The fields are vast and unformed. They’re not even fields yet – another trick of the mind – they’re those vast, damp plains that run down to the river after you emerge from the forest. Black soil, terra nullius, a laboratory where experiments with matter take place and the moist, muddy clearing where grain is sown. That crop failed, try another. The ground becomes acidic, move elsewhere. Clear the way with fire. Lifetimes pass like this, eons of it, until something sticks. Cereal, a word in our common language from Ceres – goddess of harvests and farming. It’s happening all over the planet. Rice, barley, wheat, maize: selected not in the way genes are in the normal order of things but because they meet our needs. A series of collaborations between plant, animal, territory and climate, a synthesis guided by an intelligence produced within the same cascade of matter and time. Things grow on command now. There are fields forming in a corner of the cosmos. A man walks out of the temple and counts.

In time, this regularity is visible from space, though the abnormality is not principally a question of spatial configuration: it is principally about speed. Ripples up hillsides, mammal-stamped grass, the spontaneous creation of lakes and buffers and plots that yield mana and are allowed to fall fallow to regain their strength. Observations and productive strategies are encoded in the earliest calendars, proto-computational devices that attain the status of holy books among those who use and expand them. Harvests are brought in and celebrated. Crops fail and it seems like punishment from the gods. There is chemistry, abstraction, and phase change, pattern and collapse, over and over. The health of the soil and the stories told at night cross-fertilize each other. Eating is like dreaming and we begin to dream of machines. Some things work and other things don’t. Things work. We don’t know if planetary chemistry is aligned with our desires or something else’s: a god, an idea, an intelligence to come. Our technologies blossom. We construct a scaffold for picking fruit, for unlimited ways of eating, for diseases and species to slip from one side of the earth to the other. The soil turns over. The aquifers are tapped. The splendours of the earth begin to circulate.


When the space probes Voyager 1 and 2 left earth in 1977, their payload included a golden record that contained images of food provision and consumption, raising a behaviour that might seem banal or incidental to one of cosmic, even species-defining scope. Systematic agriculture emerged out of the black soil of the Nile River Delta – a technical laboratory from which the words “alchemy” and “chemistry” also descend. What Black Almanac proposes is not the reduction of food cultures to a single, unified perspective but the expansion of flavor, form, and cultural diversity that a culinary materialism makes possible.

Almanacs, like diets, recipes, and cookbooks, are not only instructions for transforming matter. They are protocols for the production of self and society: foregrounding a process of decomposition and recombination that is the central logic of both chemistry and cooking. Humans account for just 0.01 percent of earth’s biomatter – a tiny fraction that needs to be recast according to its capacities and responsibilities. Yet even within that 0.01 percent live billions of microorganisms in the hair, throat, stomach, and gut, ancient invaders that work in collaborative symbiosis with their hosts to aid digestion and monitor immune health. There is no barrier between humans and nature – no outside to which we do not belong. Instead there is a garden of interdependent aliens and it is the recognition of this alienation that will be crucial in making earth a second home.

In Anti-Oedipus (1972), Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari begin referring to a “place of healing” that will come (the reference is from Nietzsche), “a new earth where desire functions according to its molecular elements and flows.” The Terraforming programme at the Strelka Institute is concerned with continuing to sketch this earth-to-come. In part, it asks how words and images can increase their operative load so that the truth of Australian bush fires or the forests lost to cattle pastures can be known. We did not propose the almanac because we are foodies: we are not. Nor did we intend to imply an uncomplicated recursion between farm and table but rather to ease the burden imposed by a consumer dialectic which carries the dismal expectation that each individual is responsible for making choices that will reorient the path of human beings to less catastrophic ends.

The creation of an almanac implies a resource for systems of production rather than consumption. It is our hope that engagement with the full bodily-chemical spectrum of earth would be desirable enough as an end-goal – as unlikely as such a hyperfunctional convergence may be – to guarantee at least some of the recommendations made here become standards baked into the system. There are certain good ideas that only need to happen once. The Event Horizon black hole image was our entry and our exit point. Behind our efforts lies a void. Deleuze and Guattari again (from A Thousand Plateaus, 1980):

As Virilio says in his very rigorous analysis of the depopulation of the people and the deterritorialization of the earth, the question has become: ‘To dwell as a poet or as an assassin?’ The assassin is one who bombards the existing people with molecular populations that are forever closing all of the assemblages, hurling them into an ever wider and deeper black hole. The poet, on the other hand, is one who lets loose molecular populations in hopes that this will sow the seeds of, or even engender, the people to come, that these populations will pass into a people to come, open a cosmos.

Philip Maughan
Nikolai Medvedenko
Andrea Provenzano

Berlin – St Petersburg – Moscow