Excitation Energy Transfer

Over here at the Fields of Decay headquarters, we were asked to read a paper about photosynthesis that uses the term ‘Excitation Energy Transfer’ (EET). We love science, but for the love of science, those dense scientific publications are hard to absorb! So, while still not entirely sure what EET is, it feels like a valid descriptor for the end of Week 2’s experience at Sydney University’s symposium: Feminist Queer Anticolonial Propositions for Hacking the Anthropocene.

Now, imagine Leah and Sophia as one molecule and the presenters at the Symposium as another. Borrowing some science from the internet to color our analogy (thank you, internet):

Excitation energy transfer (EET) is a process where the electronic excitation is transferred from a donor to an acceptor. It is widely seen in both natural and in artificial systems, such as light-harvesting in photosynthesis, fluorescence resonance energy transfer spectroscopy and microscopy, and the design of light-emitting molecular devices.

When a molecule absorbs light, it becomes electronically excited, and such excitation may be transferred to another molecule nearby. In photosynthesis, most of the light-absorbing pigments, chlorophylls and carotenoids, are in light-harvesting complexes, which means their role is to absorb light and send the energy to other pigments, eventually to the reaction center for driving chemical reactions.

from: Modeling Electronic Coupling in Excitation Energy Transfer, by Chao-Ping Hsu and Matteo Cavalleri


Pigment interactions are far stronger, and energy levels and absorption spectra change. The interactions lead to new excitonic energy levels, shared between the strongly interacting molecules, which can even behave as one big super-molecule.

from: Natural Strategies for Photosynthetic Light Harvesting, by Roberta Croce and Herbert van Amerongen

If information, creativity, and knowledge can be envisioned as forms of light energy, then we were shooting rainbows out of our eyeballs by the end of the conference. Our resonance with the educators, thinkers, creatives, and organizers of Hacking the Anthropocene was so immensely and viscerally felt that we very well may have bonded into a super-molecule of planet-loving goodness.

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Week 2, Day 4 (continued): 

It all started after we hustled our way to Sydney, picked up our brand new (used) Aura Camera 6000, and dragged ourselves + half our weight in equipment over to Love Letters to Other Worlds, an evening of art, engagement, and collaboration with other worlds. IWCS Dickson St. Community Space was a hive of activity containing photographic, video, and interactive artworks by Kathy High. Waste Matters: You are my Future was largely about microbiomes and fecal transplantation, an “exploration of the power of poo.” It was also about so much more. Both intimate and touching, as well as rockstar dream your own big future, it was funny, moving, and stimulated the senses and imagination. There was a face painting station where one could be adorned with either David Bowie embellishments or a termite masterpiece, and in the center of it all was a Ouija Board mechanism to commune with the termite world called Caution, workers below, created by Perdita Phillips. We made lots of friends, both human and termite. We asked a lot of good questions like: “Who was here?” “What is energy?” and “What is it?” Many of the answers were in the termites’ native language, which we could only pretend to interpret. However the answer to the latter question was “best b jk.” Termites, you best be joking. Then the oracle planchette (which, in this case, was a wine glass) swiftly landed on the termite’s behind. The end. Humor and profundity rolled into one experience.

We can’t leave this evening without saying that the snackage was mighty, especially Lindsay Kelley’s gastronomic experience Bioart Kitchen. With her black elbow-length latex gloves greased with (what looked like) butter, she concocted a cocktail of the most lubricating proportions. It may have looked like shit (chocolate ice cream, coffee, Kahlúa, Benefiber, and corn), but it went down and out real smooth. A thought-provoking and relaxative night was had by all.

Sophia Bowie

Week 2, Day 5:

On Friday we caught the early train (along with hundreds of city commuters) to the University of Sydney to attend the Symposium (hosted by the Sydney Environment Institute): “Hack the Anthropocene!”

And hack we did.

According to Wikipedia, the Anthropocene is “a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems”.

