Signals from the Edge

Can you bring us a signal from a different or a distant zone? ClimateCultures editor Mark Goldthorpe set a challenge for Members: “Create a small artistic expression of the more-than-human in the form of new signal for humanity.”

Unlike our other series A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects, which has a fairly fixed shape, Signals from the Edge develops as it grows. Each contribution stimulates the series to be more than it was up to that point. The edge shifts in shape and in scope and in what a signal might consist of, what it shows of us. Offerings here include a flash fiction, an essay/video, a short story – each with a separate reflective piece to accompany it – and a personal essay with embedded visual art. 

New pieces will take the form further still — and notions of ‘signal’ and of ‘edge’. In creating the idea for this series, I speculated whether a signal might be a message from elsewhere — whether one meant for our species or one intended for another kind entirely, and which we overhear by chance. Or it might be an artefact of some other consciousness, or an abstraction of our material world. Something in any case that brings some meaning for us to discover or to make, here and now, as we begin to address the Anthropocene in all its noise. A small piece of sense amidst the confusion of human being. 

A light from before
Photograph: Mark Goldthorpe © 2018

What would be your signal, and what edge might it speak from?

Whatever signal you create — whether it’s an image, a short text, a sound, a storyboard, a dream sequence, a combination of any of these or something other — it will be something we’re likely to miss if you don’t draw our attention to it. Is it a strong signal, or a weak one caught up in its own background noise? You might also want to play with the idea of the background noise in some way, or omit it entirely and offer us just the signal, filtered.

Where does your signal come from? The source zone might be distant from us in time or in space, in scale (from the quantum to the cosmic), in sensory perception (in a different sensitivity or range to ours, or an utterly new sensation), or in any other aspect of experience or imagination. If it carries a message, is it explicit or implicit, coded or clear, instantly familiar even if remote, or entirely alien?

What edge is your signal representing? It might be: a place; a boundary; a transition; an experience; a capability; a sensory range; a technology; a consciousness; a category; an uncertainty; an unknowing.

This is deliberately broad, even vague, to offer you as much room as possible for interpretation. The choice is yours. The key things are:

  1. Offer a short creative piece.
  2. Provide a short context or commentary piece alongside it (or embed your creative piece within an essay).
  3. If you wish, provide some suggested links that people might follow to explore your inspiration for themselves.

Our Signals from the Edge creative challenge is complementary to our other series A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects. Unlike that one, this is not specifically object-oriented; make it as conceptual or as concrete as you like. Let your imagination go free-range!

James Aldridge: A Queer Path to Wellbeing

17 August 2020 — approx reading time: 10.5 minutes

Artist James Aldridge explores experiences of being ‘other’ as an ability to see beyond the boundaries of binary distinctions: offering us signs of a more inclusive queer nature, from a place that until now has been the edge.

Indiana Rivers: I Am Purpose

10 April 2020 — approx reading time: 5 minutes

Writer Indiana Rivers shares a short story exploring one person’s sense of purpose. Evoking ideas of conversation with the universe to illuminate times of zoonotic pandemic and climate crisis, Indiana reflects on the presence of signals from within.

Brit Griffin: Wildfire & Fox

28 August 2018 — approx reading time: 6 minutes

Writer Brit Griffin lives in Cobalt, Canada — a town that was born during the 1903 mineral rush. She shares a powerful account of signals to be detected in Cobalt’s burning forests and the cry of a fox.

Mark Goldthorpe: Pale.Blue

28 Feb 2018 — approx reading time: 7 minutes

ClimateCultures editor Mark Goldthorpe sets a new challenge: create small expressions of the more-than-human in the form of a signal for humanity. His inaugural signal appears as an alien encyclopedia entry cast adrift, backwards in time and space…