The curlew’s call to Kairos – Exploring the pedagogical, ontological, and ecological implications of escaping the clutches of Chronos.

This paper investigates how an artist in residence project, with primary schools in north Wales, seeks to address our perilous relationship with the more-than-human world. The presentation begins by exploring how an ontological crisis exists in mainstream education that is both being denied and is being denied. A factory-model of schooling helps to maintain the stasis of the dominant culture through a strict allegiance to chronos (Jardine, 2013), scientism (Bonnett, 2020) the quest for certainty (Kincheloe, 2011), and technological idolatry (Postman, 2011). Drawing on Aoki (2005), Heidegger (1977) and Gadamer, (2006), technology is understood as modes of being rather than supposedly neutral gadgets or artifacts. As such, modernity’s technological idolatry is a manifestation of a Cartesian duality that severs humans from the more-than-human world (Abram, 2011). Instead of embracing “our carnal embedment in a world ultimately beyond our control” we are schooled to fear “the very wildness that nourishes and sustains us” (Abram, 2011, p.69).  Thus, otherness is not to be trusted in both the more-than-human and the human world. As Jardine (2016) warns, “we are in a fix—pedagogically, ecologically, in body and mind and otherwise—and it’s going to take some doing to even start undoing this fix” (p. xv).

In the second part of the paper a first-person presentation by the artist is followed by an analysis of the project. Data gathered from semi-structured interviews with the teachers and groups of children who participated in the project are analysed using a reflexive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2023). The presentation and analysis reveal that during the project children and teachers have been afforded an “attunement” (Abram, 2017) with the more-than-human world through various kairotic experiences. The project focussed on a local country park as the artist facilitated various contemplative activities at the site. One of the central activities involved bringing extinct and near-to-extinct animals to life through flip-book animation boxes that convey the anima, “what we now term, the soul” (Abram, 2012, p.238) or life force of these animals. Significantly, the animals summoned all would have once roamed the land that is now the country park. Keller’s “counter-apocalyptic time” (2004, p.131) and conceptualisations of contemplative pedagogical approaches (Jardine, 2013; Derby, 2016) are drawn upon to show how these artistic contemplative activities in the landscape allowed children an ingress into ways of knowing and states of being that are alternative to the ontological status quo in schooling, offering powerful and much needed experiences of our interrelationships with the more-than-human world.