Anthroposceneries - East Wing at Unseen Amsterdam
Works by: Mandy Barker, Caleb Charland, Yann Mingard & Maija Tammi
Just a few short weeks ago the International Geological Congress met to discuss if they should formally recognize that man’s influence on our planet has caused such significant geological conditions and processes that a new epoch has been created: The Anthroposcene. A range of scientists have used this term to describe the influence human behavior has made on the Earth’s atmosphere in recent centuries. These ‘influences’ have directly contributed to drastic changes on our climate and the natural environment.
The Anthropocene has no agreed start date; some scientists believe the shift began with the Industrial Revolution – others believe it was put in motion during the rise of agriculture and farming. At the South African conference expert opinion was leaning towards a start date of 1950, when radioactive elements from nuclear bomb tests were blown into the air. All agree to varying degrees that human impact on land use, ecosystems, biodiversity and species extinction has resulted in undeniable change or in some cases, has completely halted the growth of biodiversity, upsetting the fragile balance of our ecosystems.
In response to these ongoing discussions and debates, East Wing presents Anthroposceneries at Unseen Photo Fair 2016, a series of imagery commenting on the ideas of the Anthropocene in varied ways. Through in-depth research and in some cases experimentation, the artists meditate on concepts of time, illness, decay, energy and pollution resulting from the disruptions presently affecting our fragile ecosystems.
The artists: Mandy Barker (UK), Caleb Charland (USA), Yann Mingard (CH) & Maija Tammi (FI) through their fascinating explorations enlighten viewers to connections between science and photography, which they have developed through their own long- term research and experimentation.
Mandy Barker continues her ongoing study of marine plastic debris pollution through, “Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals”, which has its premiere at Unseen Photo Fair. The artist travelled to Ireland in 2014 with the aim of researching studies on plankton made in the 1800’s by marine biologist, John Vaughan Thompson in Cobh, County Cork. Mandy contrasts his findings with current research on similar species of plankton, which are today ingesting plastic particles. Employing historical aspects of science and photography in her practice, she raises questions on issues regarding how plastic has now invaded the most basic foundations of our environment.
Yann Mingard presents, Seven Sunsets: Chapter One of the Anthropocene Project; In this new work Mingard compares studies of a number of 19th Century paintings by William Turner which recorded the effects of pollution in our stratosphere caused by several significant volcanic eruptions. Mingard contrasts these with appropriated images of present day air pollution in Chinese cities photographed from 2013 – 2016. Seven Sunsets examines man’s influence historically on the environment and long-term ramifications of these changes.
Another premiere at Unseen this year is White Rabbit Fever by Finnish artist, Maija Tammi. Balancing visual metaphors that describe the process of death, decay and immortality, Maija raises complex issues surrounding the definitions of each. Her visual research includes the study of immortal human cancer cells. Known as the HeLa line, these cells were harvested from Henrietta Lacks in the 1950’s, and are continuously grown to this day in laboratories everywhere around the world, exceeding life expectancy. White Rabbit Fever balances perceptions of death and eternal life through natural processes of disease and decomposition with medical intervention.
Combining scientific curiosity with a constructive approach to recording natural phenomenon, the series Back to Light by Caleb Charland, expands on the basic grade school science experiment of the ‘potato battery’, taking it to unbelievable lengths; illustrating experiences of wonder. In some cases, the artist wired as many as 300 apples to power 30 individual LED lights under a lampshade. His intricate installations are then photographed in the field, using long exposures to illustrate other possibilities of alternative and sustainable energy.