Remembering the future; AI’s insatiable thirst for electricity; noctambulous, given to walking, cycling and inline skating by night; lights/clothes that glow in 'black light’ – light sources that contain UV light/blue – and in animals, e.g. swallowtail butterfly; biohybrids, human bioluminescence (the as-yet unnamed printable, metal-free electrode jelly that conducts better than metals via clusters of nickel atoms strung like pearls); George Eliot; Trent Alexander-Arnold; Grace Wales Bonner; Jill Scott; Ella Hollywood; Luigi Luca Cavalli–Sforza; tornados and other features of the weather system, referred to by Native American tribes as Thunderer Persons; #NDPL; mid-19th century bronze astral lamps; lamp meditation with only the flame of ghee in abundance; Trataka, the anchoring practice of light; the most recently discovered part of the human body, found in a layer of the masseter muscle, which raises the lower jaw and critical for chewing, would have an impact on diet and the evolving human voice; children who run on all fours; my friend Lisa Arkhangelskaya has contact lenses modified to the colour spectrum of her dog's eyes ('bluish-yellow' and 'greenish-red' are the alleged ‘impossible’ colours that our eyes haven’t seen yet).

In a key book of our time, Anna Tsing describes how, in the twentieth century, financial trading was thought to carry the pulse of progress. As if increasing the world’s wealth was our only measure of social value. As if all we had to do was tie our own life rhythms to the forward propulsion of investment capital, and we could all become a unit in the algorithms of financial growth. Seek it out and the term modern seems, again and again, to refer only to certain elegant abstractions. But if anything is contemporary of our time it is an ability to survive by sifting through the chaos of of our economic systems, like the ‘gleaners’ of Agnes Varda’s film Les Glaneurs (2000) or anthropologist Elizabeth Fisher’s carrier bag theory of evolution, which proposes that instead of hunting tools, the first cultural device used by humans may have been a woven carrier bag for transporting the vegetables they gathered.

"My friend Lisa Arkhangelskaya has contact lenses modified to the colour spectrum of her dog’s eyes"

Tsing, in her book The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015), goes on to explore the timeless rhythms of a salvage capitalism. Part of the residue of a world in which the expectations of global economic progress have been replaced by concerns about climate change, AI, and the potential dystopia of a cashless society. Bruno Latour, in another valuable book of this deeply apprehensive time (We Have Never Been Modern, 1991), calls for the equal testimony of non-humans, to acknowledge in full how the substance of life is in the connections between everything. The recognition of very different kinds of persons, hybrids of nature and culture that were always part of the social fabric of a world that is far from human and clearly not modern, or in any way seamless – unless when we say modern we are referring more tragically to a human ingenuity that invents ecocides and large scale famine, along with the forever chemical of human war.

A modern is one who belongs to an ancient period or epoch but lives in the present time and moment.

Uncaptioned image.

Thunderer Person

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2023

Photo courtesy of Sioux Falls South Dakota News

Technically it is a 'supercell mesocyclone’, a new species of tornado, brought on by aspects of climate, it has a spin radius of ten miles and lasts for an hour. So- called Tornado Alley is also shifting eastwards, so it’s very likely that these supercell tornados will soon be striking the large cities of the US east coast. Tornados and other features of the weather system are referred to, by Native American tribes, as Thunderer Persons. They are considered tribal members and participate in tribal meetings, as I learned from my recent  residency with the Sioux Indians in South Dakota. The status of the weather systems in Native tribal life extends a relationship with the climate to allow equal status with other creatures and non-human persons inhabiting the planet. Ancient and modern.

– Paul Elliman, artist and forager

Excerpt from Middle Plane Issue No.8 (Winter/Spring 2024). Read further musings on modernity from Martin Parr, Amia Srinivasan, Massimo Bottura, Kengo Kuma, Helmut Lang and more by ordering your copy here.