From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Deep time: Old and older

Map Lichen   (Photo by Tigerente)
It’s amazing just how far a 110 camera plus a child’s curiosity can reach.

In Rachel Sussman’s case, what began as a youthful hobby of photographing storm-tossed trees, eventually developed into a philosophical exploration of deep time.

During a trip abroad as an adult, Sussman “found herself on a remote Japanese island, photographing a 7,000-year-old tree.” This led to the launching of her Oldest Living Things in the World project. 

Paulette Beete of the National Endowment for the Arts explains that Sussman’s project entails internationally-based photographs of “everything from a 3,000-year-old lichen to a 9,550-year-old spruce to an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen trees.”

The subjects of these photographs come under the umbrella of what Sussman calls “deep time.”  Although this phrase means different things to different people, Sussman defines it as a “scale that’s so much deeper than a human life span.”  She often cites Greenland’s map lichens, which grow just one (silly?) centimeter every 100 years, as an example of experiential  “deep time.”

In questioning why this particular year is dubbed “2014” when the planet has existed for far longer than that, Sussman critiques the key role that religion has played in our perceptions of time.  She explains that this religious lens for viewing time is “completely detached from the deep history or big history… of our planet.”


Copyright August 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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