Compact Disc

The image depicts a Sony CD-R (compact disc-recordable), a standardized object exactly 120 mm in diameter and 1.2 mm thick. The flat, round form encodes data on reflective material, sandwiched between polycarbonate etched with microscopic bumps that interact with a laser from either a compact disc player, for music, or an optical drive, for computer applications and files. All data encoded on CDs is binary, existing as ones and zeros, making it largely inaccessible without a translator. The format was co-developed by Philips and Sony in 1979 and was released publicly in 1982. The CD, like vinyl albums, 8-track, cassette tapes, VHS, beta, Zip drives, and floppy disks, is obsolete, with the production of CDs having largely phased out by the mid-2000s. Well over 200 billion CDs have been manufactured.

Pottery Shards

Pottery shards exist in nearly every pocket of the world. Archaeologically, a shard’s existence evinces a shift away from hunter-gatherer practices to more sedentary, agrarian cultures. Archaeologists have long analyzed shards for clues to the complexity of the cultures and civilizations in question, as they can provide evidence of refined divisions of labor, mining capabilities, knowledge of chemistry, supply chains, trade routes, and more.

Promax J-1 Super Jumbo

Designed in South Korea in 1987 primarily for the US market, the Clairtone 7985 Promax J-1 Super Jumbo (sometimes branded as “Tecsonic”) is a massive boombox stretching 31 inches long and 16 1/2 inches tall, weighing over 25 pounds with 10 D batteries installed for portable operation. The boombox itself is an assemblage of hundreds of discrete interlocking, cast and factory-fabricated parts. 

The object factored heavily into the plot of director Spike Lee’s famed Do the Right Thing (1989). In the film, the boombox was carried by Radio Raheem until its emotional climax in which the owner of Sal’s Pizzeria destroys the object with a wooden bat, setting into motion Raheem’s death at the hands of police by chokehold asphyxiation. Simply following plot points, the boombox could be written away as an elaborate MacGuffin device, but its energy and ontology in the film run much deeper, as it is the medium Raheem uses to interface with the world. Metaphorically, the boombox becomes a campfire, a talisman, a techno-amulet, an oracle that is itself powerful, empowering its users through its mystical, agentic properties.


A temporal event, synchronicity is the sudden salience of two discrete events occuring at more or the less the same time. The concurrence conjoins the events into a single meta-occurrence that can build asymmetrical importance. At any moment, billions of possible recombinatory synchronistic events exist in latent form, as pure possibility. The emergence of just two rogue events that happen to unfold simultaneously can produce the perception of momentary harmonic balance, even divination. 

Psychotherapist Carl Jung used the term synchronicity to explain “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.” Specifically, he used it to describe the moment that meaning is found in events, objects, or thoughts that are not objectively connected. Jung believed this to be a paranormal occurrence and linked it to his idea of a universally shared unconscious.  

The idea of synchronicity sits alongside the more clinical idea of apophenia, finding meaning or patterns in randomness. Primates, humans included, use pattern recognition as a survival skill as it gives us the ability to predict outcomes. Apophenia is when that instinct short circuits and creates perceived meaning in coincidences, i.e. our human ancestors studying the cosmos and marking synchronous occurrences, eclipses, or celestial objects as they momentarily aligned with terrestrial forms.

Star Map

Shown above is a Neo-Assyrian clay tablet depicting a planisphere or star chart dividing the sky into eight sections that represent the night sky over the ancient city of Nineveh on January 3 and 4 in 650 BCE. Astronomers have identified the chart as depicting the modern constellation Gemini.


Anthropocentrism is the belief that humans are the most important entity in the universe. The belief has long been central to Western spiritual, intellectual, and cultural belief systems. Arguably, humans have been engaged in a slow-motion, staccato advance toward more fully embracing a *de-*anthropocentric experience of life and living.

This decoupling from Earth’s central narrative had audacious and violent beginnings with the advent of heliocentrism, the scientific discovery that Earth revolves around the Sun and not vice versa. So strong is the human desire to plot ourselves at the center of all experience that heliocentrism has had to be discovered in multiple ways and places, repeatedly over thousands of years. 

De-anthropocentrism exists parallel to a longer arc of justice related to anti-racism; feminisms; vegetarianism and veganism; and deep ecology and environmentalism.

Vera C. Rubin Camera

The Vera C. Rubin Telescope employs the most powerful camera ever built. Built at SLAC in California, at 5.5 ft (1.65 m) by 9.8 ft (3 m) it is roughly the size of an SUV. Its vast sensor works as a techno iris, and at 3,200 megapixels, it will unlock more details of the universe than we could have ever imagined. The camera's base, built directly into bedrock, binds the camera to Earth itself. Poetically, this appendage to Earth can be furthered, the camera viewed as a prosthetic eye made for the Earth to see and connect with celestial-kind.

Twelve Earths \ Ring Finding

Near the conception of Twelve Earths, in late 2016, artist Michael Jones McKean created a list of categories that, in its breadth and scope, attempted speculatively to describe Earth via a discrete selection of locations, objects, and events that would be unified spatially by a perfect ring around the Earth. These preliminary categories ranged from sites of high technology to locations harboring ancient flora, from globally networked mining complexes to places of archaeological significance, from geological anomalies to results of ecological trauma, from birthing wards to remote islands, and many more.

These categories acted as the frame from which a massive coordinate-database of locations was generated. From this archive, an algorithm was developed to search for circular patterns within this sprawling, naturally chaotic dataset—in the process drawing millions of rings around the Earth, while connecting billions of recombinatory possibilities.

From this enormous bank of rings, a process was established to begin honing an inactionable number of possibilities into a smaller group that could be studied and analyzed by hand. This process distilled millions of rings down to hundreds, giving way to a final selection of candidates that could be more deeply studied. From this analysis, four rings—each remarkable, strange, mysterious, and tonally idiosyncratic—were studied in granular detail. Finally, from this intensely research-driven, process-oriented approach, the Twelve Earths ring path gradually and gracefully emerged.

Semipalatinsk Test Site

Semipalatinsk Test Site served as the primary nuclear testing site of the former Soviet Union for 42 years. During that period, 456 massively scaled nuclear detonations were performed. These detonations ruptured a set of assumed relationships between space and time, the seen and unseen; a brutal magic whose alchemic power is brighter than a thousand suns, yet locked within a space one hundred thousand times smaller than an atom.

Semipalatinsk exists at the junction of human and posthuman, where unimaginable energies collapsed timescales, melted mountains, and rained an invisible rain of radioactive dust blanketing every surface of the Earth. Since its declassification, Semipalatinsk is the only nuclear site open to the public.


A circle is a shape whose perimeter line curves in on itself, connecting, and in the process creating two discrete zones: an interior space and an exterior. The circle and its dimensional expression, the sphere, can be found at all scales on Earth and in the cosmos: subatomic orbits, the formation of stars, the optics of a full moon, the eye’s iris and pupil, a midday rainbow, water ripples, tree rings, and countless more. As a primary form in which matter on Earth self-organizes, morphologically the circle is an essential concept in engineering, mathematics, calculus, geometry, geodesy, and astronomy.

Thompson Twins

Vera C. Rubin Observatory

On a ridge peak rising 9000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains are a cluster of intensely powerful celestial observatories. Among them is the nearly complete Vera C. Rubin Observatory, formerly known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST. With first light expected in 2024, Rubin will begin a ten-year observation of the sky, producing the most precise map of the universe ever created and redrawing our understanding of the cosmos and our place within it.

Rubin comprises billions of decisions materialized in individual components, patents, touches, and technologies, all serving to intensify human capacity for visualization and understanding. The observatory exists as a set of thresholds for what can be made material at this moment.

The same conditions that make for near-perfect earthbound astronomy (high elevations, a remote location, arid conditions, stable weather) also act as agents for the preservation of the viewing object itself. This ridgetop inadvertently enshrines LSST within a longer durational horizon, preserving it for future generations as a strange, complex, and distantly knowable machine — a beacon reporting to the future our current dreams as well as our abilities.

First Light

First Light is a celebrated ceremonial event that honors a largely-agreed-upon moment when a telescope is opened and light photons make contact with its optical components. The night sky enters the telescope, reflects off a series of mirrors, hits a precise alignment of photo sensors, and is translated into resulting data that forms an image.

First light images tend to be blurry or of poor quality, and therefore have little to no scientific interest. Sometimes first light yields nothing, as with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. Despite having no practical value, first light images are often some of the most famous and recognized astronomical photographs in the world. The Gran Telescopio Canaria’s 2007 first light, for example, was of Tycho 1205081, a star near Polaris. The image is blurry yet stunning, capturing two galaxies spinning–both with a pale lavender hue–almost mid-embrace.

Lapedo Child

The Lapedo Child, also known as Lagar Velho 1, was an Upper Paleolithic, Gravettian-era child who died at around 4 or 5 years of age 29,000 years ago. The remains were discovered in the Lapedo Valley in 1998. The child provided important clues into human evolution, puzzling the fixed notions we had about evolution by displaying characteristics of both Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans. The child continues to hold clues to a long lineage of ritualistic burial and community mourning due to its unique circumstances of burial.

The child’s remains, now a designated National Treasure of Portugal, are kept in the National Archaeology Museum in Lisbon, Portugal.


Bone is the mineral, lithic, internal scaffolding of all vertebrate animals—including humans. Bone anatomy among seemingly disparate species existing in diverse habitats is strikingly similar, composed of regular features: a cranial system, vertebral system, protection of organs via ribs, and bones for limbs. When conditions are right, bones over time can transmute into stone, becoming part of a fossil record.

Bones are also ubiquitous objects. Considering just Homo Sapiens, there are approximately 20 quadrillion individual human bones that have exisited...

Lake Manicouagan

Lake Manicouagan is an annular lake in central Quebec, Canada. Its rare circular morphology was created about 214 million years ago by the impact of a meteorite roughly 5 km, or 3 miles, in diameter.


A particle is a tiny portion of matter. In common parlance, it is an unfixed, scalable unit of measure whose size is somewhere between that of a grain of sand and that of a quark — a vast range of physical space. The search for ever smaller particles as a means to more completely grasp the nature of matter, and with it our existence in the universe, has been an operating tenet within many branches of science including biology, physics, and chemistry. 

The main function of the Large Hadron Collider, arguably the most complex machine ever built, was to verify the existence of a theoretical particle called the Higgs boson, or God particle. It was believed that this particle’s discovery would unlock the fundamental secret to all creation. In 2012, the Higgs particle was verified, but it simply presented a new door, proposing even smaller particles that exist within the Standard Model of particle physics.

At its most extreme, the Standard Model predicts something called the Planck Length, the smallest possible unit that can exist with physics. This measure is so unrelatable to human life that even analogies fail to express its infinitesimal size. One attempt to articulate its scale: Take the period at the end of this sentence. Expand this “.” to the size of the universe; a Planck Length would measure just one “.” in this new atom-scaled universe.

Mirrors of the LSST

Because of the complexity and overwhelming precision necessary to build the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, its aggregate components are being constructed around the world before being transported to Cerro Pachón high within the Chilean Andes.

One of the observatory’s primary components is its large reflecting mirror, an 8.4-meter (30-foot) cast-glass, circular disc weighing over 25 metric tons. The object is composed of a primary and tertiary mirror — together, technically called M1M3; there is also a secondary M2 mirror — and was fabricated over seven years at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab on the campus of the University of Arizona. After years of grinding and polishing to bring the surface to mathematical perfection, the object was completed in 2015.

Even with tons of solid glass and specially engineered honeycombed latticing, astronomers anticipate  microscopic distortions occurring due to pressure, temperature changes, and more. To correct these aberrations, hundreds of small actuator pads are applied to the back of the mirror. The pads apply precise amounts of pressure, in effect imperceptibly flexing the mirror toward a more perfectly calibrated state, allowing it to collect more coherent light from deeper reaches of the cosmos.  

The image above depicts the Mirror Lab in 2008, where 51,900 pounds of glass were loaded into a rotating furnace to begin casting the LSST’s mirrors. James Burge, founder of the university’s Arizona Optical Systems, compared the process to sanding a table, but with tolerances of only one millionth of an inch.

Gemasolar Concentrated Solar Array

Arranged concentrically over 480 acres, 2650 mirrored heliostats direct and focus sunlight toward a central tower containing massive quantities of salt. The salt acts as a storage medium or battery for the collected heat, turns molten, and continues to produce electricity through the night.

