unruly earths: experiential models of planetary scales



We are humans making climate change, and it is time to come to terms with the fact. This must be done logistically, yes, but also experientially. We must learn to feel the new state of things: disequilibria, uncertainties, the radical closeness of forces and flows.

In that light, this modeling experiment begins with a question: how can we grasp environmental dynamics that occur at scales too massive to immediately experience?
And, with an impulse: to work with models volatile enough that they surprise more than yield.

Unlike most landscape architectural models, the “unruly earths” shown here do not represent specific sites, deploy digital tools, quantify living and material conditions, or generate buildable interventions. They are purely for relating and learning, by hand and by sight. In this they participate in a long design history of making to attune: to the properties of materials, and by extension to the world.

The materials? Liquids and sediments in a big glass jar. I combine some wet and scattery things, watch what happens, add, wait, stir, spin, watch, remove, continue. Through the process I discover likely interactions. The materials, in collision, determine what takes place. Their relationships are complex; learning to anticipate is a slow process. For now I provoke transformations, surf events, follow the curiosities and pleasures of making/relating. I think: “what will happen if…?” And, “hey, I remember this.” And, “uh oh.” And, “ooh, that’s cool.”

As I work, these little fluid worlds do yield earthly comprehensions: slow/fast mineral time-shifts, all-encompassing hydrological flows, a history of materials accruing, compressing, expanding, scouring. Such dynamics offer tangible insights regarding large-scale landscapes. But these are not direct corollaries of planetary conditions. Rather, this practice cultivates a feel for dynamics, a new way of sensing, an attunement to massive forces: towards instigating as yet uninvented practices of analyzing, engaging, and intervening on our volatile planet.

This is a tricky project to share, for its purpose is really in the making. The images do serve as traces of phenomena, records of events, and peculiar contributions to the landscape tradition. Beyond that, though, I hope that sharing inspires more new ways of working. In other words, hey, try this out, show me what you make, tell me about it! And/or: do you have your own “unruly earths,” your own open-ended landscape practices? Get in touch, let’s talk about what we’re finding…