From the outset, it was clear that this Symposium was going to be all about hacking and hijacking this definition. As Dr. Astrida Neimanis so eloquently proposed, “audaciously exploring alternative possibilities” beyond the binary ‘man’ vs ‘nature’ perspective that places we ‘humans’ centerstage. She instead offered an alter-Anthropocene which considers the perspective of the invisible, the shadow people, the non-human casualties. She proposed that we were gathered in that room out of a desire for a more embodied response to what can be done. Perhaps that is what is needed to understand and attend to the predicament at hand.

We then witnessed an inspiring Opening Keynote by Ellen van Neerven, who read an excerpt from her book, “Heat and Light”, which was transformative and poetic and reeked of solastalgia. It also really underlined the value of fiction as a tool for resistance, storytelling as a tool to enliven empathy and transmit layers of knowledge that exist in lived experience.

The imagery of entanglement from this session (entangled roots, entangled opinions, messy ideas) resonated throughout the day as we dived into a multitude of back-to-back ideas and provocations from a range of academics and artists.

Entangled Lines
Kathryn Yusoff

The morning session opened by waxing poetic and delving deep into ECOZOA: A Cellular Response to the Anthropocene, poetry by Helen Moore. How can we respond on a cellular level to the whole ecology of ourselves and the environment?

Vicki Kirby talked about identity – Where do ‘I’ begin and end? What if nature speaks me? What if nature is suicidal? What if culture was really nature all along?

Suzi Hayes proposed Barbie as the high priestess of the Anthropocene – symbolic of white privilege and power, representing “the unfinished story of whiteness” – but also symbolic of a specific orientation. Are nature and culture really separate? Which silences are implied with Barbie at our helm?

The brilliant Pony Express lured us in with their Eco-Sexual Mystique, a video-art piece that got us all hot and horny for nature via intimate and sexy human-snake interaction. “I don’t know if we have the same definition of consent.”

And then Romand Coles gave a talk that blew our minds, resonating intensely with our project’s aims and filling in some gaps for us. How can we refocus the sense foreboding and prophecy of the Anthropocene, the sense that we are faced with an incomprehensible planetary catastrophe? Can we instead see this as some kind of call to action – and if so, how can we adopt new eco-political systems for being?

In thinking about systems and ideologies, this article critiques neoliberalism’s obsession with competition and consumerism, but also suggests that we have failed to build an alternative. “It’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed.” So how do we prepare for change? How do we mobilize new alternatives?

This is where Rom’s talk was so powerful. He talked about his research in grassroots democracy and social movements, and the energetics for change being a combination of the “Episodic Shock Democracy” (for example, a rage-filled uprising); and the “Slow Time Quotidian Practices” (the everyday, small changes built on energetic exchanges that can happen on a cellular level in a conversation that activates mirror neurons; or interspecies connections). He emphasized the “energetic grid” where these alternating currents meet and support each other—where profound practices of attention such as meditation, gardening, and artmaking provide a base to stabilize and draw energy from macro-dynamics and flare-ups such as storms, fires, and fury. Can we cultivate capacities to become enraged and galvanize social change?

Rom talked about “receptive agency” as key to this rethink – if our world is “felt”, then the way we receive and the energy around how we respond is super important. There is an ecological effect when we are moving receptively and co-creating. Practicing attention creates resonance.

Can we energize the “Not-Yet?”

We were lucky enough to grab Rom during the lunch break and talk to him about Fields of Decay, at which point we were sparking with our potential to energize the “not-yet” through this project. Rom’s suggestion that performance can act as a wormhole was particularly evocative for us.

We also discovered that our adoption of the phrase ‘energy enthusiasts’ had a historical resonance. During the American Revolution, the term ‘enthusiasts’ was used to undermine the credibility of groups of women knitting for the war effort. However, these fierce knitters chose to reappropriate the term, owning that they were ‘knitting enthusiasts’ with pride and political rebellion. We like it. Energy Enthusiasts Unite!

Speaking of energy enthusiasts, we were excited to discover a video display of Cat Jones work Somatic Drifts, a sensory interactive work exploring “trans-human and inter-species empathy”. This work was super inspiring as we start to formulate our own sensory, experiential components to Fields of Decay.

All the while, Stephanie Springgay hacked at our senses with her Volatizing Bouquet—an olfactory ether permeating the space and causing our smellometers to register something both foreign and fitting for the themes at hand.