Mount Lico

Within the Alto Molocue District of Mozambique, Mount Lico's 700-meter sheer walls hide away a caldera — a volcanic crater. Long dormant, the volcano improbably holds a 30-hectare old-growth rainforest, whose relative inaccessibility and invisibility from ground level has protected it from human intrusion.

500 Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope

Known as Tianyan, translated as “the eye of heaven,” the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is a fixed-dish radio telescope, 1640 feet in diameter, constructed within a natural basin inside Guizhou Province in Southwest China of 4445 interlocking surface panels These panels  focus radio waves to a feed antenna suspended by cables 460 feet above the dish. The object, the largest radio telescope in the world, began in 2016 to search for extraterrestrial life and pulsars, the highly magnetized rotating neutron stars formed during massive supernova events. Pulsars’ high rotation speeds (upwards of 3000 rotations per second) emit electromagnetic pulses at precise intervals, making them the most accurate known clocks in the universe.

Water Ripples

A stone is tossed upward over a pond. The object crests and begins its inevitable fall. The stone picks up velocity as it descends and makes contact with the pond. The water's surface, previously held in tension by a tiny molecular membrane, is disturbed. As the stone sinks to the pond's depths, a column of water rises upwards, peaking, then buckles quickly in a compensatory downward direction, and water ripples stretch outward in concentric capillary waves. On the pond’s surface plane, perfect circular formations are distributed rhymically in every direction.


Our existence is not singular because nothing makes itself in isolation. We are always accompanied and accompanying, always interconnected. Even our bodies are microcosms composed of a nearly unthinkable number of microorganisms that make every process within ourselves possible, crafting material stories within and without our bodies. Looking outwards, this multiplicity is felt across all kinds of species boundaries: we only belong insofar as we inter-belong, being and unfolding in everyday acts of symbiosis, knitting a dense meshwork of embodied perspectives.

Circles in Engineering

Developed by Phillip H. Smith in the 1930s, the Improved Transmission Line Calculator, or Smith Chart, aids radio frequency engineers in solving transmission and circuit problems. The circular charts are used to overlay different parameters such as impedances, admittances, and reflection coefficients. 

Even as the diagram relays important information to an engineer, it emits to the layperson an everyday mysticism connected to modern life — propping up our silent admission that we are surrounded by highly complex systems that surpasses our perceptions. Within something as seemingly ancient as a radio, hidden away are its obscure techno-machinations buttressed by elegant, unknown curves permitting the fabulous ring of Beyoncé to find our ears during the daily commute.


Historically, a diaspora was an occurrence of mass human migration prompted by coercion, violence, or an otherwise unintended uprooting. Diaspora leans on the notion of “homeland” and a mass, usually sudden, population departure from that homeland to one or numerous host countries. Diasporas are characterized by sustained connection to their homelands by individuals’ and communities’ maintaining political and/or cultural ties. Oftentimes, those individuals and communities never fully integrate — by choice or not — into the host culture.

At its conception, the notion of diaspora described a condition of spiritual anguish accompanying the dispersal of the Jewish people beyond the Holy Land. This continued into the twentieth century, when other globally scattered groups began to adopt the term, such as Armenian and African peoples. Today, diaspora describes migrations of many kinds, including corporate and informational movement.

India is connected to the world's largest diaspora from a single country, with an overseas Indian community estimated at over 17.5 million people. As the effects of climate change begin to transform more and more parts of the world, a looming climate diaspora will continue, displacing millions of people around the world.


Books are a durable technology designed at the scale of the human body to store and transmit information. Books emerged out of tablature, scrolls, and codices as a way to record and share increasingly complex, usually textual information. There have been approximately 130 million book titles published in history, but this does not account for the vast numbers of unpublished works, diaries, journals, zines, and artist books that also exist within the form. In total, there are hundreds of billions of books in circulation and private collections. 

Mass literacy emerged in lockstep with the development of printing presses capable of producing manuscript copies for cheap distribution. In this way, books exist both as vessels of specific information but also invent the possibility for information itself to newly exist and be transmitted. Born out of the magical, nonlinearity of oral folklore traditions, books, and with it reading, brought on a new style of thinking, imagining, and processing. With its determined linearity, as well as baked-in deployment of “beginnings” and “endings,” books and book reading also ushered in a shift in how we began to reconceptualize time.

Red Ochre and Inhumation

Red ochre is a natural terracotta-hued, clay-earth pigment that contains a mixture of ferric oxide, clay, and sand. It has been found in archaeological sites throughout Europe and Asia, dating back to the Upper Paleolithic. Its presence indicates early human associations of color, meaning, ritual, and symbolism. Those buried were often enshrouded in thickly painted red ochre hides, in effect staining recovered bones a deep red color. This color–and its powerful association to bodies through blood–likely had symbolic resonance for ancient people.

Kola Superdeep Borehole

The Kola Superdeep Borehole is the result of a Soviet drilling project begun in 1970 on the Kola Peninsula within the Arctic Circle. The project's seemingly simple goal was to drill as deep as possible into the Earth's crust. The project was active until the fall of the Soviet Union, reaching an ultimate depth of 12,262 m (40,230 ft or 7.62 miles), making it the deepest point on Earth.

Cassette Tape

First released in 1962, the compact cassette tape is a form of media consisting of magnet-coated, polyester plastic film that is passed and wound between two miniature spools. The format was plagued by poor sound quality and durability issues but was hugely popular—due to its portable format and the ability of users to record sounds from the radio and other sources and to make copies of existing recordings—before being made obsolete by CDs. This capacity to make recordings from life kicked off a multi-generational project that has divided and encompassed real and performed experience—creating a proto site to practice hyperbolic performativity, more contemporaneously embodied within social media and an emerging Web 3.0. Speaking about the advent of the cassette tape, Andy Warhol said: 

“The acquisition of my tape recorder really finished whatever emotional life I might have had, but I was glad to see it go. Nothing was ever a problem again, because a problem just meant a good tape and when a problem transforms itself into a good tape it's not a problem anymore. An interesting problem was an interesting tape. Everybody knew that and performed for the tape. You couldn't tell which problems were real and which problems were exaggerated for the tape. Better yet, the people telling you the problems couldn't decide anymore if they were really having the problems or if they were just performing. During the 60s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don't think they've ever remembered. I think that once you see emotions from a certain angle you can never think of them as real again. That's what more or less has happened to me.”

Concentrated Solar Facility

Somewhat rare, virtually silent energy stations requiring a large circurcular footprint and precise geometry, concentrated solar power plants are currently located in Australia, South Africa, Spain, Morocco, the United States, India, and China. In each example, a tall, central monolith is erected. Stored in its apex are thousands of pounds of salt. Circling this vertical structure are hundreds of identical, concave heliostats tracking the sun’s daily arc across the sky. With geometric precision, the sun’s rays are reflected toward the top of the tower, heating the salt until it is molten. This burning core turns water into vapor which acts upon a turbine, in turn producing electricity. The tower glows — a small sun that can be seen for miles. The structure is a temple to the sun, a techno-spiritual zone of awe and surrender.

Straight Lines in Nature

Straight lines rarely occur in nature, making their occurrence when observed outside the built environment something rare, even strange. Yet, hiding in plain sight is perhaps the oldest, most recognizable and striking straight line: the horizon.


The deepest depths of the sea, the edge of a cliff, the electromagnetic feel of touch, the complexity of a cellular organism, quantum dis/appearance: all of these sensations, big and small, inspire awe. Awe is an experience of scale directly correlated to your experience of your own body. It’s an experience where the sheer massiveness, intricacy, or intimacy of a thing, vista, experience, relationship, or concept exceeds you, along with the language and brain-space we use to access, describe, and interpret it. Awe can put us beside ourselves. It can move the bounds of what we thought was possible, both in concept and feeling.

Grasberg Mine

Located in the Sudirman Mountains of Indonesia, in the Papuan Province, the Grasberg Mine is a complex of open-pit, underground, and concentrator facilities that together orchestrate one of the most massive resource extraction operations ever built — by volume, the largest gold mine in the world. Largely hidden away within snow-capped mountains, the mine brings to focus a web of global imperialist energies, employing nearly 20,000 miners, machinists, geologists, engineers, accountants, lawyers, and more as far away as Arizona and Spain.

The object itself is the primary port from which billions of objects are created: Wedding rings, bracelets, smartphones, computers, and server farms around the world are filled with delicate components manufactured with Grasberg gold. With ever-increasing speed and precision, these technologies fuel a flow of information at speeds that collapse temporal distances, shrouding the Earth in signal — an emergent techno-nervous system.

Atacama Desert

The Atacama is a desert located in the North of Chile, bordering Perú. One of the driest locations in the world, it was part of the massive 15-to-16th-century Tawantinsuyu Empire that ran vertically across a large swath of the continent. The Atacama Desert consists of a massive plateau along 1000 km of South America’s Pacific coast line, whose 5000 m elevation provides an optimally dark environment for various astronomical observatories, including those on Cerros Pachón and Tololo.


An object is an entity that has acquired material coherency and can be distinguished from other things, other objects. The coherence that maintains an object’s discrete reality can be extremely ephemeral, like with super-heavy, short-lived elements that exist for only fractions of a second — or, inversely, highly stable, as in enormous superclusters containing hundreds of galaxies. Objects, however seemingly stable, are in processes of transmuting into other morphological forms, other substances, or in some cases other kinds of objects altogether. This transformation occurs at vastly different temporal registrations — from the million-year tectonic clock of a mountain range to the overnight ripening of a banana.


Twins are a pair of beings born from the same birth. Twins are produced either as two discrete fertilized eggs or as a singular fertilized egg that splits into two, resulting in identical genetic information. The latter, known as identical twins, exist as genetic doubles, creating the salient reality of repetitive life forms.


The modern hospital emerged in its current form around the eighteenth century as a site where medical care is administered to people. It is an agreed-upon, default location where modern humans give birth to offspring, convalesce, and finally return to die. The hospital building itself is a kind of earthbound pivot between the birth of a human life and that life’s end. Deterministically, this pivot point connects two seemingly infinite lines: one traveling backward, enfolding all the past events leading up to birth, and the other, afterlife, a line unfolding forward into the future.

Gansu Wind Farm

With more than 7000 turbines arranged in a gridded pattern on the outskirts of the Gobi Desert, the Gansu Wind Farm is the largest wind farm — and among the largest power stations — on Earth. The vast complex, easily seen from outer space, covers more than 100,000 acres of desolate landscape and is capable of generating 20,000 MW of electricity, enough energy to fully power a small country. The placement of the farm is based upon a set of rare geological and meteorological occurrences that have created consistent, intense winds for thousands of years.

Despite the enormity of the farm and the seeming anonymity of its produce, the quotidian worlds touched by the wind are many: a small nightstand light illuminating pages as a child reads in bed; a bullet train speeding across the countryside; vast supercomputers running facial recognition software. Through the farm, the wind is radically reconditioned into experiences, capacities, moments, data, and time.


An earthquake is a geological event perceived as the shaking of Earth's surface, sometimes felt simultaneously by millions of people spread over thousands of square miles. An earthquake is usually the result of at least two tectonic plates moving and grinding against one another. Earthquakes are short but extremely memorable moments, where the trusted ground itself, along with our vertically built environments, becomes momentarily unreliable, fluid. They mark instances of extreme awareness that our physical world, which generally appears stoic and inert, is undergirded by unpredictable, chaotic, and unimaginably strong forces.

Sandia Report

Sandia Report: Expert Judgement on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was a report published in 1993 to consider best-practice methodology for successfully detering humans from the transuranic radioactive waste that is stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The publicly accessible document, some 350 pages long, discusses strategies for various marker systems and message formats that could effectively communicate the dangers of the plant harboring vast quantities of radioactive matter with a projected half-life of 10,000 years.

The project draws parallels with other speculative communication projects such as Voyager's Golden Record. In the case of WIPP,  the vastness of time inherently destabilizes our means of effective, direct communication. Because of this, various alternative methods were explored — folklore, bioengineering, semiotics, and symbology among them. Additionally, material scientists were consulted to aid in the consideration of materials for a proposed messaging system that could withstand 10,000 year durations.

