Astrolabes for Transitioning Times (working title) (2024)

Adriana Knouf

We live in the transitioning times. Circumstances - chosen or forced - require us to develop modes of living that are simultaneously adaptive, expansive, reverent, and joyful. To do this necessitates preparation, a careful attunement to dynamics otherwise obscured by grossly accumulative practices. We have to bring together modes of practice that have been torn asunder through hundreds - if not thousands - of years of rationalism that overpowers all other forms of knowledge production. Rather than assuming that only one form of thought is primary, we have to learn how to weave multiple - conflicting - approaches together simultaneously.

Transitions occur through transformations of gender, the movements into old age, the adjustment of behaviors for changing climates, the desires for off-world living, the necessity of developing new imaginaries, the attunements to non-linear temporalities, the manifestation of commensal living. We have little training in the transitioning times, which causes anxiety: we need new forms of direction, new possibilities of enchantment, new ways of thinking about what we're leaving behind, new connections to the non-linearity of time.

In this project Adriana Knouf will explore the possibilities of creating an astrolabe for these transitioning times. Many of us have lost the skills of orientation to the earth and to the cosmos, bodily skills now left to digital devices. However, such practices of orientation were, in the ancient past, supported by analog calculators such as the astrolabe. Astrolabes were used throughout the world to tell the time of day, period of the year, positions of stars at night, and, within the Arabic parts of the world, times and directions of prayer, among other things.

This contemporary analog astrolabe will be created to allow us to orient ourselves within these transitioning times. Such an astrolabe would of course orient ourselves to the stars, but perhaps include exoplanets and black holes in addition to standard stars. It could include information about sea level rise and how to calculate how high a distant hill is. It would provide information about when to plant or where nearby solar power stations are. In short, it would orient us to our current needs and desires.