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Reflections on Continuum

The alarm goes off at 5 AM. Four of us wriggle, groggy, out of sleeping bags. The whistling whisper of sleeping bags thrust into stuff sacks. The rhythmic crunch of footsteps on astro-turf. We leave one bunker to prepare to enter another bunker by sunrise.

The rest of the enclave gathers on the peninsula that's called an island. We drink warm liquids. We make our way to the bunker, the cave, the Continuum.


We scurry like squirrels, gathering nuts of preparation before entering the cave. We will be free to come and go. Yes and no. We will be tethered by the time it takes to read one thousand poems. We enter the cave, and though our bodies may step out of the cave, something draws us ever back until the ultimate word of the final poem has been spoken.

We enter at different times, some furtively, some ceremoniously, some steadily, some like clocking in for a long day at the mill. We begin our what-we-do for the day. This emerges from what we are, is inspired by what we take in.

It's still morning:

Why is time not moving forwards? Silly question. Time transcends lines of forwards and backwards. Time has slowed down because it wants us to surrender. Not true. Time is without speed. It's pointless to fight time. We surrender. We are absorbed in the amoeba of this time we have created. We cannot create time. We have surrendered to that which cannot be created, but somehow exists.

"As soon as we begin to perform, however, time begins to riot."

- Jonathan Burrows from 'Cheap Lecture'


Listening as a state of attentive awareness, including but not confined to the ear and the perceptual faculties of the brain associated with hearing. Listening to the mind wander and return. Listening to the body grow weary, ache, surrender, continue. Listening as an attempt to fathom sound.

Sound as one of many stimuli that can be sensed.

Movement as momentum, as shifting perspective, as propulsion through time more than through space. It's not just us. The space, too, has surrendered to time.

Space as a container of time, as a manipulator of sounds.


Which move and weave mysteriously in this endless now of this finite here.

Which originate in one place, but emerge or concentrate in another.

Which play with our minds.

Which are held together by words.


Which mark time.

Through repetition.

Through the appearance, the disappearance, the changing shape of the moon.

Through repetition.

Through months, days, numbers.

Through repetition.

Through the patterns of weather, the patterns of birds, the patterns of sky, the patterns of patterns.

Through repetition.

Through repetition.

Through repetition.


We are drunk on time. It won't stop pouring out, and we can't stop drinking it. It moves us like puppets, plays us like flutes, pulls us through the thousand poems describing the thousand days we are compressing into this day, this cave, this meeting of minds and bodies in intention, practice, devotion.

Through our surrender, we are made invincible. No. Time is invincible. Through this remote act, we are invisible. No. People have come and gone - an intermittent audience, cameras within the camera-cave - that we have performed for, or ignored, or didn't notice because we were consumed by time and intent. We remain.


What was sharp in the morning is soft now. What was hard in the morning is soft now. We are softened by time. We are shards of glass worn smooth and pale by the rhythmic motion of the water, salt and sand of the poems, washing over us, pulling us along.

The poems are time. We have orbited around time all day. We surround it, hang on it, contain it, even as we are absorbed within it. We continue our presence, some in silence, some in sound, some in motion, some in stillness, all in anticipation for time to end. The ones who know watch and listen for the ending. The ones who are beyond knowing merely maintain.

The last word is spoken. It can't be real. It's real. Lights are turned off. We wait for everyone to notice. We wait for the ending. It happens.

Then -


About Continuum:

Continuum was a fourteen-hour performance installation that took place on Saturday, October 1st, 2016 in an abandoned naval bunker on Mare Island. This was the fifth iteration of a series of performances, with the durational writing of poet, Stephen Ratcliffe and the sensitive musicianship of the Thingamajigs Performance Group at the core. Continuum also included dancer Shinichi Iova-Koga, Noh actor Jubilith Moore, and the Long Tone Choir.

Photo credits:

Morning photos by Stephen Ratcliffe. Afternoon photo by Aracely Kriete. Evening and night photos by Edward Shocker.

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