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Future Fossils? Specimens from the 5th millennium ‘Return to Earth’ expedition
ne 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 each tab to find out more about each exhibit).