One of the first things I did after moving to Bristol was visiting the Extinction Voices exhibition at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. The exhibition’s title was inspired by a citation from environmentalist Paul Hawken: ‘Nature is noisy. It walks, it crawls, it swims, it swoops, it buzzes. But extinction is silent. It has no voice except our own.’
The exhibition – and the Hawken citation – made me think about (in)visibility and voice(less)ness. The shrouds were incredibly effective: how come the very act of veiling these threatened (and extinct) species make them so visible?
My partner and I happened to be in Vienna when this exhibition just opened, and I just had to go. We both really enjoyed the set-up and the visuals. How can something so catastrophic be so aesthetically pleasing? I found Noémi Goudal’s work in particular very beautiful.
One thing that struck me was the discrepancy (for the lack of a better word) between… artist/observer and the subject of the works of art. Most of the artists were born in either West Europe or North America, and the places and people shown were elsewhere. For me, this exhibition mostly raised one (or a set of related) question(s): who gets the tell these stories? Whose voices are we hearing? According to a website, Project Pressure’s mission is (amongst other things), “to depict first-hand the environmental impact of climate change”. But is it, really?
The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I adore the museum’s Plants of the World exhibition and will forever regret not having my camera with me. Enjoy this snapshot of Máximo instead.
There was also an interesting quote from Loren Eissley’s The Immense Journey (1957):
“Without the gift of flowers and the infinite diversity of their fruits, man and bird, if they had continued to exist at all, would be today unrecognizable. / The weight of a petal has changed the face of the world and made it ours.”
I have yet to read The Immense Journey (or any of Eissley’s books, to be honest), but I do now wonder about the tension between praising biodiversity and the anthropocentricity of this little citation.