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Anon. - An Intervention in the Anthropocene

An interdisciplinary project at the interface of art and science

E&H’s Heather Leslie teamed up with artist Cheng Guo from Shanghai, China to develop a joint proposal which won the BIO ART DESIGN AWARD (2017). This is a competition sponsored by the NWO (Dutch Research Council – Earth and Life Sciences, Humanities, The Hague), ZonMW (Medical Research Council, The Hague), MU Artspace (Eindhoven) and BioArt Laboratories (Eindhoven). The aim of the award is to stimulate interest, excitement and debate about the life sciences through high-quality, original artistic practice, examine the social, cultural and ethical contexts of the life sciences through the arts, and promote high-quality interdisciplinary practice and collaborations between art/ design and science/technology.

The project the artist-scientist team carried out between June and December 2017 is entitled “Anon. An Intervention in the Anthropocene”. It focused on exploring the relationship between human activities and the environment within the context of Anthropocene.

The general public has a growing interest in the sciences of environmental pollution, toxicology and biology that build knowledge of the Anthropocene’s unintended consequences. This they express through massive Climate Marches and Marches for Science for instance. This project’s theme picks up on this societal concern. What Anon. brings to the fore is the opportunity to explore, through an inquisitive artwork, what the power of this scientific information is. What stories can these high-tech, sensitive analytical devices reveal to us? Science and art have in common that they aim to be authentic, both are observing, investigating, interpreting and expressing. Both aim to tell their own powerful stories, (and therefore we can see how both can be potentially threatening to undemocratic regimes).

“As we discovered in the project proposal development phase, a great number of thought-provoking discussions are triggered when we start to just think about erasing our human-techno-elemental messages imbedded in the earth we inhabit. The planned artwork therefore has a great potential of further triggering debate across various disciplines and among those experiencing the exhibit or even visiting the original 1 m2 land site in Amsterdam we selected for the fieldwork,” Heather and Cheng explain. “This artworkl asks us to explore and come to our own conclusions about the technological-financial systems we have created and the physical world that we have partly made. How do we feel about the Earth and the manner of dealing with nature in the technoexuberant age we are living in?”

In addition, as a site specific project that took place in the Netherlands, the project takes advantage of the intensive land use and the reclamation of the land as critical cultural and historical layers, which gives the project a strong intrinsic connection with the Dutch people. The work, entitled ‘A Felicitious Neo-Past’, was exhibited at MU Gallery Eindhoven from 1 December 2017 to 18 February 2018.

Watch the film here

Contact: Dr. Heather Leslie /  Cheng Guo