From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The ephemeral nature of Granite Plateau Creek on the Mawson Plateau, means the creek is usually a series of waterholes.
Staircase Falls in Yosemite National Park only flows after heavy rainfall or snowmelt.
A lake formed at Badwater within Death Valley National Park during the unusually wet winter and spring of 2005.

Ephemerality (from the Greek word ἐφήμερος, meaning 'lasting only one day'[1]) is the concept of things being transitory, existing only briefly. Typically the term ephemeral is used to describe objects found in nature, although it can describe a wide range of things, including human artifacts intentionally made to last for only a temporary period in order to increase their perceived aesthetic value. With respect to unique performances, for example, it has been noted that "[e]phemerality is a quality caused by the ebb and flow of the crowd's concentration on the performance and a reflection of the nostalgic character of specific performances".[2] Because different people may value the passage of time differently, "the concept of ephemerality is a relative one".[3]

Natural examples[edit]

Geographical features[edit]

An ephemeral waterbody include springs, streams, rivers, ponds or lakes that only exists for a short period following precipitation or snowmelt. They are not the same as intermittent or seasonal waterbodies, which exist for longer periods, but not all year round.[citation needed] Small wetlands are often ephemeral.[4]

Examples of ephemeral streams are the Luni river in Rajasthan, India, Ugab River in Southern Africa, and a number of small ephemeral watercourses that drain Talak in northern Niger. Other notable ephemeral rivers include the Todd River and Sandover River in Central Australia as well as the Son River, Batha River and the Trabancos River.

Any endorheic basin, or closed basin, that contains a playa (dry lake) at its drainage lowpoint can become an ephemeral lake. Examples include Lake Carnegie in Western Australia, Lake Cowal in New South Wales, Mystic Lake and Rogers Lake in California, and Sevier Lake in Utah. Even the driest and lowest place in North America, Death Valley (more specifically Badwater Basin), became flooded with a short-lived ephemeral lake in the spring of 2005.[5]

There are also ephemeral islands such as Banua Wuhu and Home Reef. These islands appear when volcanic activity increases their height above sea level, but disappear over several years due to wave erosion. Bassas da India, on the other hand, is a near-sea level island that appears only at low tide.

Biological processes[edit]

Many plants are adapted to an ephemeral lifestyle, in which they spend most of the year or longer as seeds before conditions are right for a brief period of growth and reproduction. The spring ephemeral plant mouse-ear cress is a well-known example.

Animals can be ephemeral, with brine shrimp and the mayfly being examples. The placenta is considered an ephemeral organ present during gestation and pregnancy.

Ephemerality is a component of olfaction and memory, aligned with permanency in the latter.[6][7]

Ephemeral artifacts[edit]

Ephemeral can also be used as an adjective to refer to a fast-deteriorating importance or temporary nature of an object to a person.[citation needed] Objects which are ephemeral "are often keyed to specific occasions that they outlast" and "confounds our notion of objects as static and stable".[8]

On Death, Part One, by Max Klinger which depicts life's emphermal nature.[9]

Brands are notoriously ephemeral assets, and magazine publishing was once much more ephemeral than it is today, as was television programming. A film made by a particular sponsor for a specific purpose other than as a work of art may be called an ephemeral film, because the film itself can continue to exist after the social or commercial context for its creation has disappeared.[citation needed] In the digital realm, online interactions have been said to straddle permanency and ephemerality, there existing a "rapid cycle" of new posts, participants adopt a social norm that "the discourse will pass and be forgotten as the past"; ephemeral aspects are evident in instant messages, as they "[simulate] a fleeting moment in time" – in person interactions also feature ephemerality: "most of our offline interactions are ephemeral".[10][11] Websites which makes use of ephemerality include Snapchat and Wickr.[11]

Within the context of modern media dissemination, YouTube videos, viral emails and photos have been identified as ephemeral; as have means of advertising, both physical and digital and the internet collectively.[12][13][14] Professor of Film and Television studies, Paul Grainge described modern "ephermeral media" as that which is brief in duration and/or circulation, adjacent to "the primary texts of contemporary entertainment culture".[15] In 2009, Ian Christie considered that a substantial amount of modern media, aligned with "rapid proliferati[on]", "may prove much more ephemeral than the flip-book".[16]

Ephemerality has received increased attention from modern academics, in fields such as: literary studies, art history, digital media studies, performance studies — "and the 'archival turn' in the humanities as a whole".[17] In 2008, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun reflected that television scholars have grappled with ephemerality "for years".[7] Historians of sound have contended the subject's ephemerality by relating it to more material forms.[18]