Tevatron at Fermilab

The Tevatron is a massive particle accelerator at Fermilab just outside Chicago, Illinois, whose principal circular shape can be seen from satellite view. The laboratory studies events at the scale of femtoseconds—a billionth of a trillionth of one second. The machine enables a kind of time travel, allowing humans to reach back and study the immediate, split-second moments following the creation of the universe.

Death Ceremonies

In parallel with biologic death, humans (and Homo neanderthalensis) have engaged in ceremonies around death for hundreds of thousands of years. Ceremonial practices relating to death range widely, from secular events engineered for the living to process grief, to a vast array of religious, spiritual, and mystical ceremonies each nodding differently to the supernatural. Some believe the performance of specific rituals will unlock access to the afterlife. Various objects and processes for preparing the dead have also been observed—including coffins, shrouds, adornments, crypts, mummification, assorted cremation practices, endocannibalism, embalming, and ritual dissection.

12E | OS

12E | OS (Twelve Earths | Open Signal) was a multi-day event organized by Fathomers, David Kim, and Michael Jones McKean in West Hollywood in the summer of 2018 which convened a small group of artists, designers, entrepreneurs, poets, and scholars. 12E | OS commenced with a presentation by McKean, then, over two days, participants met for five roundtable sessions moderated by Kim, with co-moderation by McKean. 

Sessions centered around “communication” as it might relate to the still speculative design of a set of “beacons” linked to Twelve Earths’ sites. The group wrestled with questions, including:

What might we wish to communicate?
How might we make ourselves understood over centuries, let alone millennia?
How do we account for non-human perspectives?
In what objects and technologies might Twelve Earths’ beacons be constructed?
Can they both acknowledge the global and respond sensitively to local conditions?

Participants induced: Ahmed Best, Damian Bradfield, Lonny J. Avi Brooks, Melissa Lo, Saki Mafundikwa, Elizabeth Metzger, Bridget D. Samuels, Safiya Sinclair, Nina Tandon, Rosten Woo. The design team was helmed by: Jackson Cantor, Jeremiah Chiu, Elise Co.

Iomega 100MB Zip Disk

The Zip disk was first introduced by Iomega in late 1994 and quickly found a niche with college students and small businesses. The rewritable and removable storage device technology quickly obsolesced and was surpassed by CD-Rs and eventually USB flash drives. Although Zip disk storage capacity, when measured by contemporary standards, is miniscule, at 100 MB, the platform is stable and continues to be used in retro-computing, as well as in aviation for Jeppensen navigation database updates.

Lapedo Valley

Located in Central Portugal, the Lapedo Valley is a small limestone canyon carved by the Caranguejeira River, 14 km away from Leiria, and 24 km from the Atlantic Ocean. Over eons, the river sculpted the valley’s stone walls and unique protective eaves. This natural ebb and flow of water over time slowly deposited rich sediments that flora could lay roots within. In turn, the emerging flora attracted fauna that were contained within the valley–this made hunting easy for human populations, with the added feature of close shelter.

The valley famously contains a rock shelter and archaeological site where a ceremoniously buried Upper Paleolithic child–also known as the Lapedo Child–was found.

Search for Exoplanets

Scientists have long theorized the existence of other planets outside of the Solar System, but until recently, they could not confirm it. The first true detection of an exoplanet took place in 1992 with the discovery of several terrestrial-mass planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. In the years following, humans’ known cache of exoplanets has grown exponentially, totaling 4268 confirmed exoplanets as of 2020. 

As spending on costly speculative science is driven to some degree by public support, exoplanet research has inevitably slouched toward an interest in ourselves. This built-in anthropocentrism has manifested an urge within exoplanetary research to discover ourselves again in the cosmos, the search for a planet identical to Earth.


The horizon is an unattainable limit perceived as being perpetually at the edge of the witnessable world where the earth and sky appear to touch. As our planet is spherical, the horizon exists as an ever-shifting threshold.

Through time, people have gone to extreme measures to see and commune with the horizon. The Aguada Fénix site in the Mayan Lowlands is a massive, thirty-foot-tall earthen platform that frames a volume bigger than the pyramids of Egypt and reaches just above the Yucatán tree canopy. In this open expanse, people can see the horizon in any direction. For the Korowai people of the rainforests in southeastern West Papua, the horizon is all but invisible in the dense overstory of the forest there. Ingeniously, the Korowai build elaborately engineered structures at seemingly impossible heights among the treetops to gain views of the horizon.

Vera C. Rubin

Vera Florence Cooper Rubin was an American astronomer who made significant contributions in our understanding of galaxy rotation. These research observations eventually led her to prove the existence of dark matter. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) was renamed after her, recognizing how the telescope, like Rubin, could have a similarly massive impact in the field of astronomy and study of dark matter, making it the first US national observatory to be named after a woman.

Rubin was born July 23, 1928 in Philadelphia. Like many of the renaissance scientists who paved the way for modern science before her, Rubin showed an early aptitude for art. Her teachers encouraged her to pursue art, deeming art a more proper career for a woman, despite Rubin also expressing an interest in science. Defiant, Rubin became the sole graduate of Astronomy at Vassar. As a professor, she inspired a generation of women to pursue the historically male-dominated field of astronomy.


A garden is a planned or semi-planned outdoor space where humans tend to vegetal life. Gardens can be for aesthetic enjoyment, food production, or some hybrid of both. In each case, the care of a garden can bring deep pleasure to the gardener. There are many normative garden formats with varying aesthetic protocols, yet many, especially private gardens are more or less unplanned. 

Some gardens become intergenerational projects, and their upkeep and maintenance is shared, dissolving individual authorship in the process. A garden’s unspoken contract of care extends indefinitely into the future, a preserved trust that someone will adapt, maintain, care for, and continue the garden. This commitment is silently embedded within the garden’s logic; its distinction among other things, its beauty, and its coordinated and accreted efforts all silently signal to future generations that it is special and should be maintained. A garden is a hyperbolic space, one that even in its most naturalistic state is a construct, seated within the world but separate from the world at large.


Oceans comprise the fluid, dynamic, and still largely unknown aquatic world. It is well known that 71% of Earth is covered in salinic water, yet this fact conveys little of the ocean’s true gestalt, its incomprehensible living volume. Although partitioned into discreetly named zones — Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic — Earth’s oceans are an interconnected body, 350 million trillion gallons of liquid continuously circulating at a global scale. Imagined differently, the ocean’s surface meniscus exists as an unbroken plane wrapping around Earth, yet this membrane also exists as a psychic divide, splitting the world in the realms of the atmospheric and the aquatic, essential partners forever alien to each other.


When studying evolution, scientists rely on two primary sources of data: fossil records and DNA mutations. DNA mutations are relatively predictable and offer a proxy for an imagined evolutionary clock. Recent studies show that the DNA of an octopus has remained largely unchanged in its evolutionary history. Thus, its clock runs incalculably slower than those of the rest of life on Earth.

Instead of evolving using the slow process of seemingly random DNA mutations, the octopus uses extensive RNA editing. Roughly 60% of its RNA can be edited. Humans, as a comparison, have 1% editable RNA. It is theorized that the octopus’s life spans — sometimes as short as six months — have led to this wholly unique evolution.


The term “techno-animism” relates to a spirit world conferred through our digital and networked technologies. As we accumulate ever more technologies that remove us further from direct sensorial  knowledge, we step inadvertently into a magical realm where things perform intricate tasks in secret, removed from view. Here, things can be reimagined as newly spiritualized, enchanted. Our smartphones, the gestalt of which no single human being understands, operate effortlessly, forecasting limitless horizons. The glassy, black keeper of all languages, all knowledge, and all images — a vast and seemingly complete world conferred invisibly through signal.

You & i are Earth

Housed now in the Museum of London, this ceramic tin-glazed earthenware plate was allegedly discovered in the London Sewer. The plate was most likely made in Southwark, England, in 1661. It is unknown exactly if this phrase was at the time meant to convey “we are, together, of this Earth,” or to be taken more comically (“we are just dirt”).

Kerepakupai Vená \ Angel Falls

Located in Venezuela, Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall with a height of 979 meters (3212 feet), almost twenty times the height of the famed Niagara Falls on the United States–Canada border. The local Indigenous population near Angel Falls — the Pemon — called the falls Kerepakupai Vená, translating to "waterfall of the deepest place." 

The falls are part of a surreal landscape, one seemingly conjured within a CGI environment, composed by dozens of tepuis — flat table-top mountains — and what geologists believe are the mountainous remnants of the ancient supercontinent known as Gondwana. At two billion years old, some of these structures are among the oldest in the world.

Babylonian World Map

Dating to roughly the 6th Century, this Babylonian clay tablet contains a labeled depiction of the known world, including the Euphrates, Babylon, and several other cities bound inside of a ring-shaped ocean. This object is believed to be one of the earliest maps alluding the entire Earth.

H. Neanderthalis Birth

The image depicts a virtual reconstruction of a Neanderthal fetus based on the fossil remains of a neonate Neanderthal discovered in the Mezmaiskaya Cave in Russia, and an adult female Neanderthal discovered in the Tabun Cave in Israel. 

Modern technology and recent fossil analysis have allowed archaeologists and anthropologists to virtually reconstruct and study the conditions of childbirth and early development of Neanderthals to better understand the evolutionary development of modern humans. The reconstruction suggests that Neanderthal’s encountered similar obstetric challenges as modern humans based on newborn cranium sizes. These challenges would necessitate having social structures within communities in place to help with the birthing process.


Lifetime is the temporal envelope in which a form (organic or inorganic) exists before undergoing a final-state change that ends the continuity towards existence. For organic entities, a lifetime is normatively bookended by one’s birth and death. Lifetime more speculatively can be expanded to include non-living entities–a VHS player, a house, etc. The endurance of objects through planned obsolescence, disintegration, and perceptions of brokenness informs the rubric of product design–beginnings and endings marked by production, replacement, and disposal. The pathway of a lifetime converges, diverges, and intimately overlaps through time. It weaves between objects, animals, humans, plants, planets, and the universe itself. As inexact segments, lifetimes are often optimized, whether foreclosed or lengthened, for desired outcomes: the elongation of an average human lifespan, the space-age promise of plastics.

Shabono of the Yanomamö

Near the northern limit of the Amazon rainforest, close to the Venezuela-Brazil border, shabanos are circular communal living structures built by members of the Yąnomamö tribe. The shelter itself constitutes the outer edge of each village. They are rebuilt every four to six years.


Pictured here are more than 50 massive, upright stones arranged in a 110-foot-diameter circle comprising a late Neolithic to early Bronze Age megalith in Northern Ireland. 

A megalith is a massive stone typically arranged in coordination with other stones and deliberately placed by prehistoric cultures. While visually similar, megaliths vary broadly in location, size, purpose, and configuration. They can be seen all over the world, scattered throughout Africa, Asia, stretching to the Korean peninsula, and as distant as Micronesia, but live most famously at sites like Easter Island in the Pacific and England’s Stonehenge.

Exactly how megaliths were moved into place and why remains a matter of speculation. It seems some were tombs; others appear to align astrologically, pointing to a function as archaic observatories or, more simply, elaborate solstice clocks chiming once per year. More speculatively, others may have been part of elaborate ley lines drawn in the landscape. In all cases, they appear to hold a ritualistic presence.

The objects, in their massive weight—some stones are heavier than a tractor-trailer and likely were hauled twenty or more miles—present a series of open questions about our ancestors' relationship to time and permanence and the built-in communicative possibility of their actions, made permanent in stone surviving vast stretches of time.

Uncontacted Peoples

Uncontacted peoples are communities on Earth that exist outside of what is normatively understood as modern, globalized society. It is a persuasive Western myth that these groups are truly untouched and disconnected, and one that perpetuates a troubling fetishization. Through an intermediary, such groups are not uncontactable, or even never contacted; they choose the degree to which they engage with the world-at-large, intentionally remaining isolated. But even so, they cannot escape the material detritus and ecological effects of civilization: Their tools may be of refined metals, or they may hunt with guns bartered from neighbors who barter with villages. 

One of the more controversial and resonant contributions from the American media franchise Star Trek (1966-present) is the concept of the Prime Directive. The central guiding principle of space exploration within the series states that, in effect, a technologically superior group — in this case, the explorers — should not interfere with the natural development of more "primitive" alien civilizations. Even in the sci-fi realm of unfettered, idealized imagination, the idea of first contact is deeply problematic and rife with discomfort.

