Temperature Check

Sophia Lev, UC Santa Cruz

Undergraduate art major, Sophia Lev proposed an interactive, collaborative performance and lecture/discussion series. She hosted monthly events on campus to ‘check the temperature’ of a given site as part of an ongoing collaborative performance that creates space for discussion and reflection about the relationships between students, natural space, and this institution. This project physicalizes the distance or closeness between people and land through hyperbolizing a relationship of care in order to prompt discussions about stewardship, neoliberal environmentalism, and the use of nature on the UCSC campus to naturalize authority. “Temperature check” is used in political organizing as a way of gauging how groups of people are feeling. We will be taking the temperature of the earth using long thermometers held with with our mouths. The thermometer and the act of insertion into the earth become an abject extension of the body, and creates create confusion as to whose temperature is being taken. This will be used to acknowledge and hyperbolize the emotionality of the earth through extending a physical barometer of health. It hyperbolizes the sentience of land by treating it with the same regard we treat human bodies. This project embodies and amplifies the connections between physical bodies and earth bodies to think about the physical distance between people and land by exploring reciprocity and the mutual expression and experiences of distress in the context of global climate change.

The metaphor of a temperature check is a ripe one to employ when thinking about land spaces and sites as sentient agents with political stakes that are intrinsically implicated in student and community members lives and emotional/physical health. This project comes out of a direct experience and observation of UCSC and Santa Cruz city as spaces that offer a liberal, ‘green’ image ripe with metaphors of questioning authority, counter culture, and dissent, yet the lived experiences of students reflect a vastly different relationship with both land and authority. Though situated amongst a ‘natural’ landscape, the estrangement of student life from the city creates a chasm in community and belonging. This project attempts to make space for students, professors, community members, artists, organizers to not only have conversations about their experiences and relationships to land on this campus. This will be mediated through Temperature Checking. She will be hosting a Temperature Check each month at a different site. For example, we might check the temperature of one of the sinkholes on campus, host a lecture by a geology professor, and facilitate a conversation about the implications of sinkholes in threatening the omnipresence of UCSC. Projects that confront the authority of the UC are often stifled, suppressed, and undermined. If the UC claims to be a counter-culture institution, it must actually support and uphold projects that offer a critique of power and authority.