“Future Fossils” Exhibition by Beth Greenhough, Jamie Lorimer and Kathryn Yusoff

(Image: Helen Prichard and Kathryn Yusoff 2014)

(Image: Helen Pritchard and Kathryn Yusoff 2014)

Future Fossils? Specimens from the 5th millennium ‘Return to Earth’ expedition

One of the key challenges posed by the Anthropocene concept is that it forces us to engage with both an entangled present and its uncertain futures. While seemingly anthropocentric (in its claim that the influence of humanity is all pervasive), the idea of an Anthropocene highlights how the non-human and inhuman world is firmly embedded within and through us. How will future generations of lively entities differentiate between human and other species, their forms of knowledge-making, space-marking and relations to broader geomorphological, biological, socio-economic processes?

The Anthropocene provides a provocation to think life differently and to make prominent the geo-politics of an epochal event, whose present and future telling offers opportunities for alternative ways of writing the Earth.

So, imagine it is the year 5000AD. A group of future earth-writers convene an exhibition of specimens from their recent Earth expedition, dating from the period informally known as the Anthropocene. What messages would these remnants of our contemporary age convey? What fragments of material practices would survive? How will current human and non-human relations imprint their legacies into geological, biological, social, atmospheric and virtual strata? What sense might distant future critters make of our stratigraphic legacy? How might the research preoccupations and contestations of the present endure in the fossil record and what we might learn from that tenacity?

In this forum, we invited contributors to speculate on “future fossils” and reflect on the process of speculation itself as a mode of engagement (click through on the titles below to find out more about each exhibit).

FF1: “ACA/GEO/21/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF” By Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF1: "ACA/GEO/21/IBG/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL-ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF" by Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF1: “ACA/GEO/21/IBG/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL-ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF” by Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF2: “Millennium Microbe” By Maria Fannin

FF2: 5th Millennium Microbe by Maria Fannin (Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/photo by John T. Lisle)

FF2: 5th Millennium Microbe by Maria Fannin (Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/photo by John T. Lisle)

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology” By Jeremy Bolen, Sara H. Nelson and Emily E. Scott

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology: Ghostly Fossils from the Early Anthropocene" by Jeremy Bolen, Sara Holiday Nelson, and Emily Eliza Scott (c. 5000 AD)

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology: Ghostly Fossils from the Early Anthropocene” by Jeremy Bolen, Sara Holiday Nelson, and Emily Eliza Scott (c. 5000 AD)

FF4: “Matrimandir, Auroville” By Tariq Jazeel

FF4: "Matrimandir, Auroville" by Tariq Jazeel

FF4: “Matrimandir, Auroville” by Tariq Jazeel

FF5: “Specimen 0198: Cargotecture” By Ella Harris

FF5: "Specimen 0198: Cargotecture" by Ella Harris

FF5: “Specimen 0198: Cargotecture” by Ella Harris

FF6: “Atypical Situation” By Hayden Lorimer

 FF6: "Atypical Situation" by Hayden Lorimer

FF6: “Atypical Situation” by Hayden Lorimer

FF7: “Trace Fossil FOBU-1379” By Helen Pritchard

FF7: "Trace fossil FOBU-1379" by Helen Pritchard

FF7: “Trace fossil FOBU-1379” by Helen Pritchard

FF8: “The Pacemaker” By Andrew Dwyer

FF8: "The Pacemaker: Tracing cyber (re)territorialisations" by Andrew Dwyer

FF8: “The Pacemaker: Tracing cyber (re)territorialisations” by Andrew Dwyer

FF9: “Atomic Age Rodent” By Dominic Walker

FF9: "Atomic Age Rodents: in search of the first animals of the Anthropocene" by Dominic Walker (© Center for PostNatural History, 2011)

FF9: “Atomic Age Rodents: in search of the first animals of the
Anthropocene” by Dominic Walker (© Center for PostNatural History, 2011)

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF11: “Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene” by Uli Beisel

FF11: Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene" by Uli Beisel Sealed in a body bag, the deceased is carried out on a stretcher and added to the other bodies in the pick-up truck, waiting to be driven to the King Tom cemetery. ©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

FF11: Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene” by Uli Beisel (©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 thoughts on ““Future Fossils” Exhibition by Beth Greenhough, Jamie Lorimer and Kathryn Yusoff

  1. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:

    A Society and Space open site forum on the notion of ‘Future Fossils’.

