One summer I converted a backyard garden into an installation site. Working on impulse and with no pre-determined plan, this dirt studio evolved into a space for found art assemblages, photography, video, text, and sound. The project resulted in three connected pieces, created in summer, winter, and autumn. The three components offered a framework for reflecting upon the triad of past, present, and future, while sampling writing by various poets and theorists. The process proceeded in layers: building the installation, taking photos and shooting video, writing an accompanying text, and recording sound to accompany the final videos .Below is a prelude that unpacks the title.
The time of the composition is the time of the composition. It has been at times a present thing it has been at times a past thing it has been at times a future thing it has been at times an endeavour at parts or all of these things. -- Gertrude Stein, "Composition as Explanation"
"The irreducible plurality of the texture of poems is partially an attempt to occupy all three temporalities at once." -- Jed Rasula, This Compost
Mahicantuck was the name given to the Hudson River by Algonquin tribes: a river flowing both ways. The ocean tide pushes up the Hudson estuary as far as Troy, NY, almost halfway the length of the river. There it meets the outgoing ebb stream, the origin of which is one source of the river, a tarn, the highest pond in New York state, Lake Tear of the Clouds.
Consider an alternative to the "arrow of time" with its incessant forward flight. Imagine if the tropes of "past" and "future" were a bidirectional river, each current heading toward a single point, pooling into the construct we term "present." Here the past isn't something left behind, nor is the future a state ever about to arrive; both pour in, spilling into the confluence of this continual presence. This whirlpool is the intercept in the Venn diagram pairings of past/future, as well as poetry/science, loss/remembrance, utopia/dystopia.
The arrow of time is as shattering as it is banal. We age; watch one another disappear. Cancers grow and memories disintegrate. Cultures and species vanish at incalculable rates. Something called an anthropocene shows up at the door and refuses to leave. No bigger kick in the ass than time's runaway train, not to mention the hurts we inflict on each other and every species in our path. If it is enlightenment, then consciousness must also be a wrenching melancholia.
Okay train. You won't stop and we can't get off. We get it. But while you're doing your thing we demand a different metaphor. One at the vortex where "was" and "will be" are reconstituted, remixed, and repurposed in the psychotopographies of an open, fluid, presence-saturated realm. Where cave paintings and SF visions, dreamtime and the sixth extinction, aching loss and stupid hope, swirl. Alchemies that take place, here, in this intermediary whirlpool site between depression and euphoria, ebb and flow.