Deep Time Séance I & II

April 8, 2015 at Residency Unlimited, Brooklyn (New York, US) & October 18, 2015 at Kiasma Theatre (Helsinki, FI)


Slowly condensing into layered, immersive performative installations, the first two iterations of Deep Time Séance in New York and Helsinki set out to form new kinds of ritualistic gestures and situations for subjective and collective encountering of the unsettling ramifications of human-induced climate change. Through digging into deep history and the mythical undercurrents of ‘modernised’ 21st century societies, the two séances sought to envision new metaphors and future scenarios for the Earth we inhabit. The concept for Deep Time Séance came about through a somewhat alchemical fusing of two notions that might seem distant at first glance. The concept of deep time, introduced by one of the founders of modern geology, James Hutton (1726–1797), allows insight into the deep history of the Earth through looking into the perpetual circulation of matter as if ‘recorded’ into its geological formations. The notion of deep time allows us to grapple with the abyss of time beyond human comprehension, and to position human existence in relation to the Earth’s slow life cycles. Séance, in turn, was a popular term in the early years of the 20th century, when it meant a ritualistic session for communicating with the spiritual world. Both concepts share the underlying striving towards something beyond direct reach or comprehension. Coined together, they signify a synergistic attempt to form new compositions and solutions out of unlikely substances.

– Jenni Nurmenniemi, Curator, Frontiers in Retreat


A longer article on the concept and realisation of the two séances has been published printed and on-line in HIAP Publication 2015 (August-September 2016). Below is a poem written for the Séance II by artist Jaakko Pallasvuo, and presented by actress Anna Rawlings.

You walk through a white cloud of smoke.
Your nose begins to bleed.
A clump of your hair falls out.
Your posture changes.
Your back draws up into a hunch.

You walk through a white cloud of smoke.
You’ve been texting.
You’ve been looking for somebody.

You’re in a forest.
There are three witches here:

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
An iPod shuffle.
Your master’s degree.
The keys to your apartment.

You walk through a white cloud of smoke:
Wizardry, Alchemy, Allurement, Sorcery

Climate scientists conduct their research while
unwittingly destabilizing the social order. Climate scientists develop depression and anxiety,
plagued by what some describe as pre-traumatic stress disorder. The knowledge of our approaching end can be too much to take on.
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the
more knowledge, the more grief.

“A human being has so many skins inside,
covering the depths of the heart.
We know so many things, but we don’t know
ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides,
as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the
soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know
yourself there.”

2277 AD, 1667 AD
London SE1

An ashy industrial building lit by torches,
windows covered with cardboard and burlap.
Glass is hard to come by here.

You are a hunchback, weaving yarn.
You are nearsighted. Sometimes you wonder
if a curse has been placed upon you.
A horse carriage outside drags plague victims to
their mass graves.

You tap your lifeless iPhone.
You rub a rabbit’s foot,
for good luck.

Dying is easy, it’s living that scares you (to death).

Fire, element of warmth, let me control you.
Water, element of moist, let me control you.
Air, element of storms, let me control you.
Earth, element of nature, let me control you.
Maybe you walk through a white cloud of

Maybe a good spirit hands you an amulet.
You don’t know that the thing you’ve received
is an amulet.

The amulet will protect you where engineering
has failed. Where linear thinking has failed. You count your blessings.

You walk through a white cloud of smoke.

The smoke makes its audience barren.
You are unable to have children.
Culture can’t reproduce itself.
Plays are written and never put on.
No ideas worth repeating.
As civilization folds, we unravel.

The future looks bright today. It looks a lot like
the past, when we crawled out of the ocean’s
depths. We learned to walk, climb and build.
We invented linear progress. The future looks
like a reversal of that. The sea splashing against
us, mute and indifferent.

On a piece of parchment, write the following
Air cannot freeze me.
Fire cannot burn me.
Water cannot drown me.
Earth cannot bury me.