Sydney Environment Institute

Representing Art & Museums

Introducing representations of Anthropocene environmental changes to the wider public

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Internationally — especially in Europe and the United States — collaborations of museums, university researchers and artists have taken a leadership role in representing the idea and implications of environmental change in the Anthropocene or Age of Humans, and in introducing these concepts accessibly to wider publics.

We aim to promote collaborations between university scholars, museum curators and environmental artists in order to foster new environmental research methods and outcomes grounded in material, visual and theatrical cultures. We intend to show how ‘things’ ‘images’ and performances can help bring into vivid focus and realization such diffuse and invisible environmental phenomena as global atmospheric changes that can only be ‘seen’ and ‘felt’ through their expression in the immediate material world.

This strand of our Observatory derives ultimately from a series of environmentally based projects undertaken between University of Sydney historians and the curating staff of the Macleay Museum. A further stimulus came from a collaborative workshop of October 2013, Collecting the Future, and convened in New York by Observatory members from leading Australian and American universities and museums. This workshop and resulting book explored how curators, university researchers and artists might respond to the destabilising and transformative environmental challenges of the Human Age.

Several of our Observatory members were also invited in November 2014 to join leading international researchers, artists and curators to participate in a public contest or ‘Slam’ to nominate objects and images for a northern hemisphere Anthropocene Cabinet of Curiosities. Successful nominations were subsequently included in the world’s first museological representation of the idea of the Anthropocene, staged at the world’s largest science museum—the Deutsches Museum, Munich.

Our Observatory project brings together Australian environmental humanities researchers, curators and visual culture experts to develop an exhibition and book. These will investigate the global idea of the Anthropocene as it functions within the specific local context of Australia. The project will culminate in a substantial Australian Anthropocene exhibition to be held at the National Museum of Australia in 2018.

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Convenor

Key Researchers