Flows of time, energy, oxygen, carbon, ice, shells and cells

Hi Rising Waters Confab participants! I am very excited that this week the confluence at the Rauschenberg Residency will begin. I will be joining you on May 11th, and will be staying until the end of the residency, but hope that along with this blog we might have some opportunities for video chat meetings in the afternoons.

Ideas that I would like to pursue at Rising Waters include:flows of time, energy, oxygen, carbon, and belief in the face of the anthropocene.

I have been thinking a great deal about time and relationships between nano and macro in my work lately, especially since I work as the Exhibition and Program Manager at the Art|Sci Center at the California Nanosystems Institute at UCLA, where many researchers are now looking at the microbiome and the nanobiome in the ocean and earth.

So I have been thinking about the ecologies, especially microbial, that have been involved in the creation of the atmosphere that sustains life on earth, including Oxygen rich atmosphere, which was first created by unicellular cyanobacteria and phytoplankton at least 2 billion years ago. Today we are faced with rapid climate change as many ancient bacteria and plants that were compressed into oil and coal are still being burned at a literally breathtaking pace, releasing ancient carbon stores into the air. James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis uses the atmosphere as the main indicator of the earth’s homeostasis as a giant organism. How might we as humans collaborate with the omnipresent microbiome (microbies in earth, air, water) and nanobiome (even smaller organisms) to help regain an atmospheric balance? What mythological constructs might help us make this paradigm shift?

Many of your posts have sparked up thoughts about marks of temporality at Captiva Island and other sites close to the seas:

Some objects of temporal musing:

The middens that the Calusa left at Pine Island, markers of social time, gathering, consuming, waste


The quickly melting ice caps, releasing trapped methane that further accelerates the greenhouse effect and warms the atmosphere even more.melting-arctic-sea-ice.jpg

Stromatolites: slow growing ancient middens of cyanobacteria that helped create the Oxygen in the atmosphere billions of years ago8440629_orig.jpgStromatolites off of Western Australia, Shark Bay, from this site. They can also be found off of the Bahamas, in Exuma Sound (which RIBS is studying). Turns out that Stromatolites are our earliest reef formations, and only now can be found in places with high mineral contents that drive out plants and animals that might feed on their microbial mats. With all of the ocean acidification from global warming and toxic chemicals that human industry has been dumping into the oceans, I wonder if stromatolites made of extremophile bacteria and cyanobacteria will become more prevalent again.

In response to all the Oxygen in the atmosphere, some cells invented the technology  of respiration to metabolize or “burn” food with Oxygen instead of getting killed by it, and some of those bacteria eventually became inhabitants in the ancestors of our own cells (mitochondria).


What are life’s current and future inventions in reaction to climate change, changing atmosphere (increasing CO2 and decreasing O2), ocean acidification, and rapidly changing ecosystems?

One response to “Flows of time, energy, oxygen, carbon, ice, shells and cells

  1. There are connections to be made between the macro and micro biomes, inside and outside. I’ve been thinking about how dandelions function as such a connector – doing work inside bodies, and across species.

    Liked by 1 person

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