Revisiting (RE)TIME, Djerassi Variation

Next spring Leonardo will be publishing a gallery featuring artists and scientists who were honored to take part in the organizations partnership with the Djerassi Foundation. I was there! I'm looking back now. So much time looking ahead. Looking back now I can feel it, the warm soft coastal air that grew almost oppressive by noon. I'd walk everyday for at least 2 hours, around a loop, up to the top of the mountain and then down through the redwood forest coming out at the old barn. The minute I saw the barn, on day one, I knew something was about to happen in there.

My plan was to write a choral piece about hydraulic fracturing for my dance-play CLINGING TO A ROCK HURTLING THROUGH SPACE. At the time I did not know the play would be called that. I did not know a lot of things.

I started reading EPA reports, found maps for area containment wells, and learned about the La Honda oil boom of 1921 (short-lived due to the highly deformed nature of the Coast Ranges). One day, my friend, poet-immunologist Devavani Chatterjea joined me on a mission to find suspect wells, but the road trip, though fun enough (hopping fences with NO TRESPASSING clearly marked is still fun if you are not caught), was ultimately fruitless. I felt my plan falling apart. Then on one of my daily walks around DRAP Ranch I heard…

 “Let the land lead you…” 

I started paying more attention to the geology. My fracking research had introduced me to much about the Coast Ranges, and I began seeing geologic time all around me. Time was visible in layers. I could touch it, feel it, geologically speaking. And the realization was profound. 

“Knowing the geologic time scale, from the Hadean eon to the present…..may work to alleviate some contemporary stresses. Consider your time in relation to Earth-time.”

I developed (RE)TIME, a 20 minute performance with sound during my remaining time at Djerassi. The work spans 4.4 billions years, describing the planet’s birth, several mass extinctions, the rise and fall of the dinosaurs. Throughout the performance I moved a small blue sphere, representing Earth, upstage, along an imagined geologic time scale toward the audience.

In the final seconds, we arrived at our current geologic era identified by the profound human influence on the Earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere.

“Today it is midnight in the Anthropocene…

Today is is midnight in the Anthropocene.”