continent. maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking, traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, biopolitics and art.
Issue 2.3 / 2012: 167–169

Deep Time Contagion

Andy Weir
Introduction

Jamie Allen

Time, of all the dimensions readily presented to experience, seems to do so most readily through things. Stuff, in supposed counter-valence to the negentropic resilience of living things, appears to us as that which degrades through time, and demarcates a more technical chronometry of sequential events. Situated outside the rotting of fruit and the ticking of clocks, a “deep time” persists. Like the ultra-hearing of the bat, and the infra-vision of the boa-constrictor, there exist living and non-living agents and entities capable of revealing the fixity and finitude of our own perceptual frames for thinking and understanding.

The recordings presented here consist of four extracts of documents made in deep geological repository sites (for the storage of nuclear waste). Here re-presented are the Yucca Mountain Repository; HADES, in Mol, Belgium; Gorleben in Germany and a further recording from Forsmark in Sweden (pretty much inaudible behind a loop of a pop song). These recordings are imagined acoustic amplifications of deep time, just as the astronomer’s telescope is (thought of a certain way), also a time machine. Stars and nuclear waste are unapparent objects of temporal thought.

Andy Weir is an artist from London researching effects of deprioritised subjectivity and contemporary art. This project draws on work developing sonic fictions, stealthy earworms, and micropolitical agencies. Prompted for further thoughts about the recordings presented here, he offered up the interspersed discussion included.

—JA

Yucca Mountain Repository, Nevada, USA by continent

I became interested in these sites originally as spaces that allude to a time outside of the human (‘deep time’) as they are designed to store waste ‘without future maintenance’. The very fact of thinking about these spaces or working on them—engineering etc.. (as I’m particularly interested them in a kind of practice rather than just an object of thought), in other words, forces a confrontation with thought of the extinction of humanity. I was interested in this as a production of affect at odds with the expected ‘ironic, can be whatever you like’ interpretive condition of contemporary art (art under the condition of neoliberalism, say, where the individual subject is prioritised as a free autonomous producer of the meaning of the work)

When I thought about this a bit though it ran into paradoxes—yes, I could allude to deep time, but in doing so I just allude to its un-representability, drawing attention to the limits of representation and so reaffirming it—I was stuck in a representation/non-representational negative dialectic. In trying to somehow create a figure for deep time I was either reducing it to my description of it, or presenting it as irreducible.

HADES Facility, Mol, Belgium by continent

I don’t think I’ve escaped this in the work but my response to it was to create a sonic-fiction. This was based on the idea of a viral transmission of the affect of deep time (this is the ‘pyroclastic-soaked chrono-dread’) through receiving apparatuses, transforming the screen into an intercessor or mediating lure for the outside, a site of exposure multiplying virulently through its dissemination, invoking as much as trying to represent these spaces, the sounds as durations of exposure to contagious materials, and fictions as a way of excavating the strangeness of a world opaque to subjective reconfiguration... Testing out I suppose ways that art could start thinking about figuring the reality of ecological crisis.

Gorleben Repository, Lower Saxony, Germany by continent

While everything remains at the level of fiction I think the work is problematic. It doesn’t really model anything, giving too much authority to either romantic abandonment or the recuperation of romantic abandonment under its description by theory/philosophy, all contained and controlled by me within a fairly limited condition of what art can do.

Deep Time Contagion is precisely a materialisation of and transmission of this paradox (i.e. with screen-media can only present deep time as unrepresentable or draw attention to an inability to present it) taking the comfort/panic induced by this paradox as its material. I’m working now on some new projects that take this as a point of departure.

Forsmark Repository, Sweden (Robitussin Mix) by continent