After lunch, more provocations were layered into our already hyper-stimulated minds and senses…


Can we practice purposeful attentiveness and responsiveness to nature? Nature uses lures. Food lures attract the right insects to pollinate flowers. Beauty is used as a tool to elicit responsiveness, which leads to action. “I want you to want me,” says Nature. By paying attention, we can see and understand the lively responsiveness of the world to cultivate a lively relationship. Responsiveness is relational. (Thom van Dooren and Deborah Bird Rose)

Kay Are
Kay Are

The dingo’s howl is a howl for the Anthropocene. Kept in an enclosure, we see ex-pets behind wire fences, returned for not acting like pets, but acting true to their nature – wild, non-affectionate, independent. What does the howl of a dingo in captivity represent? The horror-movie foreboding of a future we know is approaching? (Fiona Probyn-Rapsey)

Victoria Hunt led us on a physical journey deep into our physical selves. We turned ourselves in the space and in our imaginations into a skeletal view of looking at ourselves from inside and out.

Lindsay Kelley’s extreme baking experience turned to ‘hard tack,’ a survival food that sustained many explorers and soldiers. As we attempted to bite into these solid hard-tack biscuits that were more like rocks, Lindsay talked us through the colonizing history and associated indigestion that the hard-tack represented. Luckily there was tea and juice available to wash it all down.


After the break, we were asked to question our assumptions of Indigenous Australians, looking at their relationship to mining, sustaining their own livelihoods, and anthropogenic expectations these ‘stewards of the earth.’ (Eve Vincent and Timothy Neale)

Majidi Warda gave us a retelling of the Anthropocene as a phone sex romance. “Now the really big bang… what to do?” … “This is irreversible” … “Build more machines and save the dying mother.”

Jennifer Mae Hamilton proposed a rethink of our response to nature … why clear the roads with salt when the snow falls deep? Why not close the roads, rethink, stay home, slow the flow of cars and fossil fuels? What would we do instead if we had to take the time to stay in?

And then we pretended to be ticks. Feel the light, climb up higher and higher, then drop and hope to land in a fleshy warm zone. Then suck. Undine Sellbach and Stephen Loo proposed this playful approach to the cycle of the tick, encouraging us to see it from a different perspective.

The closing keynotes continued to hack our overstimulated minds…

The first keynote was by Professor Cecilia Åsberg, who we met the previous night while communing with the termites. Cici is also Head of The Seed Box in Sweden, which was beaming on our radar, so we already knew she was the real deal. Here’s what we took from her keynote, reconstructed and re-membered:

We have so many stories of toxic impacts upon our world. We did not know better. We still do not know better. We are a culture of the obscene, full of devices, overload, overuse, an obsession with things – but no one wants to take the blame, no one wants to own up. Capitalism, corporatism, consumerism. But each individual has their own part to play, we are all implicated in a thousand tiny anthropocenes. Nature is messy, contaminated, toxic. But was nature ever pure to start with? We are afraid of the chemical, but everything is made up of chemicals. We need to find allies, a new ethic of conviviality, care, sharing and hospitality.

Cecilia Åsberg

And finally we heard from Dr. Kathryn Yusoff, whose closing provocations brought race to the forefront of the conversation. Again, reconstructed and re-membered from the chaos of our frenzied notes:

Decolonisation is not a metaphor. It has territorial implications. The frontier mentality, and the concept of ‘stewardship’, of man as responsible for the land, reinforces colonialism. Geology maps history through the strata, layers of rock, mineral, fossils. Geology uses death as markers, and the anthropocene amplifies the horror by picking epic moments as golden spikes or markers for future geologists. Dates are set based on nuclear tests, slavery, genocide – so many markers connected with the deaths of indigenous people. The Anthropocene as Environmental Racism. Maybe we need new forms of worlding, and to hasten the end of this one?

Cautionary Tale

Week 2, Day 6:

We went out Friday night and celebrated the end of the Anthropocene (or the end of hacking away at it, anyway). We were lucky to be staying with the wonderful and inspiring Julie Vulcan, so our late night conversations were rich with re-hashing and re-hacking all that we had taken in.

