Seminar Imaging the Anthropocene

Cluster Representing

Anthropocene Campus, Illustration: Benedikt Rugar

A Seminar by Wolfgang Lucht, Philipp Oswalt and Sverker Sörlin with Bronislaw Szerszynski

The intriguing concept of the Anthropocene as developed by science still remains peculiarly flat and colorless, lacking cultural nuance and historical depth. In this seminar images of the self, of Earth, of landscapes, places and processes were used to contribute more historical and future-oriented reflexivity to the Anthropocene. The concept resonates in Western cultures since at least the 19th century. Today it presents itself in scientific images as planetary boundaries and limits to growth, as an age where human interventions into the planet call for a great transformation.

But in a much wider sense, transformation, utopia, collapse and ambition, reflection and bewilderment have long been topics of human relationships with landscape large and small. This can be seen in works of art as well as in science. Images of landscapes, or indeed the entire Earth, express topics of metamorphosis, of power, economy, security and appropriation. They also express fantasies about the wild, the other – and about possible alternatives to present-day ways of life.

The seminar explored the history of diagrams of the Earth as a system, of human relations to it, and of the deep time of its planetary becoming, charting how the scientific realization that the Earth is a complex planet with a convoluted history has unfolded. The exploration extended to imaginaries of alternative futures in a transformed, warmer, less stable, highly utilized world that might see a transformation of social patterns, ways of life and culture that is much deeper than commonly discussed and into architecture and art, where exploratory, imaginary engagement with futures of infrastructure and anthropogenically altered landscapes herald some sharp new perspectives on the Anthropocene and its implications.

Listen to the Resumee Session on the Seminar “Imaging the Anthropocene”.

See also the case study on “Imaging the Anthropocene”, presented during the opening weekend of the Campus by Wolfgang Lucht and Philipp Oswalt.