  2. Lesley Head says:

    Thanks to Beth, Jamie and Kathryn for curating a wonderful session and discussion. Much to chew on.

  3. Joe Smith says:

    Hi Kathryn, Beth, Jamie, Sorry not to be at the conference and see this and hear the exhibition. Sounds excellent. Am sure you know about this but Rachel Carson Centre been involved in an installation around the same theme at the Munich Deutsches Museum: http://www.environmentandsociety.org/exhibitions/anthropocene
    Not been but hope to – runs to Jan 2016.
    Joe
    (joe.smith(AT)open.ac.uk)

    • Beth Greenhough says:

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention Joe … like the idea of an open feedback “Anthropocene hopes and fears’ exhibit at the end.

  4. Beth Greenhough says:

    Curatorial anxieties and the uncomfortable academy

    It’s cold down here at the front of the lecture theatre. Really cold. The tech crew tell us there is nothing they can do. The climate control is apparently beyond control. Oh, the irony.

    I huddle in my chair’s seat as the exhibitors showcase their ‘future fossils’. We’re cryogenically preserving you for the future I joke; here lies the nuclear winter of our discontent.

    But the temperature isn’t the only thing making us uncomfortable. What really makes us uneasy is writing, performing, presenting in the speculative mode. As our opening exhibitor (FF4) looks back and mocks twenty-first century academic endeavours, we laugh awkwardly. I ask Nadine (FF6) why her vision of a future academy is both so familiar and so dystopic. Her/his reply reflects on how we seem to find it easier to write new worlds than new academies. We find ourselves caught between the enticement to write the earth differently, and the challenge of trying to escape the academic mode, even while GeoDyne (FF1) marvels at the conceit of our endeavour

    Some exhibitors refuse; questioning our decision to step over the body bags that litter the shores and margins of our current earth-catastrophe; to look so far forward when so much demands our attention in the present (FF11). Radioactive rodent bodies bear witness to past atrocities (FF9). I begin to feel (ir)responsible.

    Time passes. Exhibits flow into the space we have curated, and become less and less recognisable, cargotectures rebuild our cities (FF5) heartbeats sound brash and unfamiliar (FF8), bright swills of oil-field bacteria (FF2) glowing proteins (FF8) and radioactive traces (FF3) flicker at the edges of legibility. It gets colder, darker, harder to read.

    There are awkward silences. We are all a little “weirded-out”. Response is not always possible. Despite familiar surroundings, our audience too is uncomfortable, stripped of the usual rhythms of interpretation and critique, proposition and questioning from the floor.

    We are challenged to think about how future fossils are assembled. Should we try and piece these fragments together? Curatorial anxieties emerge. Do we want or need another Borgesian encylopedia (Foucault 1966 trans. 1970)? Archaeologists weave myths around their finds, yet it is hard to write into future-earths without falling into the trope-ic traps of utopia, dystopia and poorly-disguised morality tale.

    We voice our discomforts, continue the experiment, speculate some more. On the nature of this exercise, this space, this earth-writing. Is this the right mode, the appropriate tone for thinking the Anthropocene and its legacies? Would we be more comfortable somewhere else? Do we want to be more comfortable?

    Yet none-the-less something emerges. We grapple with what might and might not fossilise well, queering anthropocentric terraforming practices and blurring the boundaries between what we want to preserve (if anything) and what might remain. I am grateful to our fossil hunters and their audience for ‘staying with the trouble’ (Haraway 2010). The uncomfortable academy is a tragic, comic, eloquent, restless, dystopic, difficult, awe-inspiring, unsettling, emotive place. Thanks to all who time-travelled with us there.

    References

    Foucault (1966, trans. 1970) The Order of Things (London, Routledge)

    Haraway D (2010) When Species Meet: staying with the trouble Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28(1) 53 – 55.

  5. EE Scott says:

    What a wonderful description and interpretation of what happened during those freezing, inspired, and weird several hours. Thanks for sharing and, even more, for convening the panel (and this forum), Beth! Looking forward to the piece you, Kathryn, and Jamie write about it, too.

  6. […] from the codices of Leonardo da Vinci, in a climate-controlled Singaporean museum. A series of geographers’ dispatches from the 5th millennium. Sunrise at Surkanda Devi, just shy of 10,000 feet above sea […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: