“To live and die well together in a thick present,” quotes the seminal text Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulhucene by Donna Haraway. In this text, Haraway responds to the rising sense of alarm surrounding ecological discourses on the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene. The book is a proposal to move instead towards the discursive framework of the Cthulhucene—an ecological epoch that, for Haraway, “eschews futurism” and remains resolutely with the present and all its problems; one that stays with the trouble and finds kin within it.
To consider the global ecosystem as a network of entangled and interconnected life-forces, the ecological imminence is also an imminence of existence. It begins with disappearance—of water, of trees, of entire habitats and species—all turned to vapour and thin air. And yet thin air in a thick present takes vapour as a beginning, too: vapour cycles through time, becoming cloud, becoming rainfall, becoming water-body again. Taking the Earth’s hydrologic cycle—that is, the sequence of processes detailing the cyclical movement of water on and off the Earth’s surface—as its entry-point, Vapour Islands: to live and die well together in a thick present* is an archipelago of thematic “islands,” in which each island corresponds to one of the four main stages of the hydrologic cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and percolation. Interacting with books and research materials from the Centre’s Public Resource Platform while thinking through the cycle of water, this presentation moves through and between loss and regain, release and redistribution, to consider the ways in which thin air can be transformed into a present thick with possibility.
Image caption: Vapour Islands: to live and die well together in a thick present*, 2019, installation view. Courtesy NTU CCA Singapore.