So Saturday morning was a slow start. It was too beautiful not to go out and see Sydney, so we went to Carriageworks to catch some of some of the 20th Biennale of Sydney:

We also got a chance to hug fellow EARTHling Andrew at his digs slinging drinks at Cafe Lounge. We went to bed tired and inspired.

Week 2, Day 7:

Days turn into nights turn into days, and this one brought us up and out early morning to catch some more of the Biennale on Cockatoo Island before taking flight back to Brisbane.

Sailing to Cockatoo

We highly recommend making your way out there if you are in Sydney. The island is covered with evocative and provocative exhibits, so much so that we spontaneously erupted into artistic response. Our top two artworks were choreographer William Forsythe’s pendulum field, Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, and Korakrit Arunanondchai’s Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names (though notably we were not able to see everything on the island). We responded accordingly:

Art Everywhere

And then we headed back to Brisbane before “cracking on” through Weeks 3 and 4 (to borrow terminology from Leah’s husband, Mark). We had absorbed so much in a few short days, got really excited, sent out a lot of energy, and reacted with artistic flare. If that process is not Excitation Energy Transfer, then we fold and the plants win. Anyway, we received this message on the way out:

“Good luck on your project! I take the image of you two in lab coats with the aura camera as a promise of indisputable success.”

~ actor, environmental scientist, and Earth empathic being Andrew Lindqvist ~

Dissolving the Binary

Nature, we want you. Let’s do it.



Tilling the Soil

We can’t possibly dissect Week 2 of our Fields of Decay Residency without going backwards in time and touching in on our epic discussion with Dr. Evan Stephens, who brought us into awareness and up-to-date on biotechnology and agricultural issues affecting the ecology of our planet. Attempts to title this blog according to steps in farming processes may be a failed endeavor, considering that brief internet research proves inconclusive on whether tilling is actually a beneficial practice. Alas, the following discourse will attempt to aerate the massive bed of information that we have inherited, in hopes of growing some nutritious, digestible, sustainable, and delicious food for thought.

When Algae Ruled the Earth

We engaged with Evan in a 3+ hour chat over wine and cheese, covering everything from types of waves to electromagnetic fields to biodiversity to biological energy to alternative modes of powering the planet to nutrition to farming to carbon sequestration to dead zones in the sea to oil spills to over-fertilization to “living solutions” (we’re talking bacteria here, exchanging energy across cultures to create living batteries)—and exploring what other ways we can extract energy from the environment to feed the planet, which in turn, can be fed back through energy and water. (If that run-on sentence seems crazy, you can only imagine what the extended conversation was like!) It did, however, lead us down the path to understanding a more encompassing ecological perspective, resisting departmentalization and celebrating cross-pollination.

The usual subdivision of science into chemical, physical, botanical, and other departments, necessary for the sake of clarity and convenience in teaching, soon began to dominate the outlook and work of these institutions. The problems of agriculture — a vast biological complex — began to be subdivided much the same way as the teaching of science. Here it was not justified, for the subject dealt with could never be divided, it being beyond the capacity of the plant or animal to sustain its life processes in separate phases. It eats, drinks, breathes, sleeps, digests, moves, sickens, suffers or recovers, and reacts to all its surroundings, friends and enemies in the course of twenty-four hours. Neither can any of its operations be carried on apart from all the others; in fact, agriculture deals with organized entities, and agriculture research is bound to recognize this truth at the starting point of its investigations.

In doing this, but adopting the artificial divisions of science as at present, established conventional research on a subject like agriculture was bound to involve itself and magnificently has got itself bogged. An immense amount of work is being done, each tiny portion is a separate compartment; a whole army of investigators has been recruited; a regular profession been invented. The absurdity of team work has been devised as a remedy for the fragmentation which need never have occurred. This is nonsensical. Agricultural investigation is so difficult that it will always demand a very special combination of qualities which from the nature of the case is rare. A real investigator for such a subject can never be created by the mere accumulation of the second rate.

“The Soil and Health,” 1947
Sir Albert Howard
excerpted from “Paramagnetism,” 1995
Philip S. Callahan
given to us by, 2016
Evan Stephens

After a lovely lentil entrée by Leah, more talk concerning topics like vegetarianism and healthy nutritional practices, and a Reiki exchange that may have converted another skeptic into an open mind, we went to bed very full in many ways.

