How art and culture can help us rethink time - Deepstash

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"Time is out of joint"

"Time is out of joint"

This line in Shakespeare's Hamlet is just as true today, for we live in a world where our perception of time is disconnected.

Instead of considering the long-term problems such as climate change and ecological collapse, we focus on short-term mindsets and structures. While our minds might not be wired to deal with long-term threats and priorities, we are wired to control stories and emotions. Our fascination with stories, and the profound emotional nature of our decision-making, make art and culture key to ensuring our future as a species.

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The Long Time Project

The Long Time Project

The Long Time Project supports art and culture as a way to help people think and act more long-term. This includes YouTube videos, adverts, art exhibitions, theatre, clothing and furniture.

All these art forms and creative works are shaped by culture - the collective values, norms and narratives that guide our societies. This culture informs the kinds of laws we make, the technology we develop and the way we distribute wealth.

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How art and culture in a broad sense expand our perception of time

Art can stretch our timefulness - the ability to put ourselves within eras and aeons rather than in weeks and months.

Deep time is about creating perspective and distinguishing between the short term timescales and the depth of cosmic timescales. It's meant to shift our perspective. Whether personal or societal, every problem can gain from long-term thinking.

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How our time frames are stretched

How our time frames are stretched

  • Artist-technologist Honor Harger has created a soundscape of the history of the Universe that enables you to hear the “oldest song you’ll ever hear” - the sounds of the cosmic rays left over from the Big Bang.
  • The Deep Time Walk is an app that enables people to walk 4.6km through 4.6 billion years of history.
  • The Long Now Foundation is building a clock designed to run for 10 millennia inside a mountain in Texas.
  • Artist Katie Paterson created Future Library, a forest planted in Norway which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in 100 years’ time.

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Experiencing the long term view

Experiencing the long term view

Questions about the long-term future can feel distant and difficult for people to translate into action.

It's one thing to watch negative or positive views of the future, but another to know what it means to our own lives. Art and culture is a transformative and generative agent. It can help us experience the long view while providing reflective space to help us take action based on that understanding.

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Finding a long-term perspective

Acting in the interests of the long term will involve a radical change in the short term.

It will involve questioning the norm and doing things very differently.

  • Arts and culture can connect us with previous moments of change to make the radical seem more tangible.
  • Arts and culture can remind us that radical change has happened in the past and inspire us and remind us of the values and behaviours needed to make change happen. For example, 12 Years a Slave tells about civil rights.
  • Arts and culture can help us challenge the status quo and expose us to multiple possible futures.

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