Ephemerality (from the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
word , meaning 'lasting only one day') 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 " hemerality 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". Because different people may value the passage of time differently, "the concept of ephemerality is a relative one".

Natural examples

Geographical features

An ephemeral
waterbody (Lysefjord) in Norway A body of water or waterbody (often spelled water body) is any significant accumulation of water, generally on a planet's surface. The term most often refers to oceans, seas, and lakes, but it includes smaller pools of wate ...

springs Spring(s) may refer to: Common uses * Spring (season), a season of the year * Spring (device), a mechanical device that stores energy * Spring (hydrology), a natural source of water * Spring (mathematics), a geometric surface in the shape of a heli ...
stream A stream is a body of water with surface water flowing within the stream bed, bed and Bank (geography), banks of a Channel (geography), channel. The flow of a stream is controlled by three inputs – surface water, subsurface water and ground ...

river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water ...

pond A pond is an area filled with water, either natural or Artificiality, artificial, that is smaller than a lake. Ponds are small bodies of freshwater with shallow and still water, marsh, and aquatic plants.Clegg, J. (1986). Observer's Book of P ...

s or
lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a Depression (geology), basin, surrounded by land, and set apart from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the World Ocean, oc ...

s that only exists for a short period following
precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. L ...
snowmelt In hydrology Hydrology (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxim ...
. They are not the same as intermittent or seasonal waterbodies, which exist for longer periods, but not all year round. Small wetlands are often ephemeral. Examples of ephemeral streams are the
Luni river #REDIRECT Luni River The Luni is the largest river in the Thar Desert The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent that covers an area of and forms a n ...
Rajasthan Rajasthan (; ; lit. 'Land of Kings') is a in . It covers or 10.4 percent of India's total geographical area. It is the and the . It is on India's northwestern side, where it comprises most of the wide and inhospitable (also known as the G ...

India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...

Ugab River The Ugab River is an ephemeral river in north-western Namibia. Its lower section forms the border between Kunene Region and Erongo Region but its catchment area extends well into the Otjozondjupa Region. Ugab's source is near Otavi. From there it t ...
Southern Africa Southern Africa is the south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Pr ...
, and a number of small ephemeral
watercourse A watercourse is the channel Channel, channels, channeling, etc., may refer to: Geography * Channel (geography), in physical geography, a landform consisting of the outline (banks) of the path of a narrow body of water. Australia * Channel Cou ...

s that drain Talak in northern
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. Other notable ephemeral rivers include the
Todd River The Todd River (: ''Lhere Mparntwe'') is an in the southern , central . The origins of the Todd River are in the , where it flows past the , almost through the centre of , through at the southern end of Alice Springs and continuing on for so ...
Sandover River The Sandover River is an ephemeral river in the Northern Territory of Australia located in northeast Central Australia. It is the only major tributary of the Georgina River that does not rise in Western Queensland, western Queensland. Instead it ...
in Central Australia as well as the Son River, Batha River and the Trabancos River. Any endorheic basin, or closed basin, that contains a Dry lake, playa (dry lake) at its drainage lowpoint can become an ephemeral lake. Examples include Lake Carnegie (Western Australia), Lake Carnegie in Western Australia, Lake Cowal in New South Wales, Mystic Lake (California), Mystic Lake and Rogers Dry Lake, 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. 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. Only a small amount of southern Costa Rica's secondary forests reach maturity, indicating that they may be "generally ephemeral".

Biological processes

Many plants are adapted to an Ephemeral plant, 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 (anatomy), organ present during gestation and pregnancy. Ephemerality is a component of Sense of smell, olfaction and memory, aligned with permanency in the latter.

Ephemeral artifacts

Ephemeral can also be used as an adjective to refer to a fast-deteriorating importance or temporary nature of an object to a person. Objects which are ephemeral "are often keyed to specific occasions that they outlast" and "confounds our notion of objects as static and stable". Professor of English, Gillian Russell wrote that ephemerality "in both its material and conceptual senses can...be said to be a constitutive feature of the age of print Printing press, that began in the mid-fifteenth century. It is increasingly constitutive of the emergent post-print age too". ''Ephemeral'' acquired its common meaning of short-living in the mid 19th century. 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". Futhermore, digital media's encompassing archival process, dubbed the "enduring ephemeral", means that information of varying importance can either be affixed or ephemeral. Russell surmised that digital ephemeral material conjures a fear of an 'undead' past persisting indefinitely, thus haunting the present; the fundamentals of this supposed fear she believes is not new. Ephemeral aspects are evident in instant messages, as they "[simulate] a fleeting moment in time" – in person interactions also feature ephemerality; significant amounts of living is ephemeral. Websites which makes use of ephemerality include Snapchat and Wickr. 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. 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". In 2009, Ian Christie (film scholar), Ian Christie considered that a substantial amount of modern media, aligned with "rapid proliferati[on]", "may prove much more ephemeral than the Flip book, flip-book". Ephemerality has received increased attention from modern academics, in fields such as: literary studies, art history, book history, digital media studies, performance studies – "and the 'archival turn' in the humanities as a whole". In 2008, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun reflected that television scholars have grappled with ephemerality "for years". Historians of sound have contended the subject's ephemerality by relating it to more material forms. Scholar of material culture, Sarah Wasserman asserted, that by 2020, "novels themselves come to seem increasingly ephemeral" — the means of composing a book, Bookbinding, binding the components, has been seen as a way of elevating ephemeral material. 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)". Novelists, Margaret Oliphant and Andrew Lang managed the "problem of the ephemerality of their Periodical literature, 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. 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. As a result, witnessing a dance that will be rendered ephemeral is commodified and of greater desire to prospecting audiences. The documentation of other ephemeral events: protests, installations, exhibitions, are often meager – public events, of varying size, naturally generate ephemeral material. Ephemeral elements of decorative arts include: silver, glass, ceramics and furniture. "[Ephemerality] and disposability" have been perceived as components "of an American ethos". Ephemerality has been identified as relevant to Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures, 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". "[N]otions of ephemerality" were a "pivotal concept" in the Victorian era, according to, scholar of Victorian literature, Paul Fyfe; Broadside (printing), broadsides of the time, he wrote, "seemed to take ephemerality to an extreme". Textual media then employed various bold and ornate visual and tactile methods to eschew ephemerality. Ephemerality, expressed both socially and materially, was profound in modernity and has "long been identified as [a] core attribute". "Ephemeral architecture certainly appears to be becoming ever more the norm in the rapidly changing world geographies of hyper-mobility and mass displacement", wrote, urban geographer, Mara Ferreri, in 2021. 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 Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 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. "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. Phillpot said of libraries: "They are perpetually engaged in contesting ephemerality".

See also

* Mayfly, Ephemeroptera * Vanitas



Further reading

* Christine Buci-Glucksmann, ''Esthetique De L'ephemere'', Galilee, {{ISBN, 2-7186-0622-3 Concepts in aesthetics Concepts in metaphysics