Standard time is measured by atomic clocks, providing a technical basis for global transactions independent of the environment in which we live. Rivers offer an alternative. Monitoring their natural flow makes us more attentive to ground conditions. Spanning deep time and changing with the seasons, they’re a fount of ecological wisdom — today and tomorrow.
Atlanta River Time engages Georgia’s Chattahoochee and South Rivers to regulate a new kind of clock which speeds up and slows down with the waters. Freely accessible online, and intended eventually to take physical form in central Atlanta, the clock provides a counterpoint to the regular beat of the railroads that made Atlanta the denatured metropolis it is today. The clock can be used to recalibrate all aspects of society from the rhythm of social life to the pace of industry. This vision is simultaneously given artistic expression through community-based site-specific works ranging from sculptural installations to dance performances on the Chattahoochee, the South River, the Flint River, and their tributaries.
Also tracked in Alaska, with plans to expand to waterways from Europe to Africa, river time is meaningful locally and globally. Through the familiar vernacular of minutes and hours, months and years, rivers provide a timely measure of the biosphere that will be increasingly pertinent as we contend with climate change and reimagine our relationship with all life on Earth.
Photo: film still by Ethan Payne from film below
About the Artist
Acclaimed as a “poet of ideas” by The New Yorker and a “multimedia philosopher-prophet” by The Atlantic, Jonathon Keats is an artist, writer and experimental philosopher whose conceptually-driven transdisciplinary projects explore all aspects of society, adapting methods from the sciences and the humanities.
Keats has exhibited art and lectured at dozens of institutions worldwide, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to Stanford University to the Triennale di Milano, and from SXSW to CERN to UNESCO.
He is the award-winning author of six books on subjects ranging from science and technology to art and design – most recently You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future, published by Oxford University Press – and is the author of a weekly online art and design column for Forbes.
Keats has been an artist-in-residence at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, and the LACMA Art + Technology Lab, a Black Mountain College Legacy Fellow at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, an Imaginary Fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, a Research Fellow at the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment, and a visiting artist at schools ranging from Hampshire College to Chico State University. He has been awarded residencies by Yaddo, MacDowell, Ucross, the Djerassi Foundation, the MacNamara Foundation, the Serenbe Institute, the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and the Ufficio Speciale per la Ricostruzione dei Comuni del Cratere.
He is currently a visiting scholar at San José State University’s CADRE Laboratory for New Media, a research associate at the University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, a research fellow at the Highland Institute, a visiting instructor at the University of Zürich, a consulting philosopher at both Earth Law Center and the Museum of Tomorrow, a Polar Lab artist at the Anchorage Museum, a Flux Exchange Artist at Flux Projects, and an artist-in-residence at Hyundai, the SETI Institute, Autodesk, and UC San Francisco’s Memory & Aging Center. He co-directs the Center for Climate-Adapted Heritage Cuisine, a collaboration of the University of Arizona and the University of Maryland in partnership with the UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy.
A monograph about his transdisciplinary work, Thought Experiments, was recently published by Hirmer Verlag, and an audiobook about one of his projects, The Curious Case of the Pheromonophone, was recently released by Audible.
Thought Experiments: The Art of Jonathon Keats
The newest book on Keat’s work is described by publisher Hirmer as follows: Since the turn of the millennium, Keats has comprehensively extended his academic training in philosophy by prolifically presenting conceptual art projects that he refers to as “thought experiments.” These include installations and performances in museums and galleries around the globe. His motivations are to make space for exploring ideas, offering provocations and confronting systems we generally take for granted. By prototyping alternative realities – systematically asking “what if …?” – these projects probe the world in which we live, exploring the potential for societal change.