Readers
Shadow-Time
9 essays
Compiled by Cristina Parreño Alonso

The Coronavirus pandemic has thrown many of us into a state of disorientation, laden with uncertainties. Crossing vastly different temporal scales, our concerns range from our own immediate survival to existential questions raised by illness and death at planetary scales; from the impact that shutdowns and imminent global recession have on a personal level to the possibly longterm implications of the current reduction of CO2 emissions for planet Earth.

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality defines Shadow Time as “a parallel timescale that follows one around throughout day-to-day experience of regular time”; or “acute consciousness of the possibility that the near future will be drastically different than the present.”

As the urgent and fast-moving crisis of this pandemic intersects with the also urgent but much slower-moving crisis of climate change, will the human experience of Shadow Time contribute to a more time-literate society? Will we humans be capable of expanding our temporal sensibilities to embrace a more poly-temporal worldview? Will we be able to deeply understand and mentally inhabit the geologic time scales at which our own human activities and actions are operating today?

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Trevor Paglen
Fedorov’s Geographies of Time
Originally published in February 2018

Can we resurrect the people who have not been born yet, but who nevertheless died prematurely due to environmental devastation, hunger, racism, and inequality? Perhaps by learning from Fedorov to think about time as a landscape—one that we shape in the same way that we shape the earth’s surface—we can develop a framework for thinking some of our most urgent crises.

Oxana Timofeeva
The End of the World: From Apocalypse to the End of History and Back
Originally published in June 2014

Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist—I really believe he is Antichrist—I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my “faithful slave,” as you call yourself!
—Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Sotirios Bahtsetzis
The Time That Remains, Part I: On Contemporary Nihilism
Originally published in October 2011

Art is the distinctive countermovement to nihilism.

—Martin Heidegger

Raqs Media Collective
Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time
Originally published in September 2011

To ask a human being to account for time is not very different from asking a floating fragment of plankton to account for the ocean. How does the plankton bank the ocean?

Anton Vidokle and Hito Steyerl
Cosmic Catwalk and the Production of Time
Originally published in May 2017

A painting by Klee called Angelus Novus depicts an angel moving backwards, away from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. This is how the Angel of History must look. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment to awaken the dead and piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, towards which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. This storm is what we call progress.
—Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”

Franco “Bifo” Berardi
Game Over
Originally published in May 2019

Environmental collapse, global civil war, nuclear proliferation, and epidemics of panic and depression are steps towards extinction. But this is not the end of the world, since abstraction has created a world of its own, subsuming social language and prescribing the social forms of interaction.
 

Ana Teixeira Pinto
Death Wall: Extinction, Entropy, Singularity
Originally published in November 2015

In 1796, upon observing a vast array of elephant fossils, paleontologist George Cuvier noticed a puzzling fact: the fossilized mammoths of Europe and Siberia were different from living elephant species. None of the specimens in his collection corresponded to present-day African or Indian exemplars; they were all remains of fauna now extinct. At length, it dawned on him that another world might have preceded our own, a world whose existence had suddenly come to a halt, possibly “destroyed by some kind of catastrophe.” From that moment onwards Cuvier became an advocate of catastrophism, the geological school which claims that life has been subjected to sudden, yet periodic, violent natural events with fatal fallouts.

Nicholas Mirzoeff
Below the Water: Black Lives Matter and Revolutionary Time
Originally published in February 2017

“Life” in the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is defined as that which can be killed or which dies. It is also a measure of time, for however long we are alive is a life. Many human lives have been and are considered disposable, surplus, or without value, so the movement speaks of each life as mattering. When black life matters, time itself is altered, creating revolutionary time. These temporalities have become entangled with the crisis of earth-system time known as the Anthropocene. That time, known to geologists as “deep time,” is in crisis. And it’s a good thing too, because out of that crisis has reemerged the possibility of revolutionary time. No one has been more aware of this dynamic than the anti-black reactionary right. To be for revolutionary time, whatever one’s own personal history, is to be for anti-anti-blackness as the condition of transformative possibility.

Jalal Toufic
A Hitherto Unrecognized Apocalyptic Photographer: The Universe
Originally published in May 2014

“[Paul Gsell:] ‘Well, then, when in the interpretation of movement he [the artist] completely contradicts photography, which is an unimpeachable mechanical testimony, he evidently alters truth.’ ‘No,’ replied Rodin, ‘it is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop, and if the artist succeeds in producing the impression of a movement which takes several moments for accomplishment, his work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image, where time is abruptly suspended.’” While I tend to concur with this Rodin view generally, I do not agree with his assertion that “in reality time does not stop.” To disagree with this assertion, I do not have to invoke the freezing in dance and undeath, under silence-over; I can invoke relativity. The Schwarzschild membrane of a black hole is an event horizon not only because once an entity crosses it that entity can no longer communicate back with us this side of it, but also because from our reference frame the entities at the horizon do not undergo any events, being frozen due to the infinite dilation of time produced by the overwhelming gravity in the vicinity of the black hole. Was photography invented not so much to assuage some urge to arrest the moment, but partly owing to an intuition that it already existed in the universe, in the form of the immobilization and flattening at the event horizon? “Windbag, watching Goulash from a spaceship safely outside the horizon, sees Goulash acting in a bizarre way. Windbag has lowered to the horizon a cable equipped with a camcorder and other probes, to better keep an eye on Goulash. As Goulash falls toward the black hole, his speed increases until it approaches that of light. Einstein found that if two persons are moving fast relative to each other, each sees the other’s clock slow down; in addition, a clock that is near a massive object will run slowly compared with one in empty space. Windbag sees a strangely lethargic Goulash. As he falls, the latter shakes his fist at Windbag. But he appears to be moving ever more slowly; at the horizon, Windbag sees Goulash’s motions slow to a halt.... In fact, not only does Goulash seem to slow down, but his body looks as if it is being squashed into a thin layer. Einstein also showed that if two persons move fast with respect to each other, each will see the other as being flattened in the direction of motion. More strangely, Windbag should also see all the material that ever fell into the black hole, including the original matter that made it up—and Goulash’s computer—similarly flattened and frozen at the horizon.” By superimposing the reference frame of the outside observer and that of the astronaut approaching the black hole, one has at the event horizon a flattening and a suspension of motion—a photograph—of the still moving three-dimensional person who crossed into the black hole. The universe automatically takes the astronaut’s photograph as he crosses its border, the event horizon, in a sort of paradigmatic farewell. Do photographs induce nostalgia because they show a moment that has vanished? Both relativity, with its spacetime,]: 41–42).] and Zen master Dōgen, with his time-being (uji),], in Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dōgen [New York: Macmillan, 1985]], 76–77).] tell us that that moment has not vanished. I rather think that this gloomy nostalgia is linked to an intuition of the resonance of the man-made photographs with the aforementioned naturally occurring photographs, which signal the irretrievable loss to the universe of the one who has been thus photographed. From a local reference frame, an artistic rendering in the Rodin manner of the astronaut at the event horizon might very well be less conventional, more truthful, than a photograph of him; but from the reference frame of an outside observer, a photograph of the astronaut at the event horizon is less conventional than an artistic rendering of him in the Rodin manner, for at the event horizon not only is the person flattened, but also time is so slowed it comes to a standstill.

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