Written by Fred Adam, Art Director of the Deep Time Walk App and an expert in locative media.
As a new media artist involved in eco-art practices, teaching audiovisual technology at university is not just about showing techniques for the creation of entertaining content for the mass media or artworks for galleries. It is about dealing in a creative way with a shift of worldview, the tsunami provoked by the general collapse of our civilization of consumerism and iconic abstractions crashing against the wall of our superficiality.
Art is a way to show the invisible. From my point of view, the old understanding of art is agonising in galleries and the bank accounts of speculators. The new understanding of art is now more than ever about reconnecting with our deep nature of creative beings by urgency. That’s why in a certain way I consider the holistic scientist Stephan Harding from Schumacher College to be one of the most interesting artists I have met – this is how I understand art. He is building a new worldview that combines the mind, the body and the heart together. The Deep Time Walk is a marvelous expression on how knowledge and creativity can lead to groundbreaking new ways to rethink our situation on Earth at the confluence between Art and Science.
Reconnecting with our large body, as David Abram says, won’t happen in front of our laptops or in the streams of Facebook but neither will it happen inside a cave with no electricity. Let’s instead walk with digital information but contextualize that into knowledge and share the roots of the Earth with the neurones of the brain of humanity through the digital flow of electrons.
The Deep Time Walk app is a challenge at a conceptual level; it is based on the idea that we can convert the motion of our body into an interface to interact with the digital information through the motion sensors of a smartphone. Our references were based on real walks like the Deep Time Walk along the coasts of Devon or the Walk Through Time installations in California. Today, most of the apps sensing steps are used for running and hiking apps. However, the equation between the steps of space and time with smartphones for the creation of narratives is new – and we are embracing that with the Deep Time Walk App.
As a design choice, we decided not to use the GPS of the smartphone but instead allow each walker to explore their own position in relative time and space by making use of the pedometer to personalise the auditory experience for each step walked. So, whilst the Deep Time Walk App measures meters, what really matters is the experience of how you feel when you embody the walk – enjoying a profound step by step relationship with your larger body of the Earth. The cadence of the steps becomes the eyes moving along the line of the words you are reading right now. The soil around us is like a giant magnetic tape and your steps are becoming the head reader of this tape of eternal time. These potentials are as big as travelling in space and time with the body and the mind on the same path. With the Deep Time Walk App, we can emotionally and physically feel what it means to walk along the history of life on the living Earth. It is of course interesting from the point of view of science but it is also very interesting from the point of view of poetry and art. The Deep Time Walk App is the first really powerful approach combining the use of high quality technology, science and poetry in a way that fuses together these elements into a singular outdoor experience.
I am hoping that with the Deep Time Walk, users will walk more and more and find their way to establish a stream, a continuity between the resonance of the ground, the vibration on their feet and the stimulation of their imagination and knowledge. I am hoping that it will help to break the paradigm of an isolated and abstracted digital world.
Let’s pop the paradoxical use of smartphones as sedentary bubbles and use them for deeper experiences, giving us the opportunity to understand where we really are in time and space so that we can comprehend our future trajectory.