Tapping Into the Training

Week 2, Day 1:

We started off strong on Monday, putting a call out to the Brisbane community for a collective Suzuki training session. Jo and Kelly joined us as we grounded our energies into our bodies, the earth, and into the surrounding space of the basement of Metro Arts.

It was a time to engage in the act of remembering together. How exactly do the sequences go? What music do we use? How can we count, lead, speak together? What is something we all know? (Turns out, one thing we all know was “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” though in Sophia’s nursery rhyme training, never seemed to graduate past the first stanza.)

Afterwards, Jo and Kelly participated in a brief writing exercise about energy. Kelly shared a beautiful story about energy, decay, and the human relationships to loss and grief. It is important to continue remembering why we started this project—the heartbreaking loss of our beautiful and fleeting existence.

After a week of imbibing intense scientific information, we were feeling quiet full. So we worked some more things out in the room before leaving to meet with Lawrence English, sound designer and all-around wise one. He proposed that perhaps stomping and grounding our energy was tamping down all the info into condensed bits and making room for more. We concur. Bring it on.

We spoke with Lawrence about different ways we could record our interaction with the earth and convert those waves into other forms. We discussed our parameters to define “sites of decay,” nuances in terminologies, and touching on the spiritual side of these investigations. We also talked about solastalgia, “the homesickness felt when one’s home environment is damaged or degraded”.

We returned home to see what other tools of measurement we could acquire. Plus, there was some potentially good news about the aura camera—our guy had some offers and was waiting to hear back, but it still hadn’t sold yet! We wondered if perhaps the universe was on our side…

A lovely little phenomenon has also been happening with Leah’s husband, Mark. Most nights, we sit down to a group dinner and we report our day’s findings to Mark. Prompted by his inquisitive, earnest, concerned, cynical and mildly amused demeanor, characters are starting to emerge from our proud yet equally self-deprecating improvisational banter. We started thinking about our roles as translators and explorers, documenting the performance by creating heightened versions of ourselves—turning up the amplitude, so to speak. We thought about what costumes and scientific measuring tools we may already have in our possession, and explored collaborating with people and technologies that could add complexity vs. exploring the lo-fi methods we have at our disposal and can access through creative means.

Leah: “Let me check my random stash of costumes. Maybe we have some lab coats in there.”


On the Road!

Week 2, Day 2:

We commenced conducting initial field tests, taking our shared sensibilities and matching hats out into the world.

International Science Spies

Leah found an app in the AM called “Physics Toolbox,” created by a science teacher. It can measure light, sound, magnetic waves and more—simultaneously! We recorded these as well as barometric and pH levels. We attempted long exposure photos (that for unknown reasons failed), as well as sun sample light photos from Sophia’s Digital Harinezumi camera, which is designed to replicate 110-format photographs and Super 8 films. We also documented our qualitative experience through audio and video journals, citing historical references and felt experiences, both emotional, sensorial, and psychospiritual.

Targeted Sites

Our initial sites of interest were all defunct mine sights near Brisbane. These initially proved hard to locate, although Leah’s frustration in locating the sites was solved by the miracle of Wikipedia, which conveniently listed the exact map coordinates.

#001: Box Flat Mine (a coal mine near Ipswich, Qld which was in operation from 1969-1972, closing after a deadly underground gas explosion killed 17 miners).
#002: New Oakleigh Mine (the second-last remaining coal mine in the Moreton Basin, officially closed in 2013 – although there was still some serious security at the site entrance so we based our tests in a grassy area adjacent).
#003: Kingston Gold Mine (currently known as “Mt. Taylor Park”, previously a gold mine, then an industrial waste dumping site, then a residential lot that was closed down when toxic sludge oozed from the ground)

We ended our intense first day of field testing at Mullumbimby, which promotes itself as ‘biggest little town in Australia.’ We stayed with Casus Circus who were camping out and training in the Spaghetti Circus’ training space and showgrounds. It was lovely to stand on the seashore, take a few breaths and gaze at the multitude of stars in the night sky. We fell asleep and woke up to a biophony of nature’s soundscape, fitting as we had listened to a podcast with Bernie Krause on the way there: The World’s Disappearing Natural Sound.

