According to the calendar I made for myself 21-27 June this year is Midsummer week. The calendar is not always completely accurate and problems still remain with the odd day or two but I’m not the first person who has struggled to organise time around celestial and seasonal events.
From sunrise at 4:40am to sunset at 9:16pm today, Midsummer’s Eve, there is light. This day sees a continuation of solstice celebrations of summer and light: baptisms in freezing water, bonfires on the beach and hurrahs as the sun burns holy picture gold, dips below a blanket of slate grey clouds and sets over big water.
East Kent, in the southeast corner of England, in Britain, is an area described by artist J.W.M. Turner as having skies that “…are the loveliest in all Europe…”. Whitstable is a small town located in Kent on the north coast on the Thames estuary where local people continue to enjoy the sea and sunsets throughout the solstice and midsummer period. Nearby, is Canterbury, an historic city set in the heart of the Kent countryside. It is the city where I live.
Both places are familiar and home to me now.
Across the pond, the village of Empire sits within the 71,000 acre Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of more than 380 parks in the National Park System in the United States. The park is located on the shores of Lake Michigan on the northwestern side of the state of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Recently the park was designated as ‘wilderness’ providing permanent protection by Federal law. I have spent much time in Empire. It is in the ‘wilderness’ where I lived.
Both places are familiar and home to my heart.
For centuries the British Empire was one on which ‘the sun never sets’. The 20th century saw its fall and the rise of the American ’empire’. In the 21st century the American follows the British in decline. Neither place has a home on my calendar chart.
Nearly 4000 miles and five time zones, different cultures and histories separate England from Empire. Technology, art and nature connect the two in ‘Empire Sunset‘. The screen shows sunsets in real time from the village of Empire, USA to viewers in East Kent in the UK during the days surrounding the summer solstice.
The five-hour time difference means that each sunset over Lake Michigan comes on the screen in England in the early hours of the morning. On the days surrounding the summer solstice, the view from Empire appears and disappears until the last sun sets and the screen fades to black.
‘Empire Sunset’ serves as a reflection on our times where change is constant, certainty is transient, empires rise and fall and nature remains compelling, fragile, and enduring.
Empire Beach, Michigan, USA
Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable, UK
Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
Thank you to Professor Don Gray, B.Wood, C.Jones, N.Evans, H.Sparks & the Kent School of Architecture also Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak 10228 W.Front St. Empire, Michigan, USA. http://sbsurfandkayak.com/