While we might like to imagine that “Curating the Anthropocene” is a novel concept, the artistic treatment of the relationship between humans and nature is nothing new. This goes beyond the modern practice of using art to elucidate environmental issues. In fact, the relationship between humans and nature is one of the earliest and most persistent themes explored in art. From the prehistoric cave painting in Lascaux Caves to Maya Lin’s “Pin River” right here at the Colby Museum of Art humans have sought to explore our place in nature, and our impact on nature.
I will not discuss here exactly how the depictions of human and nature has evolved over time, but I think its important to consider this changing relationship in any conversation about the Anthropocene. In class, we briefly discussed some objects that have in exhibition about the Anthropocene: a train, a steam engine, robots and ingots. One student indicated that a chair was the object most emblematic of this geographical age. However, I think that the artistic record is to the Anthropocene what stratigraphy is to other geographical era, at least from a philosophical perspective. Moreover, that the inclusion of artwork (spanning multiple artistic and philosophical movements) would provide a perfect foil for the more techno-centric and populist exhibits.