Communities’ deliberate and voluntary recusal from the systems of modernity, taken alongside our own projections of who indeed are “uncontacted peoples,” bring to focus a number of existential anxieties. In starkest relief might be the most urgent: What are our intrinsic obligations as fellow humans on Earth to provide the agentic possibility for uncontacted peoples to live and thrive apart?


Scientifically, an event is an emergent, temporal gathering of energies coalescing more or less coherently. As with anything durational, this cohesion is not final, with all events eventually evolving, degrading, and transmuting. At each moment, there are an infinite number of temporal possibilities swirling, yet most do not cohere into the unison of an event. Events exist at all registrations of size and temporality: a star’s supernova event, the formation of a long-chain molecule, a common campfire, and more. Even as events are transpiring continuously and at all scales, not all events are equally significant or resonant. A relatively small, deeply anomalous event can have asymmetrically large implications.

Sedan Crater

Classically, craters are the result of massive meteorites making impact with the Earth's surface, the quintessential circular indentation evidence of the impact long after the event itself. In the age of the anthropocene, craters at the scale of super-large impact events can also be created through human intervention, as is the case with the 1962 Sedan Crater in Nevada. This 390-by-100-meter crater is the result of a nuclear test, the largest cratering shot produced by the infamous Plowshare Program, which in the process exposed over 13 million people to radiation in an instant.

Mir Mine

The Mir Mine is an open-pit diamond mine in the Siberian region of eastern Russia and is one of the largest excavated holes on Earth. Opened in 1957, the mine currently produces about 10 million carats of diamonds per year and is scheduled to remain in operation through 2070.

Białowieża Forest

Straddling the border of Poland and Belarus, the Białowieża Forest is the largest remaining primeval forest of Europe, having gone largely undisturbed since the last glacial recession 10,000 years ago. The forest-relic — a vestige of what the entire European Plain once looked like — is now in decline, as its ancient and seemingly invincible ecologies confront global heating and geopolitics. While dying trees energize the soil’s restorative capacities, eventually recharging the forest’s canopy, climate change far outpaces the forest's naturally programmed ability to auto-correct — a pressure only heightened by increasing rates of legal and illegal logging.

A set of urgent, open textured, difficult questions emerge:

Is it wise, or even possible for humans to assist this paleoecology, whose interconnected mycorrhizal intelligence we are now beginning to understand?....

As we advance into deeper stages of the Anthropocene, is any effort to preserve “the natural forest” based in wishful idealism?...

As we train ourselves toward apprehending longer, non-human time horizons, should we discard “stability” and balance” as we desire them to be, and instead find comfort in Earth as an natural apocalyptic agent, wherein energetic assemblages like Białowieża thrive in meta-equilibriums largely invisible to humans?....

Darvaza Gas Crater

Near the desert village of Derweze in Turkmenistan, there is a massive 230-foot-wide crater on fire that is colloquially known as the Door to Hell. In 1971, Soviet engineers in search of oil fields began drilling. Their operation collapsed into a large pocket of natural gas, and the crater was set on fire to prevent massive emissions of methane into the surrounding area. It was predicted to burn out within a couple of weeks but has been burning nonstop for nearly 50 years.

Cetacean Stranding

An aerial image of beached sperm whales from November 14, 2017. Whale beachings, a type of animal suicide, are still largely mysterious events, though there is evidence that whales have engaged in this behavior throughout history. A few explanatory theories circulate, involving environmental changes, echolocation, and geomagnetic disturbances, as well as strong social cohesion among larger cetaceans.


A caldera is a massive geomorphic object created in the wake of a volcanic eruption. The object exists as forensic evidence relaying intricate details of the past volcanic event. Formally, a caldera is typically circular, bowl-shaped, with nearly vertical walls. Over time, land collapses into its interior volume created by the emptied-out magma chamber. The biggest calderas can reach 50 km in diameter. Some become filled with water.


Perceived as a territory in its own right, the seafloor is a vast expanse of underwater land. For humans, it remains a mostly inaccessible and unknowable commons of the aquatic world. It is more expansive than any continent, with unbroken mountain ranges running 10,000 miles pole to pole. While it is no longer out of the question for humans to visit the Mariana Trench—the deepest location on Earth—the vast and common seafloor remains for the most part unexplored and unknown.

DNA Data Storage

Bodies are communities of sorts–holding billions of cells, biomes with thousands of bacterial strains, and cascading interspecies interactions that sustain us every day. The community of a body also contains material archives: data stored in the nuclei of cells thanks to DNA. In recent years, there has been a desire to use this capacity in a non-localized way by synthesizing DNA to store non-genetic data. Using a process that encodes binary data into the data system of the four nucleotides of DNA–known as DNA Data Storage–a single gram of DNA could store 215 petabytes of data for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Mapping, flatness, dimensionality, distortion

A simple limitation undergirds our most basic ability to perceive a three-dimensional object: At any moment, we can only witness one side at a given time. Even as we move about the object, a shadow side will forever be hidden from view. From a sculptural standpoint, our inability to perceive an object in total creates a set of psychedelic, formal, and conceptual opportunities. 

Cartographers have puzzled over this conundrum as it relates to the Earth in very different ways for centuries. The problem distills to a seemingly simple task: how best to flatten a sphere allowing for all-at-once viewing without compromising the map’s accuracy. This undertaking has been attempted dozens of times with different flat projections, yet each generates a crumbtrail of sacrifices in the quest: strange polar distortions, split-up spaces, compromised legibility, and general esotericism.  

In the diagram shown, which uses the triangle as a basic unit, the Dymaxion map was developed by Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao as an attempt to show Earth’s continents with minimum distortion. The projection added a novel feature: the ability to fold the map into a three-dimensional icosahedron, a polyhedron with twenty faces, suggesting the volume of the planet.

Human Death

Human death is the irreversible biologic event where a person ceases to exist as a living organism. Since the emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens, over 100 billion people have died on Earth. Today, two people die nearly every second. The ubiquity of death lives in deep contradiction to the intensity of human energies that circulate around the event. The matter-of-fact physiology of death forks open the sociological, the philosophical, spiritual, the familial, and the personal with expressions of grief, sadness, and despair in those that remain living. Even as humans continue to dream of life extension or immortality, death is shared by all people in an unbroken continuum. Like everyone who has ever lived, we will also all die.


An adornment is an addition to the body worn to enhance or distinguish the wearer. Adornments can include cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, accessories, hair grooming, body modifications, head gear, tattoos, and piercings. Perforated shells are considered among the oldest additive adornments found at human sites dating as far back as 160,000 BC. Adornments can be worn to communicate cultural, social, or religious information about the wearer such as their gender role, area of origin or, life passages. It also functions as an expressive art reflecting tradition, nature, craft and personality. 

In addition to outwardly communicating information about an individual, adornments can affect the self-feeling of the wearer, influencing moods and modifying behaviors. In this way, an adornment may take on extradiegetic, talismanic properties wherein a wearer allows themselves to be actively contoured by qualities they believe to be embedded within the adornment. In this way, a simple piece of jewelry, or new braid can unlock secret psychological dimensions within the wearer, activating dormant chapters of their being.

Even as many adornments can subtly alter the psychology of the wearer, they can also determine - subtly or remarkably - how the body is able to perform. Illustratively, footwear actively conscripts or enhances a new set of capacities to the wearer, influencing gate, verticality, speed of moment, and self-consciousness.

Plant Intelligence

Plants are the predominant species on Earth, making up 99% of biomass and creating the conditions essential for all animal life. Outside the hegemonic Western scientific canon, plant intelligence—the ability for plants to act with awareness and knowingly make contributions to their environment—has figured prominently for millennia into human understandings of ecology and metaphysics. These perspectives have largely been marginalized as newer philosophical models that developed in tandem with global colonization deemed any organism lacking an appropriately understood brain or nervous system incapable of possessing intelligence.

The twenty-first century has repopularized the notion of plant intelligence with the help of technical innovations, making it possible to better observe and quantify the behavior of plants over longer periods of time. Recent research has established that plants, despite not having a brain or nervous system, do in fact communicate, learn, problem-solve, and display memory recall. Plants express complex molecular vocabularies that can number around 3000 chemicals per plant, including the neurotransmitting compounds serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate.

Debates within this field continue, but predominantly on the level of semantics, concerning the nature of designations such as “learning” and “intelligence.” Within anthropocentric Western canonical traditions, these traits have historically been reserved only for humans, with only recent wide-scale acceptance in the animal world. Some researchers have noted the similarities in plant behaviors and the chemical and electrical signaling in neural networks, particularly in root networks and radicals. Others have advocated for a more expansive approach to intelligence that explores alternative models for cellular networks and information processing, rather than seeking analogy to neural networks, to give rise to intelligent behavior.

Atacama Large Millimeter Array

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert is an astronomical interferometer that uses 66 radio telescopes to achieve the world's most sensitive millimeter and submillimeter wavelength observations.

Terrain Symbology

Sourced from John Clayton Tracy’s Plane Surveying (1906), these diagrams show a sampling of terrain and vegetation symbology used commonly within cartography. 

Left column, top to bottom: orchard, oak trees, meadow land, wooded marsh, sand-high and low water. Right column, top to bottom: deciduous trees, pine trees, fresh marsh and pond, salt marsh, cultivated land.

Opytnoe Pole

One of hundreds of concrete structures built within Semipalitinsk’s Polygon perimeter used to measure the effects of hundreds of nuclear blasts conducted over decades of testing. The geometric objects,  scattered within the otherwise vast and barren steppe of Kazakhstan, serve as an informal and tragic monument to the atomic area and the wake of destruction and disease it continues to inflict.


The concept of “medium” is ubiquitous within the arts, existing as a simple shorthand for the material with which one might use to make a work of art. Though normally despiritualized in everyday use, at its core, the idea of a medium is much stranger, enchanted, and more deeply central to artistic practice than simply choosing between paints, wood, or a saxophone. A medium is a necessary in-between, a communicative conduit to and from the realms an artist visits. Through practice, a medium allows an artist entrance to a world beyond, but it is also the tool with which to communicate the journey. To re-imagine the term “medium,” we by proxy must also reimagine the role of artists within shared, communal life — in the process discovering, or rediscovering, the foundations for newly spiritualized practices.


A ritual is an iterative act, co-created and renewed by those choosing to enact it. Rituals can be either private, community-based, or institutionally scaled. They can be performed for any number of purposes, including but not limited to: good luck, superstition, spiritual and religious communion, social cohesion, or the simple act of finding pleasure in continuity and purpose through codified repetition. As a container of spiritual entanglement, rituals are often enforced through handed-down gestures that take symbolic significance. However, there is always the threat of risk here–should the ritual be simply “performed,” through repetition, the very acts that once built meaning and definition could become flat robotic gestures, thoroughly devoid of real embodied meaning.

Human Birth

An extreme physiological event in which a new human is born—most normatively through the vagina of an adult woman, though in modern times frequently via a cesarean section. Historical precedent attributed female gender to birthing individuals; however, transgender males and gender-nonconforming individuals are also capable of giving birth. The birthing process might be described as both out-of-body and of deep embodiment, with active labor sometimes lasting five hours or more. For humans, the event—along with its bookend, death—is perhaps the most significant waypoint of shared life on Earth. 

A defining physical characteristic of the emergence of H. sapiens was the growth and development of our frontal cortex. With this added cranial girth, birthing became more difficult, arduous, and at times  perilous. This lingering precipice of danger underscores a baseline evolutionary contract, a silent genetic determination, that even while actively courting death’s threshold, our brains in the end had to win out. 

The ceremony of birth, although largely proceduralized in the West, exists as a continuous, unbroken event relay all over Earth, one of pain, exhaustion, elation, and promise. The emotive catharsis that birth brings is at odds with its ubiquity, with 3.5 human births occurring each second.

Mammalian Brain Morphology

All bilaterians are thought to have descended from a common ancestor that appeared early in the Cambrian Period, somewhere inside 485-540 million years ago. Over this time span, mammals emerged and evolved more complex cranial systems, including the neocortex  -  which controls higher-order functions such as, cognition, complex motor commands, spatial reasoning and advanced communication. Each mammal species' individual brain morphology and size underscores a set of capacities. 

