STScI-01GA6K5N0X9R63BK72VXV 1HBTVM CROP 1 low res.jpg

ON THE EDGE

of the universe   of knowledge   of time
of survival   of extinction   of hope
 

A website in response to this, the best of

times and worst of times

Never before has humankind known so much and achieved so much. Never before has humankind consumed so much and destroyed so much, causing the systems that sustain life on earth to edge ever closer to total collapse. Most of us know this to be true yet most of us still act as if we don’t know or, worse, don’t care. As for those who hold the levers of power and keys to the safe, they prevaricate and dissemble. They lie. They promise to act, not now but soon - despite all the knowledge available to them, all the global summits they attend, all the initiatives for change they say they support. This paradox, irony, contradiction – call it what you will – defines the times we live in. No wonder we despair. 

 

 

 

 

TOWARDS THE EDGE outline 2 PAGE 3.jpg

"But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars."   

Martin Luther King Jr

You could argue that the assassination of Martin Luther King gives a hollow ring to these words, which I choose to introduce on the edge. But more than 50 years after he was gunned down, they continue to resonate in a sonorous way. They inspire resistance not resignation. Dr King continues to motivate new generations who fight against all forms of injustice. The on the edge website will be energised by such words. It will, I hope, encourage users of the site to stare deep into the darkness and still give voice to their highest aspirations.

 

This resolve to fight against the almost inevitable pessimism induced by the fate of the world is also inspired by the pictures you see here. They have been transmitted back to Earth from the most advanced astronomical research satellite ever launched. The NASA James Webb Space Telescope began its epic journey on Christmas Day 2021. It is now in orbit around the Sun, peering through space-time towards the beginning of the Universe. The clarity and detail of the images it is generating are without precedent. By using infra-red technology rather than light, JWST is able to penetrate unimaginable amounts of dust and debris to witness and record events which occurred more than 13 billion light years ago. That is only a few hundred million light years away from the Big Bang, the cataclysmic event which brought the Universe into being. To put it another way, this satellite is reaching out towards the beginning of time.

Screenshot 2022-10-11 at 13.00.33.png

  “These are not images. They are a new worldview.”

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA  


“100 years ago, humanity did not even know whether there was a Universe beyond the Milky Way galaxy. Now we are able to routinely detect and quantify objects whose light was emitted over 13 billion years ago and to measure the composition of the atmosphere around a planet 1000 light years away.

“The images themselves are beautiful, the accompanying spectroscopic data is revolutionary, and the sense of potential for scientific discovery feels limitless. But the feeling I can't shake is how extraordinary humans can be when dreaming big and working together to accomplish what may have once seemed impossible.”

Mike Boylan-Kolchin, University of Texas

“Every one of these images sets us on a new course for understanding the Universe.”

Paul Byrne, Washington University

Screenshot 2022-10-11 at 14.41.04.png

 

This most ambitious enterprise will certainly contribute to our understanding of the subatomic universe as well as the cosmological one, to life sciences as well as physics and chemistry, to the story of how things - all things - began. It is a supreme example of the knowledge revolution which characterises our era, just as the industrial revolution characterised the dramatically changing world of two centuries ago. This is a revolution predicted by some of the most farsighted of our ancestors.

 

“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject. This knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages.”

Seneca, Natural Questions  65 CE

 

“Time and space are not conditions of existence. Time and space are models for thinking.”

          Albert Einstein, physicist  

Ariane rocket carrying JWST 2021.jpg

Of course, it is impossible to disentangle the history of space exploration from the history of warfare, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Such perils reflect a pattern of behaviour that is at least as old as civilisation. The very same march of progress that brought about cosmology and quantum theory, genetic sequencing and advanced medicine, artificial intelligence and the worldwide web also brought about humankind’s unbounded compulsion to discover, conquer, control, exploit, enslave. And to consume resources beyond reason. So, in this tradition and in contrast to the achievements and potential of JWST,  space exploration is also associated with the misdirected ambition that could soon turn the night sky into a glittering industrial junk yard - further evidence of age-old folly that will be visible from anywhere on earth.

 

The satanic mills and slums of the industrial revolution have been superseded by mass education, mass housing, mass media, mass production, mass murder and weapons of mass destruction. on the edge will reflect this entangled reality, aware that - if we are to survive the most devastating crisis we have ever faced – we simply must transform our priorities and temper our arrogance and greed. We must remake our patterns of behaviour.

"Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don't want 

your hope. I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. 

I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."

Greta Thunberg  No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

Fire and firemen NY Times.jpg

“We must always remember that the fossil fuel era began in violent kleptocracy, with those two foundational thefts of stolen people and stolen land. The route to renewal runs through reckoning and repair: reckoning with our past and repairing relationships with the people who paid the steepest price of the first industrial revolution.”

Naomi Klein On Fire: The Case for the Green New Deal

 

“The realization that our very lives are dependent upon the lives of others, over which we can have no control, does not come easy to us. It’s not sufficient to be appreciative or amazed or delighted by the immense diversity, fecundity and ingenuity of other living things. You also have to be aware of your own transience, your own ephemerality, your own relative insignificance in this huge community. It is not easy for us to go from the lord and master to just another member of a big community. That’s a tough lesson.”

Richard Powers, author 

 

“We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe.”

Thomas Berry, philosopher of nature

Gormley 1 CROP.jpg

on the edge is conceived as a modest but positive contribution to this most urgent of tasks: how we learn to become fully fit for survival. The website will develop into a growing collection of writings from scientists, artists, environmentalists, activists, thinkers, commentators – and others. The scope of this writing will be the space between the knowledge revolution and the climate catastrophe, the positive and negative. It will recognise the reality that knowledge and catastrophe are less polar opposites than intertwined phenomena. And it will acknowledge the argument that the principles of justice and compassion - and all the other tools of a civilised behaviour - are as vital to this project as scientific understanding and rational economics. 

Some responses to the themes will be cerebral and factual, others imaginative and poetic. Good writing will be a criterion for inclusion. So will good images. And good sounds. The website will emerge gradually, piece by piece, shaping the larger enterprise as it grows. There is no specific agenda or manifesto driving this enterprise. It is based on creative exploration, and a desire to bring inspiration and insight.

When the online operation achieves critical mass, a version of on the edge will be produced in print, featuring commissioned work. The ultimate ambition is to add to this an exhibition of related visual and time-based art, supported by presentations, discussions and creative initiatives.

 

The starting point for the soft launch of the website is late 2022.

Geoff Dunlop

FALLEN 2_1.jpg

Geoff Dunlop

KAILASHarts

                       

I am an artist curator, writer and filmmaker, based in Somerset, South-West England.

 

My themes as a curator have included Wordplay, Symbiosis, UtopiaDystopia, Love & Death, Live, Time after Time and Timeslip. My films on art have been presented at the Tate, National and ICA galleries in London, the Metropolitan, MoMA and Whitney museums

in New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

 

The exhibitions I have curated and the films and videos I have made - mostly for international television have explored creativity, identity, politics, history and belief. They have featured, and have sometimes been made in collaboration with, such eminent figures as 

James Ackerman, Karole Armitage, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jean Baudrillard, Joseph Beuys, Leonardo Boff, Edward Bond, Derek Boshier, Sonia Boyce, Anwar Brahem, David Byrne, Miriam Cahn, John Cage, Tony Cragg, Merce Cunningham, Siobhan Davies, David Dimbleby, Fab 5 Freddy, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gilsenan, Leon Golub, Anthony Gormley, Gunter Grass, Hans Haacke, Sue Hill,

Susan Hiller, Hilliard Ensemble, Lubaina Himid, Fiona Hingston, Lula da Silva, Howard Hodgkin, Richard Hoggart, Bill T Jones,

Mt Kailash, Mary Kelly, Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer, Barbara Kruger, Jakob Lindberg, Gabriel Josipovicci, John McCarthy,

John McLaughlin, Michelangelo, Arthur Miller, Sandy Nairne, Alice Oswald, Palladio, Pontormo, Tariq Ramadan, Simon Rattle, Rembrandt, David Rosand, Salman Rushdie, Nawal el-Sadawi, Edward Said, Simon Schama, Anthony Sher, Cindy Sherman,

Andy Sheppard, Tim Smit, Graham Sutherland, Titian, Tamasaburo, Michael Nelson Tjakamara, Veronese, Andy Warhol, Arnie Zane

 

geoffdunlop@gmail.com

Richter 1.jpg
Screenshot 2022-10-31 at 00.56.06.png