The mind-bending art of deep time

(TEDWomen)  Short-sightedness may be the greatest threat to humanity, says conceptual artist Katie Paterson, whose work engages with deep time — an idea that describes the history of the Earth over a time span of millions of years.

Mind-bending art

In this lively talk, she takes us through her art — a telephone line connected to a melting glacier, maps of dying stars – and presents her latest project: the Future Library, a forested room holding unread manuscripts from famous authors, not to be published or read until the year 2114.

Have you ever bathed under a light that creates the glow of a full moon, sculpted beaches into miniature mountains or breathed in the aroma of Earth’s first trees? These are some of the artworks I’ve made to come to an understanding of deep time.

What is deep time?

But what is deep time,and why does it matter to us all? The term describes the history of the Earth over a time span of millions of years. My first encounter with deep time came after I’d finished my studies, had no job and didn’t know what to do. So I took off to work as a chambermaid in the remote north of Iceland. I was tilted on my axis and began a series of explorations to try to figure out how to tell the story of deep time. This has been the quest of my work, and it’s taken me through the cosmos, the geological strata of the Earth, to encounters with the earliest forms of life. In Iceland I realized that we live on a planet. By opening my eyes to the primordial landscape, I started to understand we’re not born out of nothing. The sea, the sky, the Earth, the air: we’re made of the same stuff, we coexist.

It was an elegy to disappearing landscape

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