Brain to over-all weight ratio is generally accepted as a norm when classifying animal intelligence. By sheer size and weight the sperm whale has the largest brain.

Twelve Earths | Open Signal Reader

Open Signal, or 12E|OS was a convening held in the summer of 2018 in West Hollywood (see the entry for “Open Signal”) that sought to speculate on a set of probing questions about deep time communication. Prior to the weekend retreat, which included twelve invited participants from around the world, artist Michael Jones McKean and co-curator David Kim created a reader to distribute to Open Signal participants.

Among the texts shared were: Hannah Arendt’s “Man’s Conquest of Space”; David Bohm’s “On Communication”; Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Library of Babel”; Italo Calvino's “The Sword of the Sun”; Ralph Waldo Emerson's “Circles”; Donna Haraway’s “Making Kin”; a medley of short quotes on memes and communication theory; the Sandia Report; Samuel Scheffler’s “The Normativity of Tradition”; and Susan Sontag’s “The Aesthetics of Silence.” These readings are followed by a compendium of images. The reader is available as a PDF upon request.

Water Birth

Water birth is a birthing style adopted by some humans in which the expectant parent, or surrogate parent is intentionally immersed in water for some or all of the labor and delivery process. It’s believed that the natural buoyancy provided by being in water while undergoing labor is of benefit by lowering physical and emotional stresses for the laborer and baby, thereby alleviating pain naturally while increasing oxygen flow and improving the effectiveness of contractions.   

The first documented water birth occurred in 1803 in France, but there is anecdotal evidence of water births being practiced for millennia all over the world — from South Pacific Islanders giving birth in shallow seawater, to Egyptian pharaohs born in the Nile, women of Guyana in South America going to a special demarcated zone along a local river to give birth, and many more.

For some, the decision to give birth in water is linked to the urge to provide a more hospitable, transitional zone between the womb and the baby’s entrance into the world — warm water becoming an interstitial step between the amniotic fluid and the atmosphere of Earth.

Soil Tray

A bright yellow polyethylene tray frames its contents, including soil, sand, and stones, shrouding still unknown artifacts from a dig site.

Sky Surveys

Sky surveys, in contrast to astronomical capture that focuses on a singular object, seek to map or image swaths of sky. They are some of the most important databases for astronomy. In a way, we can and have engaged in surveying the sky with the naked eye. Many cultures with ancient astronomical practices did not rely on imaging technology, but rather on spotting areas of darkness and illumination in the night sky. These surveys belong to an ancient lineage of mapping that has advanced over many generations as technology has advanced beyond that of our visioning limits.

Unlike a typical observatory–which is used to observe select areas and objects in the sky–a sky survey observatory captures a series of fragments that encompass the entire observable sky. These images are repeatedly stitched together to create a moving image map of the sky. For this reason, sky surveys are particularly useful in finding moving objects.

Richat Structure

The Richat Structure in the Sahara Desert is a deeply eroded, massive circular dome with a diameter of 40 kilometers (25 miles). Its origins are still mysterious, but it is believed to be what remains of a geologic dome formed about 100 million years ago. The patterning and concentric variation somewhat particular to the Richat are a result of the harder and softer sedimentary rocks eroding at different rates.

Although the site has led to many archaeological discoveries including Acheulean stone tools, it is believed that the structure’s defined circular gestalt shape was not discovered until humans made their way into space and could see it from high above.

Dig Site and Vessels

In many ways, the image pictured represents a prototypical scene from an unknown archaeological dig site. A resting array of colorful petro-chemical vessels used in the excavation process form a fleeting and beautiful composition: the contemporary objects rhyme across time with the ceramic shards unearthed there.


by Jane Hirshfield

The arborist has determined:
senescence      beetles      canker
quickened by drought
                           but in any case
not prunable   not treatable   not to be propped.
And so.
The branch from which the sharp-shinned hawks and their mate-cries.
The trunk where the ant.
The red squirrels’ eighty-foot playground.
The bark   cambium   pine-sap   cluster of needles.
The Japanese patterns      the ink-net.
The dapple on certain fish.
Today, for some, a universe will vanish.
First noisily,
then just another silence.
The silence of after, once the theater has emptied.
Of bewilderment after the glacier,
the species, the star.
Something else, in the scale of quickening things,
will replace it,
this hole of light in the light, the puzzled birds swerving around it.

Early Human Migration

Humans have traveled to and inhabited every region of Earth’s landmasses. Theories of early migration track hominins moving from Africa in waves starting about two million years ago with H. erectus, traveling as far as Eurasia. Other archaic humans such as H. heidelbergensis, the likely ancestor of Denisovans and H. neanderthalensis, followed soon after, crossing land bridges soon to be covered by water. However, the remains of archaic species such as H. floresiensis in Indonesia and H. naledi suggests the possibility that these species may be descended from people potentially predating H. erectus, calling into question theories of that species existing as the original pioneering ancestor.  

Modern humans are speculated to have dispersed from Africa around 300,000 years ago, interbreeding with local archaic varieties of human as they reached inner Southeast Asia around 60,000 years ago. What is considered the main wave of modern humans started 55,000 years ago, spreading across the globe. This migratory wave is thought to have ended 4000 years ago in Polynesia. Rapid dispersal across every region of Earth evidences a species that at the very least was curious and committed to movement, if not outright exploration.

Dark Sky Locations

In an age where densely populated cities generate concentrations of light that can be viewed from space, large swaths of populations are divorced from a relationship to the sky. Much of the last generation has never seen a true night sky, with the Milky Way and nebulae fully visible, with their naked eye. Unlike our ancestors who were able to experience and commune with the night sky at will, massive light pollution has moved wider society away from such relationality. Some spaces still honor the importance of a clear sky. Often marked by observatories or remoteness from human activities, Dark Sky Locations deploy strategies similar to national sites of heritage in their organized attempts to cherish a true view of the night sky.

Cerro Pachón, Chile–the site of Vera C. Rubin Observatory–is one of the darkest sky locations. Far from any major city and perched at high altitude with little to no cloud coverage, it is an ideal location for the observatory’s constant sky survey.

Great Blue Hole

Located within Lighthouse Reef, about 43 miles off the shore of Belize, exists the Great Blue Hole. Made popular by Jacques Cousteau in the early 1970s, the 318-meter-wide and 124-meter-deep sinkhole continues to magnetize the collective imagination of people the world over. The sinkhole is relatively young, formed intermittently during Quaternary glaciation periods 153,000, 66,000, 60,000, and 15,000 years ago.


Launched by the European Space Agency from the Guyana Space Center aboard Ariane 5 in 2002, Envisat — short for “environmental satellite” — is now an inactive, eight-ton satellite orbiting the earth every 101 minutes. The largest civilian object in space, the satellite helped make huge leaps in the holistic study of Earth’s systems, including atmospheric chemistry, ozone depletion, oceanography, wind, hydrology, agriculture, hurricane formation, elevation modeling, pollution, cartography, and climate change. In 2012, the satellite lost contact with Earth, but it continues its orbit, which pivots around the North and South Poles, slowly tracking over the entire surface of the planet each year.

Voyager Math Primer

Mathematical definitions, relaying in the most direct terms a set of mathematical precepts —a primer for communication, The drawing was produced by Frank Drake for the Voyager spacecraft Golden Record.

Blue Whale

The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have existed on Earth. There are four blue whale subgroups, the largest growing to nearly 100 feet in length and 173 tons in weight. Though hunted nearly to extinction by the twentieth century, blue whale populations have since rebounded, though they still face significant threats from illegal whaling, collisions with vessels, ocean contamination, and global heating. 

Although researchers have assembled many agreed-upon biological facts about blue whales, little is understood about their lives behaviorally. Further, much of our working knowledge of whales has been re-evaluated as false misunderstandings based on our own myopic anthropocentrism. For instance, as blue whales are generally found alone or in small groups, early researchers surmised inaccurately that they must be asocial. In actuality, echolocation and their excellent sense of hearing — amplified by their claim as one of the loudest animals on Earth and the vast distances sound can travel in salinic ocean water — enable blue whales to communicate with friends, lovers, and relatives up to a thousand miles away.

The Archive

An archive is a collection of stored materials that are preserved around a particular topic, comprising both digital and physical objects. Some archives are living, sustained through generations of collective labor and belief. The scale and scope of archives varies greatly. Some are informally housed in basements, shoeboxes, binders, and spare closets. Others exist institutionally, with codified record-keeping systems, organizational strategies, codes of ethics, and material technologies to ensure the longevity of the artifacts at hand.

Paranal Observatory

The Paranal Observatory ia an array of four telescopes in Chile’s Atacama Desert that includes the famed Very Large Telescope (VLT). Among the lines stacking the observatory's C.V. are: pioneering observation techniques leading to the first direct image of an exoplanet; tracking stars around a supermassive black hole; recording the farthest known gamma-ray source; and serving as a set location for numerous Hollywood films.

Bristlecone Pine

The Pinus longaeva bristlecone variant is a rare tree species found only in the subalpine groves at high altitude in sections of Utah, Nevada, and eastern California. Bristlecone pines are among the longest-living life forms on Earth, with some trees aged over 5000 years. They are particularly well adapted to survive in harsh environments with dry, rocky soil, cold temperatures, high winds, and short growing seasons. These conditions in aggregate serve to slow the tree’s physiology, dialing down metabolic consumption, wherein the tree lives within an envelope of exceedingly slow, steady-state growth, subsisting near the threshold of dormancy.

Ocean Gyre

An unaltered satellite image captured by NASA on July 18, 2018 showing a massive 25-kilometer gyre of phytoplankton in the Gulf of Finland within the Baltic Sea. Although beautiful with its elegant spiral underscoring a morphogenetic baseline for matter in the universe, the recent proliferation of phytoplankton has caused die-offs in the sea, with oxygen levels at lowest point in at least the past 1500 years.

Fingal's Cave

The original Gaelic name for the cave, An Uamh Bhin, translates to “the melodious cave” because the ocean winds seem to sing as they pass through this geologic system. Renamed later for a hero in Irish mythology, the cave structure is composed of a stunning example of hexagonally jointed, vertical basalt columns formed by Paleocene lava flow. The cave architecture feels more in line with a CGI environment than slo-mo geologic creation.


Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock composed mostly of carbon. Coal can be understood as a terrestrial storage vessel of sun energy. The moment it is burned, a hyperbolic release of that energy begins, unleashing in an instant, millions of years of accrued time, in the process distorting time itself.

The formation of coal occurs when dead plant matter decays into peat, and, over millions of years, heat and pressure build, compressing the organic matter into coal. Coal exists in every country with approximately 1.1 trillion metric tons of known reserves.

Deep Time

Our common, lived experience of time is bound within the corporeality of our body and its rhythms. The pull of air in and out of our lungs, the cadence of our heart beating, the distance of our neural connections, and the sum of our experiences as they accrue over a lifetime each affect our sensation of time. ‘Deep Time,’ a catchall for temporal events cast outside of human registration, extend beyond our ability to feel or ‘witness’ them without the aid of a prosthetic. Yet even with whole fields of study to help grapple with extended time horizons—geology, astronomy, archaeology—our ability to feel and understand flows of time outside of ourselves as they extend into deeper duration fields has largely atrophied.


The liminal zone where land and water meet. In its interstitiality, the shoreline proposes a number of unsolvable questions involving measurement. From satellite perspective, the total shoreline of the world measures about 356,000 kilometers. As one zooms in closer to Earth’s surface, however, the fractal quality of the shoreline grows, and with each magnification this cumulative length increases exponentially.

Origins of Burial

Also called inhumation, the earliest remnants of human burial practices indicate an emergent sensibility toward the spiritual importance of interring our dead in the ground. As early as 300,000 years ago, our Stone Age relatives in Southern Africa, Homo naledi, were already involved in elaborate rituals of returning their deceased back to Earth. These burials considered not just sanitation practice, but also ceremony, ritual, care, and a relationship to community and spirit. A wealth of similar evidence trails through thousands of years and cultures, calling forward ritualistic and intentional burials all around the world, which are still being unfolded, deciphered, and practiced.