Scholar of material culture, Sarah Wasserman asserted, that by 2020, "novels themselves come to seem increasingly ephemeral" — the means of composing a book, binding the components, has been seen as a way of elevating ephemeral material.[19][20] Clive Phillpot expressed a similar sentiment 25 years earlier, writing that "books, catalogues, and magazines are basically ephemeral in terms of their substance (and sometimes their content)".[21] Novelists, Margaret Oliphant and Andrew Lang managed the "problem of the ephemerality of their periodical writing" differently: Lang, hoping for writers' best work to be permenant believed that such legacy should be accelerated through a collection; Oliphant didn't, considering it unethical, she accepted the sovereignty of books, as that which is preserved.[22]

Ephemeral art includes sand paintings, sculptures composed of intentionally transient material; graffiti and guerrilla art; laser light shows, shadow puppet plays and fireworks displays.[12] In addition, temporary wall drawing artists such as Linn Meyers create ephemeral art within museums and galleries.[citation needed] Performance art has been described as ephemeral in nature and "cheap print culture of the eighteenth-century" was conceived as intentionally so; with regards to historical performances, the traces: playbills, scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and material artifacts are themselves ephemeral.[12][23][24] As a result, witnessing a dance that will be rendered ephemeral is commodified and of greater desire to prospecting audiences.[25] The documentation of other ephemeral events: protests, installations, exhibitions, are often meager.[26]

"[Ephemerality] and disposability" have been perceived as components "of an American ethos".[27] Ephemerality has been identified as relevant to queer cultures; José Esteban Muñoz argued that queerness and ephemerality are intertwined, as the former has been expressed in methods which are prone to fade upon the "touch of those who would erase queer possibility".[28][29] "[N]otions of ephemerality" were a "pivotal concept" in the Victorian era, according to, scholar of Victorian literature, Paul Fyfe; broadsides of the time, he wrote, "seemed to take ephemerality to an extreme".[30][a] Ephemerality, expressed both socially and materially, was profound in modernity and has "long been identified as [a] core attribute".[32]

