making the geologic now.


I want to call attention to a new publication from Punctum Books: Making the Geologic Now: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life, edited by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse. The book is free to download. There’s also an interactive ebook version. Here’s the book’s description from Punctum:

Making the Geologic Now announces shifts in cultural sensibilities and practices. It offers early sightings of an increasingly widespread turn toward the geologic as source of explanation, motivation, and inspiration for creative responses to conditions of the present moment. In the spirit of a broadside, this edited collection circulates images and short essays from over 40 artists, designers, architects, scholars, and journalists who are actively exploring and creatively responding to the geologic depth of “now.” Contributors’ ideas and works are drawn from architecture, design, contemporary philosophy and art.  They are offered as test sites for what might become thinkable or possible if humans were to collectively take up the geologic as our instructive co-designer—as a partner in designing thoughts, objects, systems, and experiences.

Recent natural and human-made events triggered by or triggering the geologic have made volatile earth forces sense-able and relevant with new levels of intensity. As a condition of contemporary life in 2012, the geologic “now” is lived as a cascade of events. Humans and what we build participate in their unfolding. Today, and unlike the environmental movements of the 1970s, the geologic counts as “the environment” and invites us to extend our active awareness of inhabitation out to the cosmos and down to the Earth’s iron core.

A new cultural sensibility is emerging. As we struggle to understand and meet new material realities of earth and life on earth, it becomes increasingly obvious that the geologic is not just about rocks. We now cohabit with the geologic in unprecedented ways, in teeming assemblages of exchange and interaction among geologic materials and forces and the bio, cosmo, socio, political, legal, economic, strategic, and imaginary. As a reading and viewing experience, Making the Geologic Now is designed to move through culture, sounding an alert from the unfolding edge of the “geologic turn” that is now propagating through contemporary ideas and practices.

I had a chance to meet Liz and Jamie a month ago at a workshop on Emotional Elements, where they presented their Amulets for Infrastructure project. The amulets are designed to be material acknowledgments of the fragility of bridges, highways, the electrical grid, and so on. Liz and Jamie want to call attention to

the in-difference that both human-designed infrastructures and geo/meteorological events ‘feel’ towards humans—while also acknowledging the capacity of non-human things and events to create difference.  This is especially the case when  geologic events assemble and re-assemble with infrastructure independently of human desires, with consequences that reshape human lives in profound and irrevocable ways.

Liz and Jamie’s remarks were compelling, especially in light of Hurricane Sandy which had struck earlier that week and actually prevented them from attending the workshop in person (they joined over Skype, which had its own mishaps). The event of Sandy was very much a participant in the workshop, and Liz and Jamie asked what we might learn directly from the event. Their discussion of imbrications between the human and the geologic were quite timely and provocative, and there’s bound to be more of that in Making the Geologic Now. Well worth a look!

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