Apple is a multinational technology company that was instrumental in ushering in the age of personal computing. The company, despite its folkloric beginnings in a suburban California garage, directly employs more than 137,000 people, but its global job footprint in aggregate is well over 10 million, including 2.4 million people in the United States and 4.8 million people in China. About 12,000 people work in the official headquarters in Cupertino, California — a massive circular building (pictured here from satellite) with a one-mile circumference.

Apple was the first company on Earth to be valued at more than one trillion US dollars, and as of early  2021, exceeds two trillion dollars, fiscally exceeding the GDP of all but a handful of wealthy countries. Although Apple is recognized for creating the era of personal computing under the wing of its co-founder and first CEO, Steve Jobs, the company also created a series of diminutive objects that paradigmatically altered the technological landscape, in process re-composing the nature of lived experience in much of the world. Perhaps no device has been more significant than the iPhone — a small, networked, touch-screen device released in 2007 during our still-nascent, utopian understanding of technology, its powers, and its possibilities. 

Surpassing the discrete artifacts created by the company, the Apple brand, in its vast reach and global ubiquity, supersedes any one person, object, store, or factory, even surpassing the company’s extreme monetary evaluation. Its scale of operations is aligned with planetary processes, tectonic in scale, a pure hyperobject materially influencing global systems, from mining operations in West Papua and Mongolia to vast supply-chain networks crisscrossing the earth and geo-politics. The company, when understood through its vast, disambiguated flows of energy, is astonishing in its aggregate power as a single entity.


Archaeology exists as an umbrella holding an entire subset of disciplines dedicated to uncovering time across different registers, such as Archaeoastronomy, Acoustic Archaeology, Experimental Archaeology, Future Archaeology, and New Archaeology. Archaeology is the study of history and prehistory using materials that have been excavated from Earth. Anchored by material culture, the field uses everything from organic remains to manufactured objects in order to grasp at the deep timelines and stories congealed in our present. Historically, the discipline has been extractive, rubbing against the many ethical quandaries related to excavating burial remains and sacred artifacts. Embedded in the practice is also the sensitivity of deciding who will steward objects, tend to their material condition, and properly contextualize and share their cultural meanings.

A Wave

A wave is a momentary object formed by the interaction of wind and the surface of a large body of water (though waves can also emerge from earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, or tidal forces as Earth and the Moon interact gravitationally). In each case, a wave is a vehicle that transports energy elsewhere. The classic morphology of a wave begins to achieve its pronounced form as it approaches shallow waters. A shoreline’s physical relief in large part determines the natural rhythm of the waves. Waves generally travel in caravans of twelve or sixteen, with swells quietly self-organizing miles out into the sea before rising to crescendo, crashing, and finally dissolving.

Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication

A collection of scholarly essays commissioned by NASA in 2014 navigating the challenges that will face humanity in the event of extraterrestrial contact and the ensuing attempts at meaningful communication. This publication draws on the expertise of individuals beyond the usual scope of astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, wisely drawing in contemporary anthropologists, cultural historians, semioticians, and archaeologists into the inquiry.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

A map by Bruce Heezen and famed geologist and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp, issued by National Geographic in 1968, shows in exaggerated detail the world’s largest mountain range — the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. A massive divergent underwater plate boundary running nearly pole to pole, the ridge evinces the Earth's tectonic subconscious, a primordial waltz where the North American, Eurasian, South American, and African plates collide and make contact. Rhythmic, repeated striations run parallel to the ridge. Each is a timestamp marked in molten magnesium and basalt recording the Earth’s pole shift events: slow, continual switches in its magnetic field, dictated by the dynamic and mysterious interior life of the planet.


Spirals can be found in structures at all scales within the natural world. Bracketing these limits might be, on the one side, billions of spiral galaxies scattered within the cosmos and, on the other, the shape of DNA within all living things. In between these poles exists a boundless material expression of the spiral in form: the gestalt of hurricanes, a chameleon’s tail, phyllotaxis plant growth, unfurling fern fronds, countless shells — including whelks, periwinkles, top shells, limpets, nautiluses, and snails — pine cones, and delicate looping contours of human inner ears.

Growth Rings

The transversal view of a tree exposes its growth rings. Using dendrochronology, we can decode the tree's inner life, including its age, exact year of formation, and history of fire, seasonal weather patterns, disease, climate change and more. In periods of fast growth in the spring, trees form an outer light ring, while periods of slower growth in the autumn are responsible for the dark rings. These rings are used by paleoclimatologists to study past climate conditions as far back as 10,000 years ago. 

The notion of growth rings for moderns is ubiquitous, but knowledge of these rings is not mentioned in the historical record until 300 BCE, in Greece, when advanced metallurgical techniques emerged that could produce saw blades capable of cutting small trees.

Archaeological Excavation

An archaeological excavation is a chosen site where layers of Earth are slowly dusted back to expose objects interred within the Earth. These objects are carefully, even fetishistically, cataloged. Over the last decades, sites have often been left intentially unfinished as offerings to future people. These deferrals honor a hope for yet-to-be-developed technologies and more considered ideologies to spur higher fidelity excavations, generations down the line. One such recent advancement has been the use of AI-assisted sonar technology, offering a promise of less destructive digging by 3D mapping interred objects—even those traditionally considered unreachable—without the destruction of direct excavation.

Earth’s Magnetic Field

Scientists model the flow patterns of Earth’s liquid outer core in a period of normal polarity; the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, however, presents periods of magnetic abnormality in its magma striping. Here, blue lines are magnetic fields that point toward the center, while yellow away.

This flow pattern generates the Earth’s magnetic field: as convection motions caused by differences in pressure, temperature and composition cause the iron components of Earth’s core to flow, the Coriolis effect forces these into whirlpools. This motion generates an electric current that, in turn, produces the magnetic field.


Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, known familiarly as Siegfried & Roy, were German-American magicians made famous by their feline stage companions, often white lions and tigers. During a 2003 performance, a white Bengal tiger named Mantecore mauled Roy, severing his spine and nearly causing him to bleed to death. The event led to the cancellation of the duo’s show at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas and effectively ended their careers.

The moment of contact between Mantecore and Roy can be viewed deterministically as an inevitable live-action metaphor, in which the animal’s activated agency lives in response to a human — and especially Euro-American colonialist — desire to control nature and to re-contour its inherent wildness; to tame, dominate, and possess it.

In 2020, Roy died of complications from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.


At its simplest, shelter is a found or constructed proto-architectural structure for habitation. It is a zone that shields us from a degree of danger, real or perceived, while increasing one’s comfort, however slight. On one side of the spectrum, shelter can exist as a ready-made creation of Earth–like rock shelters and caves–or as a skeletal architecture that provides a simple roof with otherwise no separation from the exterior world. At its most insular, shelter can incorporate a cascade of increasingly industrial technologies to build more complete removal from the exterior world: concrete walls, climate control, piped in/out water supply, and custom zones for highly specific activities.

Environmental Personhood

Related to New Animism, environmental personhood is a legal process wherein an object or an assemblage of objects become legally recognized as individuals, with all the rights commensurate with personhood. Some entities that have attained personhood include Mount Taranaki, in New Zealand (pictured above); the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, in India; the Vilcabamba River, in Ecuador; and the Atrato River, in Colombia. The legal process is controversial, though becoming less rare, as communities and activists left with little recourse to protect the environment use the law as a conservation tactic.

Albert Ayler

Albert Ayler was a saxophonist and leading innovator within 60's era Free Jazz. Ayler’s incendiary compositions quoted simple brass marching band rhythms and gospel hymns, dotted with delirious repetition often bending into berserk tonal breakdowns. His compositions referenced a spiritual horizon underscored by short, evocative titles: Spirits, Vibrations, Saints, Mothers, Children, Angels, Bells, Spirits Rejoice, and Holy Family. He often performed the same group of compositions again and again, searching not laterally, but for deeper reserves within each new improvisation.

In 1967, he performed with his brother, Donald, at John Coltrane's funeral in New York City delivering perhaps the most moving performance ever recorded - Love Cry. The 6 minute work crescendos with Ayler entering vocally, wailing, shouting; simultaneously channelling joy, rapture, and terror.


Considered a megacity, Chongqing is home to more than 8.5 million people and is nested within a larger municipality of nearly 30 million people. Winding through Chongqing is the ancient Yangtze River, an important source of water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, and industry since the region's continuous settlement starting in 316 BCE.


Belief in ghosts predates written language. Embedded deeply within our oldest belief systems, folklore traditions, and organized religions, ghosts continue to grip us in the modern age. Superstitions and beliefs leaning on the existence of ghosts usually center around the death of an individual, the dead’s spirit claiming a ghostly presence. Ghosts, being elusive, typically displace no volumetric space, yet can claim psychogeographic hold over a place. They are weightless, yet in certain forms, like a poltergeist, can exert material force creating physical disturbances.

Ghosts, in their occupation of extra-dimensional spiritual space and prevalence across history, hint at humans' preoccupation with the afterlife and a quest toward pattern-finding and meaning-making. In this way, ghosts and hauntings are a convenient vessel to attribute any number of unknown forces or events. Ghosts, like shadows or echoes, define in the abstract the contours and limits of human knowledge. Real or imagined, actual or metaphor, they add vital texture to a living world by prompting a contemplation of the interdimensional qualities of consciousness, linking us to ancient and alternative systems of knowledge.


Scale is a human construct used to help understand the size of objects in relation to other objects and ourselves. Even as “scale” can be a powerful cognitive tool, it also exists as an overarching hegemonic system constraining how we imagine and perceive realities—our bodies being the conductor of this hegemony.

If we allow ourselves the psychic latitude to pause the belief that our own physical thresholds and sensorial capacities represent guideposts for true ontological limits, and begin reorchestrating an imaginary based on the inevitability of infinitely larger and infinitely smaller spaces, we obliviate our bodies as proxies to reality. We enter into peace with spaces, distances, and scales of time that surpass comfortable notions of ourselves, of being human. At this moment, the profound strangeness and beauty of Earth finds space to rush in.


Hominids encompass all types of Great Apes in the Hominidae family, including their extinct immediate ancestors. Species such as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans characterize the traits and morphology–bipedalism, bilateral symmetry, two arms and two legs–that distinguish hominids as a subcategory of primates. Humans also notably comprise this family, alongside our extinct subspecies: Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and more.

Video Home System

Most information we consume today will never possess a fixed material form. The Video Home System, or VHS, was the first widely available consumer technology for playing and recording on magnetic video tape. First mass-produced at an accessible price point in the 1970s, VHS brought about a paradigm shift in home media distribution, consumption, and creation. For the first time, moving images, imprinted on 800 feet of magnetic ribbon and bound in a rectangular plastic shell, were physical things—to be held, owned, stored, duplicated, edited, recorded over, and erased.

Despite industry-driven hysteria over piracy, VHS was massively profitable for film and television. The introduction of the technically superior optical disc format (DVD) in the mid-1990s marked the slow beginning of the end of VHS. And though the format became outmoded at the turn of the century, VHS players were still manufactured until 2016. 

The cassettes also proved to be fragile and temperamental. Strange fluctuations in sound, tape speed, and static—the result of simply existing in Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic fields—required constant attention and adjustment. Now, the once-ubiquitous medium, 40 years and several billion VHS tapes later, turns landfills and basements into graveyard archives, plastic husks intact but inner spools rotting.


Sony Corporation is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Tokyo. As of 2020, its diversified business includes consumer and professional electronics, semiconductors, entertainment, financial services, and gaming. In 1970 Sony was the first Japanese company with shares in the New York Stock Exchange. The company owns the largest music entertainment business in the world (Sony Music Entertainment founded in 1992), the largest video game console business (Sony Computer Entertainment 1993, expanding to America in 1994 and Europe), and one of the largest video game publishing businesses. From 1968 to early 2000’s, Sony produced a continuum of successful and revolutionary consumer electronic devices including the Trinitron television (1968), the 3.5-inch floppy disc format (1981), the CDP-101 compact disc player (1992), the TC-50 cassette recorder (1969), the Walkman TPS-L2 (1979), the JumboTron (1985), and the Blu-ray format (2003). With its diversified offerings, globalized market, and intimate reach into the fabric of daily life, Sony’s presence reaches that of other massive global brands across time: the Catholic Church, the Dutch East India Company, and Apple.

The Observatory

The origins of astromnical observatories exist in our very own somas. The most basic observatory is the act of simply looking up at the sky, establishing a relationship between our bodies and the light-objects above us. At its most complex, the observatory functions as a high-tech tool at the limits material complexity — a big-data medium capturing and beaming images to astronomer's computers the world over.

