Cyclical Time

Many tribal cultures, such as those on the west coast of Canada, were itinerant. They had  a summer village and a winter village, and set up temporary camps where the resources were in season—salmon runs, ripe berries. This travel was seasonal and cyclical, and the places were sometimes marked with rock paintings, which could be freshened up on each visit. The marking, among other things, claimed ownership.

Shuswap Lake rock painting, British Columbia

When members of such a culture said “over there,” they would have also meant both “back then” and “later on.” Space and time were always one. This can be seen on early maps; I’ve seen Pre-Columbian maps where distances between places are marked in days of travel. In our world, it’s understood that other places exist in the same “time” as the place where we are, and things are going on there simultaneously with our activities. Universal space and universal time exist side by side to provide a consistent, calculable background for business. Obviously an artist can’t go back to that looping, cyclical time—why would they want to—rather they know that every place is always one singular time; the fall of the light, the feel of a breeze, the smells, the emotions. One can never return to the same place, as if it had been waiting there all along, merely empty space for us to travel through. Art should offer a heightened sense of a time and a place, necessarily the spot where one meets the work.

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