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The concept of deep time was coined by a geologist in the 18th century as a counterpoint to the contemporary belief that Earth was only thousands of years old (it is now believed to be roughly 4.5 billion years old).
The term describes the history of the Earth over a time span of millions of years.
Can we connect to deep time via sensory experience?
This artwork, called “Totality,” brings together nearly every solar eclipse documented by humankind in a mirror ball. Over 10,000 images reflect the progression of a solar eclipse. Their light surrounds us, and we can feel mesmerized.
The journey we humans have been on to arrive right here is nothing short of a miracle. “Fossil Necklace” is a string of worlds made of the material of life itself. Each bead is carved from ancient fossils and strung geological epoch by epoch. The beads chart major moments in Earth’s history. The first single-celled life, the first flowers, the first creatures to see and to fly. “Fossil Necklace” speaks to our long continuum.
Every day we walk past trees, but do we stop to think that they are our cousins? We share so many of our genes with trees, and forests give us our breath. We created a sculpture made of every tree type on Earth. This is “Hollow.” Designed with architects Zeller & Moye, it brings together over 10,000 tree species spanning millions of years. We were donated wood samples from almost every country: the Indian Banyan, the White Mulberry, the Dawn Redwood and twigs from sacred forests around us. Looking upwards into the light, we see the most threatened tree species of now.
Every single atom in our bodies was formed in a star billions of years ago. The remnants of stars make up all of us. Our vision was to gather every dying star across the universe and make a map. The result: over 27,000 supernova, stellar black holes and gamma-ray bursts shimmer as pinpoints of aluminum. What you see is a graveyard of stars, yet it alludes to life.
How do we speak to unborn people? How do we build a bridge across time? We proposed a library of the future: a forest, a room, 100 authors and 100 years. It started in 2014. On the outskirts of Oslo, we planted a thousand baby Spruce trees. When they’re fully grown, they’re going to be cut and made into paper. Every year for 100 years a different author is invited to write something new. Their words will become an anthology of books printed on paper made from these trees, only to be read in the year 2114.
Why does connecting to deep time matter to us all? Shortsightedness may be the greatest threat to humanity. To be human is to understand that we’re part of a long continuum. Let’s embrace our cosmic context, respect our origins and hold our future close.
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