Anthropocene Slam

CHE is an organizing sponsor of an international collaborative project with the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich and the Environmental Humanities Laboratory at KTH in Stockholm on the theme of Environmental Futures. This project began in November of 2013 with Tales from Planet Earth and continues in November 2014 with the Anthropocene Slam: A Cabinet of Curiosities.

The Anthropocene Slam: A Cabinet of Curiosities

We are in the midst of a great reawakening to questions of time—across the spans of geological, ecological, evolutionary, and human history. It is a reawakening precipitated not by a nostalgia for the past but by a sense of urgency about the future. The "Anthropocene," coined in 2000 by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and popularized by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, is one of the most resonant examples of how the urgency of the future has prompted scientists, artists, humanities scholars, and social scientists to engage creatively with the emerging legacy of our geomorphic and biomorphic powers. The advent of this new scientific object - the Anthropocene - is altering how we conceptualize, imagine, and inhabit time. The Anthropocene encourages us to reenvisage (in Nigel Clark's phrase) future and past relations between "earthly volatility and bodily vulnerability." What images and stories can we create that speak with conceptual richness and emotional energy to our rapidly changing visions of future possibilities? For in a world deluged with data, arresting stories and images matter immeasurably, and play a critical role in the making of environmental publics and in shaping environmental policy.

The Anthropocene is just one among many moments in time when new scientific objects have altered humanity's relationship to the past, present, and future. The coming-into-being of scientific objects such as fossils, radioactivity, genetic mutations, toxic pesticides, and ice cores, to name a few, have precipitated different narratives and imaginings of the human past and the human future. What might a cabinet of curiosities for the age of the Anthropocene look like? What objects might jolt us into reimagining environmental time across diverse scales, from the recent past to deep history? How might certain kinds of objects make visible the differential impacts—past, present, and future—that have come to shape the relationships among human and non-human beings, living in an era of extreme hydrocarbon extraction, extreme weather events, and extreme economic disparity?

Workshop Highlights

The Sixth Extinction

The conference will feature a keynote address by Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. This lecture will be held in the DeLuca Forum of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery at 7:00 pm on Saturday, November 8. Like the rest of the conference, it is free and open to the public.

The majority of the workshop will be dedicated to a "slam" style presentation where invited guests will pitch objects which they suggest are representative of humanity's changing relationship to environmental time. Audience members are invited to participate in choosing objects for inclusion in the Deutsches Museum's exhibit on the Anthropocene, which opens in December 2014.

Schedule of Events

Saturday, November 8

2:00-2:30 Introductory Remarks: Gregg Mitman, Christof Mauch, Marco Armiero

2:30-4:30 Nightmares/Dreams

  • Moderator: Rob Nixon
  • Joseph Masco, Plowshares film
  • Michelle Mart and Cameron Muir, Pesticide pump
  • Caroline Peyton, Containment Game
  • Brian Black, Deepwater Horizon feed
  • Mandy Martin, Davies Creek road

7:00 Elizabeth Kolbert Keynote

Sunday, November 9

10:00–11:30 Anthropocene Fossils

  • Moderator: Heather Swan
  • Julianne Warren, "Echoes" recording of extinct bird
  • Angelika Möller, AOL trial
  • Joshua Wodak, Entwined futures – coral
  • Jared Farmer, Extinct Models


1:30-3:30 Tales and Projections

  • Moderator: Rob Emmett
  • Melissa Charenko, Pollen diagrams
  • Bethany Wiggin, Cotton calico print
  • Tomas Matza and Nicole Heller, Soil core from Wrightsville Beach
  • Erica Damman, A present, tipping into the future
  • Sverker Sörlin, Mirror

4:00–6:00 Trespass

  • Moderator: TBD
  • Adam Mandelman, The fecal transplant
  • Nils Hanwahr, Satellite tags
  • Felix Mauch, Thermostat
  • Gary Kroll, Snarge
  • Judit Hersko, Excerpts from Anna's Cabinet

Monday, November 10

9:00-11:00 Resistance/Persistence

  • Moderator: Wilko Graf von Hardenberg
  • Elizabeth Hennessy, Cryogenic freezer deposit box
  • Thomas Bristow, Silene stenophylla seed
  • Daegan Miller, Monkey wrench
  • M. Rafi Arefin, Sarah Moore, and Heather Rosenfeld, Batteries
  • Cristian Simonetti, Rachel Harkness, and Judith Winter, Liquid rock

11:30-1:00 Closing Panel; Moderator, Paul Robbins; Panelists: Marco Armiero, Bill Cronon, Christof Mauch, Sabine Moedersheim, Libby Robin

Sponsoring Institutions

Project Leads

Workshop Co-Sponsors

Attending or Volunteering

The entire conference is free and open to the public. All events take place in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery DeLuca Forum. We will also be hosting a live stream of the event from our website.

If you are interested in volunteering for the workshop, please contact

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