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Nothing is ever finished: Article two

Seminar synopsis

According to legend, Finn the Giant built Lund Cathedral and exclaimed that “Nothing is ever finished!” when he was nearing the completion of his task. Inspired by this story, we took the theme of time as the subject for the first of three seminars that explore issues raised in the Råängen programme. The theme connects Lund Cathedral’s presence in the town over the last nine hundred year years (since 1123, when the east-alter in the crypt was consecrated) and the Cathedral’s commitment to their land in Brunnshög a thousand years into the future.

All five speakers (a designer, a chaplain, a curator, an archaeologist and a writer) talked about Råängen as the centre of the world – a place where anything is possible and the future can be made. Our timeframe stretched right back to the Ice Age, through the Stone Age (when Brunnshög was inhabited by settlers), the 12th century (with the consecration of the east altar in Lund Cathedral), through to the present day (with the development of Brunnshög) and beyond – a thousand years into the future.

We talked about the importance of finding our place in the world, designing a future that is fit for humankind and the need to take responsibility for that future – environmentally, technologically and socially. Speakers expressed the need to show that the causes and effects of technology and design are political, social and economic.

The different ways to view and experience time was picked up by audience members with particular reference to the linear trajectory of modern history as established by the introduction of universal clock time during the Industrial Revolution.

We concluded the event with a presentation about the multiple different ways that artists incorporate the past into the present, as a way of acknowledging an active role in the building of a future. The examples discussed provide a valuable reference point for the Råängen programme when considering how artists and architects can be invited to play a role in building a new neighbourhood for the 21st century.

Time walk
Cathy Haynes and Lena Sjöstrand

Cathy Haynes and Lena Sjöstrand, time walk, Lund Cathedral, Råängen seminar, 2018. Photo: Peter Westrup.

Starting at the six-hundred-year-old world famous astronomical clock in the west end of Lund Cathedral that situates Lund at the centre of the world, the time walk continued to the altar and the crypt and included discussions concerning the circularity of time, the sacred calendar, timeless states, eternity and rebirth.

Cathy Haynes has written a text based on her time walk with Lena Sjöstrand, read it here.

The Unimaginable/Impossible Objects
Fiona Raby

Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne, ‘United Micro Kingdoms’, electric self-driving digicars, 2013.

I’m interested in how material culture shapes our world; I want to hijack the idea that the future is the only place we can imagine in. What if we step sideways, instead of into the future, to create alternative ideas about our current reality?

At the New School in New York where I teach, I create objects that sit in fictional spaces. They may appear deeply unrealistic, but counter-points to accepted norms are so important. I try to create a space for humanity to engage with advances in new technology, co-imagining alternative realities.

The imagination is under threat. Who decides what is real and what is not? We are presented with a limited idea of what is possible. Our economic, technological and social systems are constructed in a way that stifles creative thought.

There are times in your life when you want to enter another dimension, an irrational space or an experience that exist out of time – to explore a realm beyond reality. We developed ‘United Micro Kingdoms’, an accelerated, biological space that proposes a way to disappear.

There are so many magical connections between our practice and the Råängen programme: space to explore alternative futures, beyond our current reality; working in collaborative ways with a diverse range of specialists; recognising humanity in design.

Time and Archaeology Around Råängen
Anna Lagergren

Drawing by Anna Lagergren, generations from Ice Age to 2018.

I’m a farmer, archaeologist, flower seller, and plant grower. A large part of my life is focused on soil, animals, life, death, the changing of seasons and the cycles of time.

I have carried out archaeological digs in Brunnshög where Råängen is situated. There are a lot of traces of human activity in the area, with the exception of Råängen! Because it is situated in low-lying land, it is wet – a condition that isn’t conducive to long-term conservation.

In Brunnshög, we have unearthed gifts to the dead, grains of barley (the oldest to be discovered in Sweden), axes, domestic animals, dolmens (long graves), burial sites, market places, small teeth, pottery, necklaces and golden objects. There’s also a public space – which stretches over tens of thousands of square meters. It could have been used for defence purposes, religious ceremonies, or a market place where cattle were bought and sold.

The oldest remains found in the area are from the Stone Age (6,000 years ago) when people began to live in settlements, after 4,000 years of nomadic life.

My drawing is a visualisation of our relationship to history and time. Each figure represents one generation of women who lived in Råängen. It starts at the Ice Age and ends in 2018. This is a linear and physical representation of time which draws our attention to the fact that we are part of a community as well as a continuum.

In the history of life on earth, my lifespan of 0.7 seconds is totally insignificant. That´s just a short spark of a match on New Year’s Eve. This perspective may seem depressing but for me it is a spur to ensure that I leave a mark on the world.

In a history representing 4,000 generations, it has taken us just two of those generations to forget the old way of life and put our planet in jeopardy. We are speed blinded by technology and the future. Can we handle it? It is wonderful that Råängen is going against the grain and taking a long view.

Only Time Will Tell
Lisa Rosendahl

This four billion year old meteorite was part of the installation ‘The Blood of Stars’ by artists Raqs Media Collective, which I curated in Luleå in 2017. In their work, the artists reminded us that humans are made from the same material as this meteorite (iron rich star dust), which means that we are older than the earth! Touching it while we were installing the exhibition, I could feel an incredible connection between my material body and this vast expanse of time.

The projects I’m going to talk about are a shared desire to reinstate the material and spiritual connections between time, place and life that were severed or radically renegotiated through industrialization.

The meteorite reminds us that there are many different kinds of time that co-exist – deep time, dream time, the moment-just-before-death time – of which clock time is only one.

Before Modernity, time was perceived as place-and-activity specific. It was intimately linked to the rhythm of nature as well as to the rhythm of religious rituals and practices. With the onset of industrialization, the difference between the place-bound, traditional rhythms of life and the abstracting clock-time of the factories was violently felt and resisted.

Together, universal clock time and the linear narrative of modern history profoundly changed our way of understanding the world: humanity became abstracted from the past as well as the future, inhabiting only a short-sighted present.

Perhaps art is one way to offer a different perspective of time than the speeded up present. Traditionally, artworks have been made to outlive their makers and contemporary audiences. Treasured and kept safe across generations, artworks carry stories of the past into the future. In contemporary art, this durational perspective has expanded from material culture to include a wide range of process-based practices. These examples are chosen with the specific circumstances of the Råängen project in mind, where art will play an important role in Lund Cathedral’s 1000-year commitment to the area of Brunnshög undergoing a transformation from arable land to a place for human habitation.

Read about Lisa Rosendahl’s examples here.