The most simple observatory beyond the human eye is the astronomical sextant. A relatively simple device, it was used to measure the distance between stars in the sky and help with navigation. On a beautiful and grander scale is Stonehenge, an observatory which aligns with the sun on the summer solstice. In the Ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu an observatory used two, human-made lakes to mirror the night sky, lining up different constellations at different times of the year.


According to Karen Barad, human touch is but an electromagnetic interaction. Devoid of physical contact, touch involves sensing electromagnetic repulsion between the surfaces of yourself and another, between one object and another. In this technical cul-de-sac, however, there exists an infinitude of potential to sense, feel, and be moved. As Barad writes, “So much happens in a touch: an infinity of others—other beings, other spaces, other times—are aroused.” A touch’s momentary union unleashes a sense of corporeal belonging, transformation, and co-creation, reaching beyond a discreet moment of contact’s seemingly ephemeral reach.

Ants Form a Circle

The observation of ants gathering around a droplet of water highlights some baseline morphological principles of matter. Smaller water drops are pulled into a larger spherical shape by the cohesive forces of its surface layer. This surface tension is the result of the tendency of water molecules to attract one another, while also finding the smallest surface area, resulting in a round, spherical shape.


A birthday is the celebration of the calendar day each person emerged on the planet—our day of birth. It takes slightly more than one year (365.25 days) for Earth to complete a revolution around the Sun. Our birthdays mark the celestial alignment of the Sun and Earth, echoing the identical position each year of the moment we were born. Birthdays are historical crossings, where we collect another year of life celebrated with individual gatherings, gift-giving, and special food, but it is one we share in unison with 21 million other people on Earth who were born the exact same day, celebrating with us the world over.


Pangea is the earth's most recent major supercontinent—the congealed, momentary meta-continent composed of the planet’s currently distributed land masses. The supercontinent was centered on the equator and surrounded by the superocean Panthalassa. Pangea assembled 335 million years ago from earlier continental units including Laurentia, Baltica, and Gondwana, which had previously broken off from the preceding supercontinent Pannotia. Pangea began to break apart into the present-day continents 175 million years ago, with Australia being the last continent to cleave from the Arctic around 55-60 million years ago. The formation and separation of landmasses is understood in terms of plate tectonics. Today, the breakup continues in the Red Sea Rift and East African Rift. Future major supercontinents are predicted to emerge in 250 million years.    

Pangea and its steady slo-mo morphological transmutation over billions of years evidences vast  expanses of temporal variability occurring simultaneously on Earth. Imagine the lifespan of a fairy fly, an insect barely larger than the period at the end of this sentence: its birth, growth, reproduction, and death compressed within just a few turns of Earth on its axis.

The Sun

Earth’s daystar: From our terrestrial vantage, the Sun is a blazing alien disk that predictably traverses the sky, warming and lighting all before slipping beneath the horizon. Its observable skypath and pitch are consistent year over year, but change subtly each day, quietly announcing Earth's journey around the star with respect to its axial tilt. 

All life on Earth has a co-evolved dependency with the sun, its consistent nuclear forces distributing to us just a tiny fraction of its total heat-energy production from some 93 million miles away. All life, from the microbial Proterozoic to multicellular Cambrian explosions, the megafauna of the Mesozoic, and our lives within the Anthropocene, are beholden to the Sun.

As we look out our window this evening to commune with the Sun setting over the horizon, we can easily imagine our early archaic ancestors a mere two million years ago witnessing an identical solar event. Watching the orb grow strange, elliptical, large, red, low. Shadows elongating toward eventual darkness. Though we might consider this sunset-event as a singular moment of the day, it is occurring continuously as a circadian wave wrapping around the Earth in perpetuity. Within each object, stone, plant, being, and building is located a hidden memory-core indexing this rhythmic moment in common communion with our 4.6 billion-year-old sun.

The Uninhabited Zone

The South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Zone is a vast expanse of water surrounding the oceanic pole of inaccessibility, or Point Nemo — the farthest point from all land masses, and by proxy from all people on Earth. This portion of isolated ocean, informally referred to as “spacecraft cemetery,” has made an ideal pan-national reentry point to crash-land retired orbiting objects from space. In contrast with the limitless horizons of water where time persists unchanged, miles below the ocean’s surface rests more than 260 classified spacecraft and satellites — machinic objects of intense but momentary desire — each marking the limit of technological possibility for their time.

Prayag Kumbh Mela

A sacred Hindu gathering held in Allahabad, India, at the Triveni Sangam. The site is the confluence of two physical rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna, as well as a third mythical river, the Saraswati. The most recent ceremony in 2013 saw more than 120 million visitors over two months, including more than 30 million in a single day, making it the world’s largest human gathering ever recorded. Held every twelve years, the next full Kumbh Mela is planned for 2025.


We descend from others. Ancestors are our shared antecedents, tracing an unbroken chain of survival linking ourselves to our parents, their parents, and parents’ parents. This leads us back to somewhere in the Cambrian Explosion, to a single common ancestor for every living being on Earth.


CosmicOS, is one of various language systems designed by the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) community in attempts to develop a mode of communication with intelligent extraterrestrial life. CosmicOS was inspired by Hans Freudenthal's Lincos language system that functions using mathematical principles and logic. The message is written with only four basic symbols representing the binary digits ‘one’ and ‘zero,’ and open and close brackets.

Hurricane Lane

Shown here is an image of Hurricane Lane, a Category 5 tropical cyclone which existed for 14 days in 2018 in the Pacific Ocean, eventually making landfall on Hawaii. Hurricanes are emergent weather events that gain strength based on a number of macro-scale forces: the Earth’s spin, oceanic warming patterns, and a combination of cool temperatures and high humidity in the lower to middle troposphere. The formation of the central eye relays visibly that the weather event has achieved full coherency, maturing into its short but powerfully destructive life as one of Earth's most massive objects.

Emergence of Water

How water emerged on Earth has been a mystery to researchers, though a number of theories exist. One posits that water didn't so much emerge on Earth as accumulate through trillions of meteorite impacts, each containing some amount of water. The Allende meteorite fell in Mexico in 1969 and has helped support the science behind the theory of asteroidal water. The idea that water — the defining substance of Earth from which all biotic life has evolved — is actually extraterrestrial in origin challenges a set of presumptive origin myths and links all earthly life more directly to the larger cosmos.

Perfect World

Prescribing to the many-worlds hypothesis, there exists a conceivable version of the world split off from the one in which you are reading this caption right now. In this new speculative world, given some baseline, agreed-upon criteria (such as the elimination of unnecessary suffering, maximal flourishing for all living entities, harmonic scaling, etc.), there exists objectively a most perfect version.  

Even in the entirely imperfect world that we all exist in currently, we manage to catch momentary glimpses of perfection at the scale of our bodies — a split second where total rightness flashes before us. The moment is fleeting, fragile, lasting for a second or two at most.


The limits of capitalism are bound only by the limits of its internal coding toward ultimate oblivion — the death drive. The system imposes a total, global, hegemonic framework that structures nearly all social, economic, and political life on Earth. Capitalism necessitates the pursuit of more, no matter its collateral damage to lives, love, and ecologies. Nothing is too much or ever enough. And as it stands, the horizon of perpetual growth within capitalism's frame of unlogic is predetermined: palliative doom. 

Degrowth is an urgent corrective, an expansive practical ethos of less and better. A simple philosophical pivot, from maximum profit to human thriving, a shift away from anti-human velocities and accelerationist terminus to sustainable speeds and methodologies recognizing that all actions create reactions. Dominos fall; reduce production, distribute resources proportionally, and sustain the environment. Activate new multitudes, new communities, new ways of relating, communicating, and building by leveraging the latent potential of what already is.


Harboring the world's southern magnetic pole, the icy landmass is the world's driest, coldest, windiest, highest, and most sparsely populated continent. Although it congregates a global hub of research stations led by 29 nations, the 1959 Antarctic Treaty denies any nation’s claims to its land and with it bans all military activity, mining, and nuclear research.

Carrara Marble Quarry

Intricate quarries cutting deep into the Apuan Alps within the city of Carrara, Italy, have been continuously operated since the early second century CE. In total, the quarries have produced more marble than any other location on Earth. The famed white and blue-gray stone has been transported all over the world, from India to the Philippines, from the United States to the United Kingdom. Viewed abstractly, the mountain can be seen as having exploded into atomized fragments now the world over: a suburban kitchen countertop, a vast tiled floor in a mall in Chengdu, a prized sculpture from antiquity in a museum in Southern Africa, the Titanic’s sunken interiors at the bottom of the Atlantic, or trashed slabs in a St. Petersburg landfill. The marble, a durable material cipher, is a global-scale, archaeo-crumb trail precisely mapping human desires and waves of globalism.


Life on Earth represents an emergent property of the cosmic energy received from the Sun. The conversion of solar energy into complex biologic life underscores efficiency as a driver of evolution, as this principle creates competitive advantage in the contest among organisms for energy.

Bipedalism as an evolved trait in hominins has been connected to advanced tool use, sight enhancement, and extended reach (in both a causal and consequent capacity, or as both a causal and consequent factor), all of which served as possible competitive advantages. Recent studies also highlight energy efficiency as a potential contributing evolutionary factor, as bipedalism uses 75 percent less energy than quadrupedalism. However, this advantage is effectively zeroed-out as soon as cadence shifts to bipedal running, which is 75 percent less efficient than walking.


For every location on Earth, there exists its antipode; a tandem geo-position living directly opposite on the far-side of the planet. An antipode identifies two specific points on the Earth's surface as if a tunnel was bored between them, connecting the two points through a straight line. An antipode is a kind of shadow, sister location — one by definition the furthest away possible — following everywhere underfoot, pivoting precisely at Earth's fulcrum-core. 

Although the continents are in continuous slo-mo drift pulling apart only to collide again, in Earth’s current geomorphic state, relatively few land-to-land antipodal connections exist. This underscores Earth's watery surface, but also the peculiarity of our current continental configurations.

Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory

In the Andes Mountains, Cerro Tololo rises 9000 feet above sea level and is crowned by a cluster of 14 intensely powerful astronomical telescopes built since 1963. The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) hinges upon the cooperation and partnership of a consortium of international institutions. At any moment, the site is host to dozens of researchers and astronomers from around the world, making its remote regional location in the Andes all the more unique and improbable.

Enewetak Atoll

This coral atoll consists of 40 islands and is part of the Ralik Chain of the Marshall Islands. Inhabited as early as 1000 BCE, Enewetak Atoll was used as a primary nuclear testing ground from 1946 to 1958 for the United States. On the atoll's easterly edge lies the Runit Dome, a massive concrete dome completed in 1980 to bury an estimated 73,000 cubic meters of radioactive material.


Memes are a de facto mode of communication for generations reared since the popularization of the internet. The meme exists both as a pathway to specific information and as an entrance to a club, with the ability to decode a meme offering proof of access. Because memes exist within an endless web of self-referentiality, the ability to decipher a meme can require hours, if not years, of accumulated attention, tracking more and more subdivided and arcane annals of popular internet culture. 

The meme pictured leans on the myth of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The format consists simply of four quadrants, each a representation for the horsemen’s plagues: famine, war, death, and pestilence. In this much discussed variant from 2017, famine is depicted as Tide Pods; war as Ugandan Knuckles; death as Logan Paul; and pestilence as the “lost spaghet.” With precise vectorial knowledge, one can unlock the meme and gain access to a complex, long-form joke, albeit one with an exceedly short shelf life.


Archaeoastronomy is the interdisciplinary field that merges the study of the sky with analysis of how the sky has determined ancient cultural patterns, behaviors, and methods. As a study, it also focuses on symbols and myths that are born from the sky.

One of the largest areas of study included in archaeoastronomy is the link between astronomy and agriculture in ancient civilizations. In the ancient capital of the Tawantinsuyu, Machu Picchu, an observatory was built using two man-made lakes as mirrors to the night sky. These proto-mirrors let the Incans know what seasons were approaching by analyzing how the constellations lined-up in the lakes. These constellations were uniquely viewed in concert with dark patches–nebulae or dark clouds — in the milky way to form the images of animals that would represent the seasons.