International Science Detectives

Week 2, Day 3 — the morning after camping:

Leah: “My thighs still hurt.”

Sophia: “Well, we were out in the Field all day yesterday…
…no rest for the scientific!!”

Legs of Decay

It was hot and steamy when we woke up in the tent, a good motivation to get out of there and head straight to the beach for a swim. We soaked up the positive vibes of the sea’s negative ions before heading to one of Brunswick Head’s many cute cafés for lattes,  juices, and the splitting of a white chocolate and macadamia nut muffin at The Terrace Espresso Bar.

We then sat in on the creative development of Casus Circus’ new piece “Driftwood,” giving feedback to Natano and Kali’s dance conversations, communicating across contemporary dance, tradition Samoan style, and shared circus shenanigans. Leah even practiced balancing on Abbey’s shoulders. There are many drugless ways in which to feel high.

We proved this concept further by going to Burringbar, which might be best known for its overgrown railroad. We went to get our minds, hearts, and bodies blown away by Wayne and Buddita.

We can’t say too much about our revelatory meeting with the spiritual physicist and miracle healer (TOP SECRET MISSION!), but we can tell you this much:

When we pressed Wayne to describe the science of things like Zero Point Energy, he countered our line of inquiry by saying that these definitions were not necessary for us to “achieve our endgame.” We were encouraged to keep our endgame in mind (which also happens to be inextricably linked with our intentions in starting this project to begin with).

ENDGAME: To create an experience that will allow people to feel, even if for one glorious moment, that everything in this universe is made of energy—and thus, that we are all interconnected. If we can achieve this, people will be able to understand on a visceral level that we are all made of the same star stuff, and perhaps consider the world around us in a new way, with an environmental empathy that causes us to more deeply consider our choices and actions in relationship to everything else.

In quantum physics, quantum coherence means that subatomic particles are able to cooperate. These subatomic waves or particles not only know about each other, but are highly interlinked by bands of common electromagnetic fields, so that they can communicate together. They are like a multitude of tuning forks that all begin resonating together. As waves get into phase or synch, they begin acting like one giant wave and one giant subatomic particle. It becomes difficult to tell them apart. Many of the weird quantum effects seen in a single wave apply to the whole. Something done to one of them will affect the others.

Coherence establishes communication. It’s like a subatomic telephone network. The better the coherence, the finer the telephone network and the more refined wave patterns have a telephone. The end result is also a bit like a large orchestra. All the photons are playing together but as individual instruments that are able to carry on playing individual parts. Nevertheless, when you are listening, it’s difficult to pick out any one instrument.

“The Field,” Lynne McTaggart

Wayne told us that science has long been used as the construct for us to talk about our observable universe, but that it’s not the only way. We are to keep it simple. It is:

what you know
how you understand it
share it in this way…

Then we will be on the “fast track” to…somewhere. We’re pretty sure that place is awesome since it exists both outside and within the realm of spacetime. We’re also pretty sure we were gifted the keys to the mysteries of the universe. On the drive home (sandwiching a very important stop for a traditional Aussie pie), we even started drafting a screenplay for our international science espionage film. We haven’t laughed that hard since infinity.

Science Enthusiasts Unite!


Week 2, Day 4:

Buddita said that we should take the next day to rest. Sophia’s energy/bodywork was so intense that it was suggested, “She might sleep for 24 hours, and if so, just let her. That would be a good thing.” Instead, we woke up in the morning to board a plane to Sydney.

We had a prescheduled date with destiny, Love Letters to Other Worlds, and to reap the winnings of our offline auction. We were the proud near-owners of a Guy Coggins Aura Camera 6000! So we took all our luggage to North Sydney to find that our winnings were much heftier than we expected.

There was this:

Spy Case 6000

And this:

© Fields of Decay

And more! With bags packed full of aura gear, the mystery and intrigue continued into our imminent future/present:


Mission Possible: Distribution of Free Energy. Will our agents save the planet? Or at least convince some people to care about it?

To Be Continued…