Project Description

  • Film still of the Chattahoochee River

Atlanta River Time


2021 - 2023


Panel Discussion
Mon, June 14, 1pm
Clepsydra Workshop
Sat, Sept. 18, 10am

Jonathon Keats

Jonathon Keats is an artist and experimental philosopher who uses his multidisciplinary art projects to explore some of the most pressing issues of our time.  Atlanta River Time is one of a series of global projects through which Keats seeks to reconnect us to nature as the ultimate timekeeper.  By charting whether rivers are speeding up or slowing down in comparison to their historic averages, Keats exposes environmental change, often manmade.  He hopes understanding the natural cycles of  rivers and their tributaries will encourage us to nurture our environment.

In ancient times, time was kept by cicadas’ songs, the flowering of artichokes, and the migration of cranes. Gradually societies made calendars more regular. First the moon was used, and then the sun. By modern reckoning, the year is 365.2425 days long, and the movement of our planet has ceded authority to atomic clocks. Time has become abstract.

Undoubtedly the modern calendar is useful for making dinner reservations and managing multinational corporations. But is it worthy of our trust? Should we value mathematical exactitude over ground truth?  Atlanta River Time will provide an alternative to technical time by reintegrating the calendar into the environment that sustains us, enlisting rivers and creeks as natural timekeepers.

Atlanta River Time unfolds with a series of installations and events that encourage us to establish a rhythm, individually and collectively, of coming back to the water.   This will take the form of stone erosion calendars in creeks to chart long-term changes in river dynamics, dance and music performed to river time, almanac workshops to encourage personal observations, and ultimately, a large-scale public clock.

Keat’s project is being developed through our Flux Exchange,  an exploratory incubator series that invites artists to explore the city of Atlanta as a site for a future large-scale public project. Visiting artists engage with local artists and cultural contributors, research the physical and cultural landscape of the city, and execute a public program.

For Atlanta River Time, Flux Projects is currently partnering with AIR Serenbe, Chattahoochee NOW, and the South Fork Conservancy; and we look to welcome additional partners in the coming months.

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 based in the United States and Europe. His conceptually-driven transdisciplinary projects explore all aspects of society, adapting methods from the sciences and the humanities. He has exhibited 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 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. He 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, and a Research Fellow at the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment. He is currently a Polar Lab artist at the Anchorage Museum, a visiting scholar at San Jose State University’s CADRE Laboratory for New Media, an associated researcher at the University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, and an artist-in-residence at both the SETI Institute and UC San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center. He serves as co-director and principal philosopher for Earth Law Center’s Interspecies Technology Transfer Consortium, and is the founding director and curator of the Museum of Future History. A monograph about his art, Thought Experiments, is forthcoming from Hirmer Verlag. He is represented by Modernism Gallery in San Francisco.

artist portfolio at modernism gallery

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.

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