What is the Anthropocene?
The Anthropocene is an unofficial epoch in time, marking the era in which human activity began to significantly affect the environment.
Our entire known history of the planet has been divided in to periods of time where a new geological rock record has been deposited, these can span several millions of years. Officially we are in an epoch of time known as the 'Holocene'. This spans the past 12,000 years of the Earths history, the time since the last major geological time scale, the end of the Ice Age.
During these time periods the make up of our planet, flora and fauna has changed and evolved to what we see today. The difference to that change, and past extinction events witnessed is the rate in which that change is now occurring. This is where the idea of the 'Anthropocene' was founded, this has been a term used since the 1980s and popularised in 2000 by Paul J Crutzen and diatom researcher Eugene F Stoermer.
There is still debate amongst scientist about whether the term Anthropocene should be officially adopted. In the past time periods have been classified on geological change, as this has been the main driving force of transforming the planet. What is clear in this new time era is that humans have now become the driving force for sculpting the future of our planet, and we are altering it an unprecedented rate.
When thinking about climate change I have always felt the pressure of time, an urgency for faster action, like we are watching our planet trickle away slowly before our very eyes. The concept of the hourglass was something I had in my mind for over a year before I put pen to paper. When creating art it is difficult to create something that people may not see as conventionally beautiful. After all, as an artist we want people to want to view our work, and people are less inclined to look at an uncomfortable truth. But this is a message I felt compelled to share, I think we need to visualise what could be, before it is too late.
The original piece is an A2 drawing in archival pigment inks, it was at the time the largest and most ambitious ink drawing I had tackled since studying art at college. I knew this piece had to be big to capture the level of detail I wanted to achieve, and to portray the abundance of biodiversity I wanted to include. This piece was researched thoroughly to include a wide variety of species and ecosystems to reflect the biodiversity of the planet. In the bottom of the hourglass we can see iconic species known to be extinct, largely due to anthropogenic factors. The dodo and the great auk, both hunted to extinction by humans. In colour falling to the bottom of the hourglass we can see the vibrant blue spix macaw, a species thought to be extinct in the wild, the question left - can it fly back out?
The hourglass reflects not only the critical time in which we have to act, but also the element of hope, an hourglass can be turned.
Such an emotive piece. Absolutely stunning work but plays on the heart strings. I see colour, light and hope at the top literally turning to dust and grey despair below as time trickles away, but with the hope that as with any hourglass it can be turned.
The Anthropocene © Rachel Brooks, 2020