Future Fossils Exhibition

Introduction by
Beth Greenhough, Jamie Lorimer, and Kathryn Yusoff

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.

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 each tab to find out more about each exhibit).

Image: Helen Pritchard and Kathryn Yusoff, 2014
Image: Helen Pritchard and Kathryn Yusoff, 2014

essays in this forum

Matrimandir, Auroville

Our team has uncovered the foundations of a modest city-like complex, around 20 km squared, in the southern tip of the continental South Asia region. The remains date back to the Anthropocene period, and we can confirm that we have found the lost settlement of "Auroville," which we understand to be an experimental, utopian city built in a rural part of what was Tamil Nadu, in the country India, circa. AD 1968-2050.

Cargotecture

The promise of cargotectures lay in their modular design and resultant spatiotemporal flexibility. At a time of global recession containers could be swiftly deployed to make use of "wasted" urban spaces where investment was absent or delayed. However, they could also be easily moved on again if circumstances changed, for example once a more profitable investment in a site was found.

Atypical Situation

Professor Nadine Cullen smiled to signify an air of satisfaction, gesturing theatrically for the camera. The sweep of her arm arced around a compact area of earthworks, its surface subdivided by walkways, the plots pitted with hillocks, hollows and holes. But her enforced casualness, and language of enthusiasm, stuck in the craw.

The Pacemaker

The fossil was found in a human skeleton and is one of the few specimens ever found in the region. From what we can deduce from etchings on its titanium skin, we believe this singular cyber-physical assemblage is called a "pacemaker" and that it belongs to a group of technologies known as Implantable Electronic Medical Devices (IEMDs).

Atomic Age Rodents

Atomic Age Rodents, then, were not just participants, but were sources of valuable information which national policy and military strategy would be based on. Their bodies—fragile though they are—tell their story hidden in plain sight, unanticipated traces of an unfolding political and ecological crisis throughout the mid to late 20th Century.

Trace Fossil Fobu-1379

This is the scene, a computer travels back in time. A dolphin falls in love with a computer. A computer falls in love with a dolphin. A computer falls in love with a computer. Two Earth dolphins are launched as Cosmodolphins in the cyberspace or dream-machine of the computer [1] and wake up in the future as a feminist geographer, engaging us in a felt sense of causality.

Body Bags: The Politics Of Sealing Off In The Anthropocene

A politics of sealing off seems common sense in the Ebola epidemic. After all, the body bags separate us from deadly contagion at the moment when the virus is most infectious.

Aca/Geo/21/Conf/2015/Temporal Anxiety/Bg-Jl-Ky/Ff

Little is known of this period in Earth history, as all records were righteously purged from the CORE in the 6th Quamar of the Dark Lords of the Twin Moon (commonly known as the 6th Cosmic Revolution). Heretical archivists in the galactic rim worlds do however retain some fragmentary data from these pre-purge times. Through our subsidiaries we have collated some of these non-sanctioned records—of dubious provenance no doubt—for contextual reasons.

5Th Millennium Microbe

The provocative call to imagine a kind of "social science fiction" for the "Return to Earth" expedition asks us to fold the future into the present: to imagine what of our everyday will remain as an artifact thousands of years to come. What imaginaries guide exploration of the future horizon of time on Earth? It’s worth pausing to consider first this exploratory impulse. Rather than diagnosing the present, or unearthing the past, this exercise calls us to speculate on the future.

Tracing Uneven Geology

As a team of specialized Earth-readers, we focus on tracing less-than-obvious explanations sealed within the fossil record, with particular attention to the intricate networks of relation between seemingly anomalous occurrences.

Slum Archaeology 5000Ad

Our story begins with our urban archaeologist in the field, in the middle of research for his new project "Recovering the early Anthropocene." He’s puzzling over two images. The images are of two sites located near to one another, in an area that was once the western coast of India. Until recently, the area had been lost to the sea, but the sea has now retreated and archaeological digs have uncovered these two finds.