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Petrified Times: Energizing Past Futures

Rauch, der beim Köhlern, dem Verwandeln von Holz in Holzkohle, entsteht

Project period: April 2024

The Anthropocene not only represents the age of the Anthropos, it is also potentially the last epoch of Homo sapiens: the expansive and extractivist capitalist economy is not only destroying nature on an unprecedented scale, but also the basis of life in human societies; the sixth mass extinction could therefore also affect the "human" species.

As part of the Netzwerk Naturwissen, the project group Petrified Times: Energizing Past Futures approaches this topic from the perspective of the two central energy regimes "coal and nuclear energy", which have shaped the history of (post-)industrial societies and the planet. This is done on the basis of two artistic research projects in which the dimension of aesthetic experience is used to convey invisible, complex connections in the ecosystem and in the planetary material cycles and their temporal dimensions in a different way.

To this end, the artists Ulrike Mohr and Susanne Kriemann work in the museum's rather inconspicuous collections – those of minerals and rocks as well as palaeobotany. The rocks coal (in the form of charcoal, but also hard coal) and uraninite (pitchblende) represent the industrial revolution on the one hand and the atomic age on the other. On the basis of these rocks and the raw materials to which they refer (as "stones of impetus"), the thematic complex of the development of the energy requirements of extractivist and capitalist societies becomes accessible. At the same time, the deep-temporal dimensions behind the energy resources and their use in contemporary cultures become tangible: the almost immeasurable time dimensions behind the energy resources that have been consumed at a radical speed since the beginning of the Anthropocene just 70 years ago. The artistic contributions thus also deal with the clash of different time scales, of human time and planetary time, which represents a core problem for the question of how the Anthropocene can be understood and represented at all.

The first interim results of the artistic research will be shown in an experimental format in the exhibition at the Museum für Naturkunde on 27 November 2024. The aim of the artistic works is to offer new spaces for reflection in which the relationship between human, specifically Western European positions and the world (as a comprehensive ecosystem), the connection between human activity and the Anthropocene as a historical-geological "caesura" can be experienced by means of aesthetic experiences. The final works will then be shown at various, also unusual, theme-specific locations.


The sub-project "Petrified Times: Energizing Past Futures" was created through the collaboration of networkers Friederike Schäfer (FU Berlin), Elisabeth Heyne (MfN Berlin) and Maike Weißpflug (Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management).