Turning into the Night, Fowler Dune Shack, 002018

"... to stop denying intimacy with one's situation as well as responsibility for being present within it."  — Peter Hershock

Koans for the Anthropocene. A book for 002020.

Made of scraps of storytelling. Skillful improvisation. Poems. Paradoxes. Practice as offerings of hospitality and aesthetics. Ritual conduct. Spontaneity. Non-assertive action. Unrepeatable, radical acts of slowing down.

A creative response to intimate engagements with ongoing change. We, making tea for the tilt of the earth and other humans. Sitting, as in zazen, formally and informally. Talking with Zen practitioners. Serving others. Practicing responsive immediacy.

To offer balm. Deepen the capacity to respond to a situation as needed rather than as preconceived. Seeing all things as continuously changing. Cutting through habits of verbal exchange. Without fixed goals. Without fixed destination.

Reweaving our modern consciousness into the cosmos as an ecological act.

Koans for the Anthropocene is a book in progress by smudge studio. It offers a collection of koans as instruments of daily life practice in the Anthropocene.  

In many cultures across many historical contexts, artists have been those humans who have acted as first responders to cultural and historical change. As contemporary artists whose projects are about landscape and the massive, relatively ephemeral geo-cosmological forces that intimately shape daily life on Earth, we are picking up signals of the Anthropocene’s arrival. Their impact on our—and others'—feelings, thoughts, and life events are deep and unsettling. So far, our own culture has offered us very little by way of encouragement, not to mention cognitive or emotional skills, for turning toward the realities of the Anthropocene and taking them in. But other cultures and historical contexts that we’ve encountered in translation have. We are inspired and moved by the life ways and aesthetics of Paleolithic humans as they can be glimpsed in the calligraphy, paintings, and texts of ancient Chinese philosopher-poet-sages. Contemporary Zen philosophies and practices based on ancient Taoist understandings of the cosmos are full of meaning and relevance for the changing material conditions of our own lives. Our encounters with these through various translations across cultural and historical difference are proving to be inexplicably useful, prescient, and grounding. This includes our encounters with koans as an ancient and yet still evolving instrument for living skillfully and responsively on Earth. Somehow, and against the odds, koans have become for us islands of respite, collaboration, pause, and response-ability in the midst of our attempts to access and hold the thoughts-feelings of Anthropocene realities that are reshaping our lives.

Now and then, as we go about our daily work as artists | humans in the Anthropocene, we meet up with and pass through some random fragment of Zen practice, thought, or aesthetic. Often, these meetings up and passings through are surprising, unexplainable island-moments of liveability. Koans for the Anthropocene will collect documentations of, creative responses to, appreciations for, and bowings to island-moments of liveability that we have experienced, even — within the wreckage of the Anthropocene. This collection gestures toward a Way of living on Earth within the Anthropocene. As with all koans, the Way being indicated so indirectly is simultaneously right here, now, at our feet, and it is unknowable from here. May Koans for the Anthropocene startle both its authors and its readers into intimate encounters with, and creative responses to, what remains of our days on Earth.


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