas sky on a clear day, or the dozens of different grasses on an undulating prairie, which, though it feels like ‘nature,’ looks nothing like it did three hundred years ago? What tools do we have to unpack and interpret these snapshots of everyday life? If the tools we have are insufficient, as spurse argues they are, then what can be done to address this need? What if we could listen more closely to what the sky, the soil, or the factory down the street were telling us? Would our thinking about these places, and the things embedded in them change? Would our actions?

How can we make informed decisions now and in the future without a developed awareness of how things change over time, “across scales and speeds”? How can we access the perspectives of deep and rapid time, attending to scales as minute as a fossilized snail and as vast as the Arctic over four billion years? Can we train ourselves to engage with time differently, to contend with it at scales which would otherwise seem invisible to human perception? What would training exercises designed to heighten, extend or compress our sense of qualitative time look like? What does it mean to suggest that time is “a form of qualitative transformation, prior to and parallel to” the way we typically understand it, as a means of quantitative measure?3 If we accept this idea, should it change the way we think about and do things in the world? What realigns when we begin to perceive the objects in our midst as “entanglements of time”? Does time change things or do things change time? What is this system of relationality?

How can we sense and touch the Great Inland Sea that blanketed the Midwestern United States 65 million years ago? Why does it feel so uncanny to find a seashell in a field? As the Arctic melts, could we be headed toward a redux of this vast inland waterway? If water levels continue to rise, where will human and animal populations be displaced to? Will we become permanent refugees or nomads? What models for nomadic sustenance, clothing and shelter on the move already exist?

Could spurse’s temporary laboratory and training ground help us work through some of these problems? What objects and tools have been assembled in Grand Arts’ space, and what can be done with them? Moreover, what can they do to us? Is the object before you a table or a map? If you try to use it as a table, will it fall apart? Should you try anyway?

There is work to be done.

Can we work together? Do you feel some reservations about getting involved? Aren’t we already in deep, so to speak? Are our notions of the visitor, the participant, and the collaborator all myths? Shall we speak only of citizens instead? Of complex bodies sensing their entanglements—their becomings? What is at stake in our collective becoming? How can we embrace the “irreducible messiness, complexity and open-ended multiplicity” of the world?

How do we initiate the process of un-learning what we think we know? How can we fully embody our questions, rather than assuming the paralyzed positions of the dilettante and the critic? What do immersion and pure affect look like, feel like? Could they feel like water dripping, light shifting, a surface that yields unexpectedly to the pressure of our bodies groping along in the half-dark?

What are you willing to risk in order to move things forward? What is the scale at which your research will unfold?

Where do the concerns of architects, artists, activists, librarians, archivists, Arctic historians, augmented reality/visualization researchers, environmentalists, hunters, paleontologists, philosophers, physicists, plant biologists, textile engineers, and so many others meet? How can we radically rethink our ways of living and working collectively? How can a research project stake out a political position in opposition to the demands of ready consumption and capital? Are you, your friends or your colleagues interested in pursuing some of these questions at a deeper level? Should you be in touch with spurse?

Stacy Switzer + spurse
January 2009

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