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The edge of the moment: kairos and climate crisis

The edge of the moment: kairos and climate crisis, by Dr Sarah Lewis, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English (Faculty of Arts & Humanities) and Sam Williams, Somerset House Studios Resident will explore how, why and to what effect the concept of kairos - the moment of opportunity - is evoked in response to states of precarity, using the climate crisis as a prototype subject.

SW-SL_Landscape_promo.780Image: Dinner inside the Malm whale, Gothenburg Natural History Museum

The project is based on the thought that kairos - the moment of opportunity- has never been more relevant to the political, cultural and historical understanding than it is today. The idea of the opportune moment and appropriateness of speech and action are central to movements such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion, as well as the #MeToo movement. The developments and encroachments of technology, particularly social media’s dependence on the creation of a collective sense of urgency in terms of a perceived need to assert individual identity in the moment, has shifted the concept of selfhood in relation to the present. Kairos has been evoked through the rhetoric surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, through multiple immigration crises, and, of particular focus for this project, through the cultural understanding of and response to the climate emergency. According to the project team, ’now is the moment to understand and therefore harness kairos as a temporal and rhetorical framework that shapes our sense of both individual and collective agency.‘ 

The project team will devise and run a workshop in two parts. The first will generate kairotic experiences for a diverse range of attendees, using climate change focused discussion prompts, activities, and a food experience conceived in collaboration with artist/researcher Ines Neto dos Santos. A second session will ask the same attendees to reflect on those experiences and will provoke direct discussion of the concept of kairos. 

Project team

Sarah Lewis is a Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature at King’s College London. She has co-edited a collection of essays, Family Politics in Early Modern Literature (Palgrave, 2017), and her monograph, Time and Gender on the Shakespearean Stage (CUP, 2020) analyses the cultural and theatrical intersections of early modern temporal concepts and gendered identities. Sarah is a co-director of the research network, Grasping Kairos, a group of scholars working across disciplines, geographies and time periods to further our understanding of the cultural, political, literary, artistic, philosophical, theological and historical construction of the opportune moment. She is also Interim Director of the London Shakespeare Centre (2022). 

Sam Williams (UK) is a London based visual artist and filmmaker working with moving-image, performance and collage. His research is currently focused on how we can look at multi species entanglements, ecological systems and folk mythologies to produce ideas for future ways of living. Sam is a resident artist at Somerset House Studios. His work has been exhibited and screened at institutions and festivals including Somerset House, Siobhan Davies Dance, South Kiosk, Tate Britain and Sadler’s Wells (London); Outpost (Norwich), Baltic39 (Newcastle), Kino Arsenal (Berlin), She Will (Oslo) and Oberhausen (Germany). As part of the audio-visual group Emptyset he has performed internationally and has shown collaborative works with choreographer Rosemary Butcher MBE at The Place (London), Nottingham Contemporary and Akademie der Künste (Berlin).  

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