At the limit of comprehension, there is “world.” For humans, “world” is proxy for Earth: a beginning and a functional limit; a maximum unit. Earth’s energies — its forces, capacities, temporalities, and intensities — create the frame of possibility for our existence, our perceptions and reality. Yet, even as we reach a horizon of globality, Earth remains wanton, escaping us through mysterious registries and vast scale.
This materially real and immanent complexity is the point of departure for Twelve Earths (2017-2029), a planetary sculpture scaled to Earth itself. Designed by Michael Jones McKean, with critical support by Fathomers, the project unfurls as a series of collaborations centered at twelve distinct sites — an impact crater, a nuclear testing ground, a primeval forest, a nearly submerged island, an open pit mine, and more — that together build a portrait of Earth, its converging timescales, and its interconnections. Improbably, these twelve sites are located along a single geographical ring: one unifying “great circle” stretching 25,000 miles around the planet.
Each site unveils a set of panoptic realities that, through the lens of Twelve Earths, encourage an exploration of speculative inter-belonging with life, objects, time, processes, and events. By composing systems sensitized to place and elasticized to scale, McKean and collaborators forge surprising connections that remain responsive to criss-crossing vectors shaping a location’s reality — its histories, politics, languages, and customs, along with vast expanses of pre-human history. This practice of radical learning and engagement happens twelve different times as the project’s research platform develops and grows.
By building a dense meshwork of contact points, Twelve Earths establishes the possibility for brief and long-form encounters where time/space distances can swirl, collapse, and dissolve. It creates portals to contemplate birth, death, decay, transmutation, emergence, alchemy, architecture, flora, fauna, and geology, rendering distributed phenomena momentarily visible, knowable, and strange. A constellation reporting to us in our time, and simultaneously extending a beacon to unknown and distant futures, Twelve Earths transcends boundaries to expand, deepen, and release our planetary imaginary.