After years of debate, on August 29, 2016 the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy recommended formalizing the term ‘Anthropocene’ as a new geological epoch. Based on global evidence that Earth's natural systems have been irrevocably altered by human activity this term redefines the current geologic time period as being human-influenced.
Within this context of a single species having fundamentally changed the very mechanics of the natural world I am interested in grappling with ideas of science, mythology, evolution, human industry and our place in the natural order. Through the transmutation of skeletal remains - the very crystallization of life - it is my intention to speak to the physical and mystical connections between humans and the natural world.
These connections are reflected strongly within the pre-industrial cultural wisdoms that were forged from sustained and visceral observations of the intricate relationships between land, ocean, flora, fauna and atmosphere – wisdoms ensuring long-term survival within ones surroundings. While centuries of colonialism, war and globalization have extinguished much of this knowledge, re-learning and integrating it back into our technological, urbanized culture offers a path though the environmental challenges now upon us. These photographs represent a warning, but also a rendering of hope, speaking to this integration as an antidote to humanity’s subjugation, domination and consumption of the living planet.
Alongside a review of historical cultural artifacts, in which human and animal essences merge, this project was informed by the photographs made by missionary Martin Gusinde as he documented the last indigenous tribe of Tierra del Fuego from 1912 to 1918 and by Irving Penn’s mid-century skull studies. Anthropocene continues the traditions embodied within these works – exploring allusion and metaphor surrounding life and death and the relationship between humankind and the environment.
- David Ellingsen