During the Baroque period, wealthy patrons would commission ephemeral creations from well-known artists of the time. These creations, often very expensive and time-consuming, were typically only used during one event before being dismantled or destroyed. One such work was the temporary volcano, created by Gianlorenzo Bernini for the Barberini family. The volcano, placed on the predecessor to the Spanish Steps, took three months to create and was destroyed in a firework display over the course of an hour.[33] "Mostly, ephemeral objects disappear without a trace, but some of those objects persist, not entirely by accident, but usually because someone somewhere has preserved them. Browsing a collection of ephemera means, ironically, encountering objects that have been rescued from ephemerality", wrote Wasserman.[34] Phillpot said of libraries: "They are perpetually engaged in contesting ephemerality".[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Postcards, similarly, provide an example of a ubiquitous and ephemeral medium.[31]
  1. ^ Ephemeros, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus
  2. ^ Will Straw, Alexandra Boutros, Circulation and the City: Essays on Urban Culture (2010), p. 148.
  3. ^ Ronald Beiner, Political Philosophy: What It Is and Why It Matters (2014), p. 10.
  4. ^ Ogden, Lesley Evans (2017-11-01). "Dried Out: Aquatic biodiversity faces challenges in a drying climate". BioScience. 67 (11): 949–956. doi:10.1093/biosci/bix115. ISSN 0006-3568.
  5. ^ "Death Valley Alive With Wildflowers", MSNBC (March 14, 2005).
  6. ^ Crowther, Thomas; Mac Cumhaill, Clare, eds. (2018-07-19). Perceptual Ephemera. 1. Oxford University Press. p. 89. doi:10.1093/oso/9780198722304.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-872230-4.
  7. ^ a b Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong (2008). "The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory". Critical Inquiry. 35 (1): 148–171. doi:10.1086/595632. ISSN 0093-1896.
  8. ^ Wasserman 2020, p. 6.
  9. ^ Max Klinger (1889). "On Death, Part I". Cleveland Museum of Art. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  10. ^ Park, Sora (2018). "FOMO, Ephemerality, and Online Social Interactions among Young People". East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal. 12 (4): 439–458. ISSN 1875-2152.
  11. ^ a b Xu, Bin; Chang, Pamara; Welker, Christopher L.; Bazarova, Natalya N.; Cosley, Dan (2016-02-27). "Automatic Archiving versus Default Deletion: What Snapchat Tells Us About Ephemerality in Design". Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing. ACM. 2016: 1662–1675. doi:10.1145/2818048.2819948. ISBN 978-1-4503-3592-8. PMC 6169781. PMID 30294721.
  12. ^ a b c London, Justin (2013-02-04). "Ephemeral Media, Ephemeral Works, and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Little Village"". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 71 (1): 45–53. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6245.2012.01540.x. ISSN 0021-8529.
  13. ^ Bauer, Dominique; Murgia, Camilla, eds. (2021). Ephemeral Spectacles, Exhibition Spaces and Museums. Amsterdam University Press. p. 76. doi:10.1017/9789048542932. ISBN 978-90-485-4293-2.
  14. ^ Slania, Heather (2013). "Online Art Ephemera: Web Archiving at the National Museum of Women in the Arts". Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America. 32 (1): 112–126. doi:10.1086/669993. ISSN 0730-7187.
  15. ^ Grainge, Paul, ed. (2011). Ephemeral Media: Transitory Screen Culture from Television to YouTube. Bloomsbury. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-84457-435-3. OCLC 713185432.
  16. ^ Christie, Ian (2009). "Moving-Picture Media and Modernity: Taking Intermediate and Ephemeral Forms Seriously". Comparative Critical Studies. 6 (3): 299–318. doi:10.3366/E1744185409000809. ISSN 1744-1854.
  17. ^ Russell, Gillian (2018). "Ephemeraphilia". Angelaki. 23 (1): 174–186. doi:10.1080/0969725x.2018.1435393. ISSN 0969-725X.
  18. ^ Huang, Nicole (2013). "Listening to films: Politics of the auditory in 1970s China". Journal of Chinese Cinemas. 7 (3): 187–206. doi:10.1386/jcc.7.3.187_1. ISSN 1750-8061.
  19. ^ Calè, Luisa (2020). "Extra-Illustration and Ephemera: Altered Books and the Alternative Forms of the Fugitive Page". Eighteenth-Century Life. 44 (2): 111–135. ISSN 1086-3192.
  20. ^ Wasserman 2020, p. 4.
  21. ^ a b Phillpot, Clive (1995). "Flies in the Files: Ephemera in the Art Library". Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America. 14 (1): 13–14. ISSN 0730-7187.
  22. ^ Schroeder, Sharin (2017). "Lasting Ephemera: Margaret Oliphant and Andrew Lang on Lives and Letters". Victorian Periodicals Review. 50 (2): 336–365. doi:10.1353/vpr.2017.0025. ISSN 1712-526X.
  23. ^ Smith, Adam James (2020). "Echoes of Meaning: Cheap Print, Ephemerality, and the Digital Archive". Eighteenth-Century Fiction. 33 (1): 110–112. ISSN 1911-0243.
  24. ^ Russell, Gillian (2015). "Sarah Sophia Banks's Private Theatricals: Ephemera, Sociability, and the Archiving of Fashionable Life". Eighteenth-Century Fiction. 27 (3): 535–555. ISSN 1911-0243.
  25. ^ Rosenberg, Douglas (2012). Screendance: Inscribing the Ephemeral Image. Oxford University Press. p. 25. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199772612.003.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-977261-2.
  26. ^ Ault, Julie, ed. (2002). Alternative Art New York, 1965-1985. Drawing Center, University of Minnesota Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-8166-3793-8. OCLC 50253087.
  27. ^ Wasserman 2020, p. 23.
  28. ^ Verfasser, Cvetkovich, Ann (2003). An Archive of Feelings. Duke University Press. p. 316. ISBN 978-0-8223-8443-4. OCLC 1139770505.
  29. ^ Muñoz, José Esteban (1996-01-01). "Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts". Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory. 8 (2): 5–16. doi:10.1080/07407709608571228. ISSN 0740-770X.
  30. ^ Fyfe, Paul (2015-04-01). By Accident or Design: Writing the Victorian Metropolis. Oxford University Press. p. 133. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732334.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-873233-4.
  31. ^ Bold, Christine, ed. (2011). The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture: Volume Six: US Popular Print Culture 1860-1920. Oxford University Press. p. 170. doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199234066.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-923406-6.
  32. ^ Stubenrauch, Joseph (2016). The Evangelical Age of Ingenuity in Industrial Britain. Oxford University Press. p. 16. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198783374.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-878337-4.
  33. ^ Bailey, Gauvin Alexander (2012). Baroque & Rococo. New York, NY: Phaidon Press Limited. pp. 305–306.
  34. ^ Wasserman 2020, p. 2.

Further reading[edit]