click here for this edition’s table of contents
- Ephemeral – lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory;
1) “There are many forms of ephemeral art, from sculpture to performance, but the term is usually used to describe a work of art that only occurs once, like a happening, and cannot be embodied in any lasting object to be shown in a museum or gallery.”
2) “Because different people may value the passage of time differently, “the concept of ephemerality is a relative one”.
3) One of the things I like most about hiking is the ephemerality of it. Depending on the time of day, the weather, the season, the animals, and the people, it’s different every time. It is constantly altered by time and perspective. And on a bigger scale, with the soaring trees, wrapping vines, flowing rivers, and tectonic shifts, the natural world could be considered the greatest ephemeral “art”.
4) 21 Examples of Land Art
5) Ephemerality is a practice in accepting impermanence.
6) Andy Goldsworthy is incredible. He is “is a sculptor and photographer whose site-specific artworks directly engage with the environment, incorporating natural specimens and found objects into semi-permanent sculptures, which are then extensively documented in photographs” He doesn’t use any tools or glue. It’s a transient act of pure quality.
“The energy and space around a material are as important as the energy and space within. The weather–rain, sun, snow, hail, mist, calm–is that external space made visible. When I touch a rock, I am touching and working the space around it. It is not independent of its surroundings, and the way it sits tells how it came to be there.”
(Sycamore leaves edging the roots of a sycamore tree, Hampshire, 1 November 2013 Andy Goldsworthy : image source)
7) Wheatfield – A Confrontation by Agnes Denes
8) The practice of physical therapy is ephemeral. There is a constant flux in the plethora of variables within practitioner and the patient, as well the interaction between them. It’s being able to realize this dynamic system and listen to the transient states for the right phase shift that can create a positive ephemeral state. Blindly clinging to a permanent variable by either the practitioner (“this exercise or manual technique always works”) or the patient (“I am not someone who gets injured and needs to work on myself”) can create a negative ephemeral state.
9) 8 types of Ephemeral Art
10) Our body is ephemeral. It’s not going to stay the same forever (or even a few hours). It’s going to constantly change. Our physical and mental actions have both immediate and long term effects on our collective physiology.
11) I think the ephemerality of our body and mental states is how some can practice the same thing over and over and still find enjoyment each time. Because even if you perform the same yoga poses everyday, it’s never the same. Attention and awareness of the subtle, ephemeral, differences in our individual-environment-task relationship is what helps bring one into a flow state. This transient goal of the mastery of our internal focus is much more rewarding than living in the future trying to attain some external physical goal.
12) Chris Jordan’s art isn’t necessarily ephemeral. But the reason behind it may be. He uses visual representations to bring awareness and change to our current cultural issues. In other words, Jordan uses his art as a visual doorway to the “slow motion apocalypse”.
For example, “Whale” is made with 50,000 plastic bags, the same number of of floating plastic per square mile in the ocean.
Or “Caps Seurat”, which depicts 400,000 plastic bottle caps, equal the the average number of plastic bottles consumed in the US every minute.
His art is hopefully ephemeral in the sense that these issues will be resolved in the future and they will become a mere piece of history. Most of all, his work also reminds us that small acts matter and can make a difference.
13) Food is ephemeral. Both in the short term of preparing and eating it, as well as the long term of satiation and effects on your health. However, what you eat will drastically alter those timelines. What kind of ephemeral state do you want your body to be in now? Tomorrow? In 30 years?
14) Check out the ephemeral rock balancing of Kokei Mikuni
15) Ephemerality is one of my favorite things about music. Both as a fan and as a guitar player. Sure, there’s enjoyment from recording a song and the creative process of making a permanent track. And hitting play to hear a song just the way you remembered it can feel good. But I find much more pleasure in the jamming. It’s when all the variables come together, just right, to create a moment that can only be felt while immersed within it. This is why people follow bands like the Grateful Dead around. This is why playing with other musicians is so much better than recording on the computer. It’s for the ephemeral moments where the music is alive.
16) “Janet Echelman reshapes urban airspace with monumental, fluidly moving sculpture that responds to environmental forces including wind, water, and sunlight”. How is our own environment changing our perspective?
17) Giovanni Anselmo demonstrates an ephemeral art piece in “Untitled (Sculpture That Eats)”. What energy would we have to keep replenishing to hold the granit together? What will we be letting go of when it finally runs out?
18) Check out Christo and Jeanne-Claude. It’s not photoshopped.
19) To be aware of your ephemeral state, you have to be in the moment. After this, you can work to shift the ephemeral state into a flow state. It’s an intention of the mastery of the now. It’s a timeless meditative process.
20) Felix Gonzalez-Torres uses ephemeral art to help us feel the impermanence of our relationships and to raise awareness for human rights (gay rights).
In “Untitled: Portrait of Ross in L.A.” he creates an artwork meditating on the 1980s AIDs crisis/prejudice and the heartbreaking loss of losing a loved one. This piece “comprised of 175 pounds of candy, corresponding to Ross’s ideal body weight. Viewers are encouraged to take a piece of candy, and the diminishing amount parallels Ross’s weight loss and suffering prior to his death. Gonzalez-Torres stipulated that the pile should be continuously replenished, thus metaphorically granting perpetual life.”
In “Untitled: Perfect Lovers” he makes us think about the different time scales in which we all exist and the inevitability of death. We each have our individual ephemerality, even our loved ones, thus making all relationships inherently ephemeral. The Dallas Museum writes, “Two clocks are placed side by side; one will inevitably stop before the other. The date of this work corresponds to the time during which Félix González-Torres’s partner, Ross Laycock, was ill, and it embodies the tension that comes from two people living side-by-side as life moves forward to its ultimate destination. González-Torres once commented: “Time is something that scares me . . . or used to. This piece I made with the two clocks was the scariest thing I have ever done. I wanted to face it. I wanted those two clocks right in front of me, ticking.”
21) Brian Eno created his own dynamic system-type of music generating app that creates an ephemeral musical piece each time you listen to it. Fascinating.
22) Dance more. It’s ephemeral.
23) Ephemerality is something we should all practice more. Sometimes we try to cling to more materalistic permanent things. Houses, furniture, clothes, cars, electronic devices, social media, achievements, professional titles, plans, etc. Rarely do any of these things bring us lasting happiness, or even contentment. If we embrace ephemerality we may start to learn that joy and fulfillment is realized in the moment. Whether it’s art, music, food, movement, or mindfulness, we should all try to cultivate a healthy ephemeral practice.
- “Only the ephemeral is of lasting value.” -Eugene Ionesco
*special thanks to Ryan Swanson for the great conversation on ephemerality and for directing me towards many of the artists mentioned above
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