Stone Walks: The Affective Time of Volcanic Rock

Time is conventionally understood as chronological. Geologic time is scored in the strata and layers of rock that compose the earth. Land is etched with beginning and end dates that tick out a metered understanding of life. Walking-with volcanic rock and lava flows evokes other approaches to time that displaces linear time. Time becomes contemporaneous and tentacular – spreading out pastness, presentness, and futurity all at once.

Scholars like Eleni Ikoniadou (2014), Lisa Blackman (2012), and Patricia Clough (2010), who write about affective dimensions of media, note that what affect does to mediation is to push rhythm beyond a metric conceptualization towards rhythm “as an assemblage of tensions traversing all participating bodies-living or inanimate” (Ikoniadou, 2014, p. 152). Affect as force and intensity surfaces rhythmically, where rhythm is sensation, not metric chronological time.

Stone Walks lends to both a metric and an affective understanding of time. As metric, we might think of patterns and tempos marked out as feet touch the ground. But this is only one aspect of walking and time. This linear time normalizes bodies and space. Time progresses from one individual moment to the next shaping the past and the future. This is an orderly and sequential understanding of time. It also marks out an interior and an exterior understanding of bodies and place. But affect, surfacing, and vibration require time be conceived differently. This is time as indeterminate, instable, and intensive.

Stone Walks, like other affective mediations, are modes of expression that enable the insensible, incommensurate, indeterminate to be felt. Stone Walks opens us to a transmaterial ethics. Here, ethics is a recognition of

the inhuman, the insensible, the irrational, the unfathomable, and the incalculable that will help us face the depths of what responsibility entails. A cacophony of whispered screams, gasps, and cries, an infinite multitude of indeterminate beings diffracted through different spacetimes, the nothingness, is always already within us, or rather, it lives through us. (Barad, 2012, p. 218)

During their residency in Iceland, WalkingLab lead a series of Stone Walks on craters, lava tubes, lava fields, and through barren fields of bubbling mud pots. On the walks, we worked with local geologic information and knowledge and affective surfaces of place to consider a different conceptualization of time and the Anthropocene.