San Francisco, CA, February 3, 2020 – On February 15, 2020, at 1:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, San Francisco residents will renounce the official time standard of the United States, establishing an array of new timekeeping systems all calibrated by local environmental conditions. “Time will no longer be imposed upon us by an atomic clock at the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” says experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, who will lead the citizen-timekeeping initiative in association with Gray Area. “From factory timeclocks to Google Calendar, mechanical and electronic timekeeping devices have been responsible for more than a century of detachment from nature. We can overcome dehumanization and environmental devastation by calibrating our lives according to personal observations of seasonal changes in our natural surroundings.”
The alternative time reckoning systems will be based on cyclical changes in the San Francisco Presidio, a former military compound that is now a 1500-acre national park. On February 15th, Mr. Keats will lead an expedition of twenty citizen-timekeepers out to the Presidio’s Mountain Lake, where they will observe seasonal characteristics of the water and surrounding ecosystem. “The identification of time-sensitive attributes will be up to each person,” says Mr. Keats. One citizen-timekeeper might focus on waterfowl migration, while another might study growth of native flora. As Mr. Keats explains, the only requirement is that the phenomenon fluctuate with the months.
Citizen-timekeepers will note their observations in special 12-page logbooks, which they’ll create in workspace provided by Avenue 12 Gallery, a project partner located across the street from Mountain Lake. Their observations will be drawn or written on the second page of the book, labeled February. Over the course of the year, expedition members will return each month to complete their environmental logs.
“Once completed, these logbooks will operate independently of the atomic clock and Gregorian calendar,” says Mr. Keats. “To reckon time, people will visit the Presidio and find the page in their book that most closely resembles what they see.” The calendar month will be determined by reading the label on the page coinciding with their observations. “In other words, the month will be deemed February if it resembles the February you recorded in 2020,” Mr. Keats explains. “In future years, your February may come sooner or later, as environmental cycles are impacted by changes in the local weather and global climate. Your calendar may say February when Google claims it’s still December.
“Why should we defer to the internet, let alone the detached time protocol on which it’s based? For citizen timekeepers, what matters is ground truth.”
Organized in conjunction with The End Of You – a Gray Area exhibition in which Mr. Keats is one of a dozen participating artists – the expedition of twenty citizen-timekeepers will pioneer a timekeeping methodology that will eventually be applied worldwide. Mr. Keats is currently planning additional citizen-timekeeping initiatives with institutions including the Anchorage Museum, the Nevada Museum of Art, the Long Now Foundation, and ETH Zurich, which are also partnering with him on the development of municipal clocks that will be calibrated by environmentally-sensitive natural phenomena ranging from the flow of glacial rivers to the growth of bristlecone pine trees.
In all of these initiatives – which will ultimately inform a global environmental timekeeping network – people are sensitized to their ecosystem through the act of reckoning time. “Time becomes contingent, making us attentive to ground conditions,” says Mr. Keats.” Simultaneously these clocks and calendars create feedback loops, in which the changing climate calibrates the rate of human activity on the planet.
“We can no longer afford to be detached,” Mr. Keats asserts. “We can no longer afford the luxury of an atomic clock and the industrialized economy driven by it. Or viewed from another perspective, we have the opportunity to experience the ultimate luxury – the satisfaction of living fully in the moment.”
The public is invited to participate in the citizen-timekeeping expedition to Mountain Lake by signing up on the End of You website: endofyou.io
About Jonathon Keats
Acclaimed as a "poet of ideas" by The New Yorker and a "multimedia philosopher-prophet" by The Atlantic, Jonathon Keats is an experimental philosopher, artist and writer based in the United States and Europe. Over the past two decades, his conceptually-driven interdisciplinary art projects have been hosted by institutions ranging from Arizona State University to the Long Now Foundation to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Keats is the author of six books, most recently You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future, published by Oxford University Press, and the author of a weekly art column for Forbes.com. He was recently the Black Mountain College Legacy Fellow at the University of North Carolina - Asheville, and is currently a Research Fellow at the Nevada Museum of Art's Center for Art + Environment, a Polar Lab Artist at the Anchorage Museum, a Visiting Scholar at San Jose State University, and an Artist-in-Residence at both the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany and UC Berkeley's Sagehen Creek Field Station in California. A monograph about his art is forthcoming from the Anchorage Museum and Hirmer Verlag. He is represented by Modernism Gallery in San Francisco.
About The Experiential Space Research Lab
The Experiential Space Research Lab is an initiative by Gray Area studying how artists can work with immersive environments as critical thinking tools. With support from the Knight Foundation, the Research Lab supports a diverse team of artists exploring the potential of immersive art as sustainable creative practice, and as a tool for engaging with our world. Through research, field surveys, prototyping, and the production of new works, the Experiential Space Research Lab will ultimately develop a playbook for artists interested in creating immersive digital art experiences.
About Gray Area
Gray Area is San Francisco's premier cultural hub applying creative action for social transformation. The organization operates the historic Grand Theater in San Francisco's Mission District, generating platforms that enable creators to transcend boundaries through antidisciplinary collaboration. Through public events, education programs, project incubation, and international cultural exchange, Gray Area brings together diverse communities to engage creatively with the critical issues facing our rapidly changing society.
About Avenue 12 Gallery
Established in 2016 by Vince Meyer and Rachel Murray Meyer, Avenue 12 Gallery is located in the Lake District of San Francisco and focuses on contemporary art created by Bay Area artists.