“Every generation confronts the task of choosing its past. Inheritances are chosen as much as they are passed on. The past depends less on 'what happened then' than on the desires and discontents of the present. Strivings and failures shape the stories we tell. What we recall has as much to do with the terrible things we hope to avoid as with the good life for which we yearn. But when does one decide to stop looking to the past and instead conceive of a new order? When is it time to dream of another country or to embrace other strangers as allies or to make an opening, an overture, where there is none? When is it clear that the old life is over, a new one has begun, and there is no looking back? From the holding cell was it possible to see beyond the end of the world and to imagine living and breathing again?”

Saidiya Hartman, from “Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route”


A mine is the enduring anthro-morphological imprint on and below Earth’s surface as a result of the systematic excavation of geological materials — precious metals, minerals, elements, rare earth matter, gemstones, and rock — that were distributed throughout the Earth’s crust at the time of its formation. Mines, then, are our archaeological legacy, a robust and time-stamped record of insatiable development, expansion, and material transmutation. The process of extracting these non-renewable resources is degenerative and polluting, with lasting negative environmental impacts. 

There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when the planet has been completely stripped of its original deposits, skinned and barren. The twisting, esoteric, once-buzzing subterranean pockmarks will go dormant, yet humans’ thirst for resources will not. One possible scenario, albeit with apocalyptic undertones, will be that resource extraction will simply pivot to landfill mining, beginning a second wave of mining operations that some researchers posit we are already slouching toward. An alternate if decidedly sci-fi horizon is the no longer nascent prospect of interplanetary mining operations.

Animal Mourning

Mourning is the outward display of grief over the loss of an entity important to the mourner. Historically, Western scientific orthodoxy forwarded the notion that animals lack the necessary intelligence to emote and grieve. Our lag in understanding (or misunderstanding) of animal grief can be attributed to lack of non-anecdotal data, but also our built-in anthropological biases, which can short-circuit cross-species empathic understanding. 

Many animals have been observed showing signs of grief, including crows, ravens, dolphins, orcas, and chimps. Elephants have powerful contact calls that can be heard and recognized by members of their herd miles away. When researchers played field recordings of a deceased elephant’s call, herd members ran with urgency toward the sound. Upon arriving to only a speaker broadcasting sounds, their excitement switched to confusion and sadness. This emotive reaction was witnessed two years after the elephant’s death.

When researchers told Koko—a captive western gorilla famed for her use of sign language—that her friend, a kitten, had been struck by a vehicle, she ignored them for ten minutes, after which she signed "bad, sad, bad," "frown, cry, frown, sad, trouble," and “kitty, sleep.” Later researchers heard her imitating the sound of human weeping.

Alex, a gray parrot who was the subject of a 30-year experiment in avian learning, showed the emotional intelligence of a toddler. Falling suddenly ill, his last words revealed a self-awareness of his own abstract mortality: “You be good, I love you, see you tomorrow.”


Whaling describes the deliberate hunting of whales for food and resources. The industry evolved from a subsistence practice in coastal communities to a sophisticated and insatiable globalized paracolonial industry. Fleets of ships crossed vast oceans in pursuit of a diminishing extranatural resource to power empires back home.

The hunt and ship-based rendering process bridges the pathological: Men with spears and hooks butcher mammals that dwarf them in size; a slightly larger ship groans under the weight of a fresh kill; hours or even days pass while refining—cutting, burning and melting—the carcass to its viable component parts.

The uses for those whale parts (bones, meat, blubber) were varied and, though vital for a time, quickly obsolesced in the marketplace. Whale meat today is riddled with carcinogens and heavy metals, the by-products and markers of the Anthropocene, which whaling played an essential part in creating, effectively forming a material feedback loop. The primary export, whale oil, was a sort of skeleton key to modernity, powering steam engines and lamps; lubricating wristwatches, skillets, and automotive transmissions; cleaning factory floors; and serving as a salve for trench foot.

The Round House

Designed by architects Evgeny Stamo and Alexander Markelov, this 1972 structure in Moscow, Russia, is a stunning example of circular architecture, and it was almost certainly part of the Foster + Partners mood board for their design of the $5 billion Apple Park in Cupertino, California.

Global Governance

The image depicts the United Nations Flag adopted in 1946 following WWII and signing of the UN Charter by 50 countries. The concept of an intergovernmental body with global representation that allows sovereignty to individual countries, people and nature while harnessing its collective energy toward greater cooperation, friendship, while creating a harmonized network able to better tackle complex global-scale matters-all with the eye toward human and planetary flourishing. Historically, and at present, there have been many speculative bodies proposed with constitutions and charters with differing degrees of soft reach or hard power.


Just as matter self-organizes into extremely small and extremely large objects, time — existing alongside these masses — cleaves into a spectrum of durational possibilities. Deep time events (e.g. an ancient glacier slowly carving a valley, mineralized water dripping to form primordial cathedrals within the earth) grant us access to vast expanses of expired time, showing that time is a force itself, slowly moving and shaping continents, as if fluid.

Time, as a measurable durational unit, also continues to get smaller as we continue to quantify and measure it. The microsecond (a millionth of a second) led to nanoseconds (billionths of a second), then to picoseconds (trillionths) in the 1970s and ’80s. Researchers now can easily reach into the realm of femtoseconds — one quadrillionth, or a millionth of a billionth, of a second. This timescale is precise enough to measure motions within molecules.

By shrinking what is possible to measure temporally, we in parallel inch toward understanding that durations — however small or large — cannot constrain the possibility for events to occur. As humans begin to map time events that exist far outside our sensorial registry, we speculatively engage with expanding our capacity for perception.


A chainsaw, among the most powerful and destructive handheld objects humans have invented. Its acrid fumes and sick garbled chant echoed the world over, clearing ancient forests for hamburger meat, soy milk, palm oil, or subdivisions. Its relatively simple design — a flexible cutting ‘chain’ spun at high speeds around a metal shaft propelled mostly by refined petroleum — has allowed millions of units to be sold a year. This ubiquity has produced inevitable pop culture offshoots with the ecological horrors elicited by the object's intended function, parreling the human carnage it reaps within horror films such as the Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises.

The first prototypes for propelled, flexible saws were designed in the 1830’s for doctors to remove diseased bones. But on the horizon were technological advances that would unlock stored energy reserves within petroleum, in lockstep opening the door for the invention of chainsaws for felling trees. First patented by Andreas Stihl in 1929, early petrol powered chainsaws were massive, cumbersome two-person machines. Following WWII, with the invention of lighter weight alloyed metals and more efficient motors, more effective one-person machines could be mass produced and marketed. Their relative speed and efficiency significantly changed the nature of the timber industry, as a single human equipped with a chainsaw and a gallon of fuel could clearcut acres of forest — 1000’s of years of accrued growth — in a single day.


Mountains are large geological forms rising above a prevailing flatland (or seafloor) created over vast durations of time through tectonic forces or volcanism. Although mountains appear to humans as stoic, inert entities, they continue to imperceptibly change due to erosion, Earth’s viscous molten mantle, and the primordial waltz of massive tectonic plates. These plates can collide into terrifyingly tall and craggy peaks, like the Balkan Mountains, or separate enough for interred lava to erupt and cool, as in Naatsisʼáán, or Navajo Mountain. Additionally, ancient glaciers, now long since retreated to the Earth’s poles, slowly carved other mountains over millennia. 

Mountains also exist as a psychogeography, occupying a special zone of human imagination, in part because of the inherent difficulties in traversing them. The danger, laboriousness, and oftentimes impossibility of physical visitation creates a psychic vacuum wherein mountains become zones where imagined realities and forces can be projected. Mythologically, mountain peaks are the realms of gods, mythical creatures, magic wielders, and forces and forms that exist on the edge of known and unknown.


Forecasting is an ancient process of making predictions about the future based on available data from the past and present. Tens of thousands of years ago, as human populations shifted from hunter-gatherer communities to more complex agrarian societies, more reliable methods of prediction rose according to societal sophistication. Understanding predictive seasonal rhythms necessary for cyclical farming, i.e. when to plow, seed, grow, sow, and preserve, was an early form of forecasting that lived in parallel to mystical divination techniques performed by shamen, fortune tellers, psychics, oracles, clairvoyants, witches, and prophets. With continual shifts in technology, the roles of those collectively agreed upon within a society to vision and foretell possible futures has changed in lockstep. 

Modern forecasting is increasingly done computationally with massive datasets capable of revealing more latent patterning and trends. Although an algorithmic process might appear novel, the computer, aided by satellites and globally networked, real-time systems, is simply the most modern tool of divination — an outgrowth of systems that have included cards, crystals, rods, runes, tea leaves, bones, sky charts, calendars, folklore, religion, statistics, and more.

An Island

An island is an often isolated landmass completely surrounded by water. The exact number of islands on Earth — ranging in size from Greenland to Palau’s Little Rock (pictured) — is unknown, though it numbers well into the millions. Of these millions, only about 11,000 islands are known to be inhabited by humans.


A talisman is an enchanted object that has acquired extra-material properties that seem to exist beyond its here-and-now physical reality. Customarily, the purpose of a talisman can be highly specific, such as protection from a defined threat, a blessing for a deliberate act, an invocation of a specific element. However, it is also common for talismans to exist as wholesale charms, channeling a battery of powers in the broadest sense such as healing, protection, good fortune, and enlightenment.  

In popular culture, talismans are often misrepresented as blind faith in the occult, rather than a rational appeal to an incomprehensible universe. The talisman exists solidly within the ancient practice of sculpture-making, crafting matter into other, while imbuing the material world with new resonance beyond the optical.

New Animism

Much has been written about the legal status of personhood (see environmental personhood) conferred to objects within nature. Taken alone or in part with other forms of nouveau spiritualism, or reapplied to new materialist philosophies, this legal process could be interpreted as evidence of an emergent form of animism.

With the Age of Enlightenment, humans began unraveling the inner life of matter, and with it, Western intellectual orthodoxies shifted in lockstep away from long held strains of animist thinking. As technologies developed, natural systems became more deeply aggregated; the singular body became a container of organs. Those organs derived from tissues. Tissues broke into cells, which revealed molecules and then atoms. More advances invited entrance into a subatomic world of protons and quarks and bosons. 

Historically, with each new stage of scientific aggregation, we depart from more fully communing or being at peace with an enchanted whole. New Animism suggests a re-assembly of these knowable parts into a singular unit — one that doesn’t dispense with accrued knowledges of the material world (be it folk or scientific) but polishes these newly revealed facets crystalline, turning matter into something uniquely kaledescopic, powerful, and strange.

Twelve Earths Glyph

The glyph was designed by artist Michael Jones McKean with consultation from Jeremiah Chiu. The design leans heavily on the use of the circle within symbology to represent the whole. Bisecting the circle is a straight vertical line denoting the equator. Twelve smaller circles populate the outer diameter, representing each site along the line. The relative spacing between each of these outer circles, although approximate, echoes the actual distance between sites relative to each other along the ring.

Diesel Generator

A generator's function is to unlock energy stored within a petro-state, converting it so that it may be consumed electrically. Objects powered by electricity—air conditioner units, laptops, microwaves, server farms—feed off this ancient reserve of compressed time, creating a hyperbolic release. The overabundance of released energy distorts time, as it has existed on the planet, and in the process destabilizes Earth-scale systems reliant on stability, resulting in shifts such as climate change.

Tehching Hsieh | Earth

On December 31, 1986, after five sequential one-year performances staged in and around New York City, artist Tehching Hsieh released a characteristically enigmatic letter stating that he had a thirteen-year plan. During that time he would make art but not show it, and this work would conclude on his 49th birthday, the eve of the new millennium. Along with this short missive, he released an image listing the span of years bookending the project, along with the word “EARTH.” He then largely disappeared from public life. 

Hsieh emerged on January 1, 2000, releasing a simple, text-based collage that read, “I kept myself alive. I passed the Dec 31, 1999.” For all of Hseih’s legendarily intense rigor, this new work, in its outward laissez-faire formlessness, alienated many of his admirers, who considered it a footnote to his earlier performances. 

Over time, the piece in its scope and simple terms — living on Earth; staying alive; experiencing time and life directly, unperturbed by the framing machinations of performed gestures — is one of the most misunderstood, enigmatic, and important artworks of the last century.

The Lapedo Child's Pendants