Tuesday, August 3, 2010


What is noema? It is a word that comes from the Greek, meaning “thought,” but later became a more technical term in the phenomenology of philosopher Edmund Husserl. It is also the title for a new journal founded by 2008 iLAB resident, choreographer and experiential geographer Karl Cronin for his Somatic Natural History Archive project. He gives his own gloss on Husserl’s noema as “the perceived object as a perceived object,” seeing noemas as kinds of encounters.

This past Spring, I received the first volume of noema, wrapped in a beautiful cover of sparrow silhouettes cut from striking wallpaper patterns (by Ann Lopatin Cantrell), and was blown away by the contents, which present still photos from a growing collection of Cronin’s “embodied portraits that depict the life histories of10,000 plants and animals.”

What is attractive about the project is its unbelievable ambition, the wild execution of these attempts of “kinetic empathy” with other species, and the links to other media. As an example of the last point, in noema you can see a still of Karl’s response to Yucca glauca (Yucca) but then you must visit his website and link to the film of the response - the films capture the dynamism of these encounters, where the photos can only hint at them.

The journal and the overall project are wonderful, and if you are interested in the intersection of movement and natural history you should consider getting a subscription.* I am curious to see how the encounters will evolve over time, and more importantly if Karl will have the stamina to fulfill its five-figure ambition. I really hope so. I feel this work will be very generative for other artists. I know it has made me want to go meditate on a species and try to create some poetic empathy, although maybe just for 10 species.

*Annual subscriptions of noema are available for $20. To subscribe, contact Karl here.