Evidence & Experiment

May 17th, 2022

Through a close reading and contextualization of material evidence of planetary upheaval, the yearlong program Evidence & Experiment gathers material testimonies of the Anthropocene stratum.

When in search of models for living in a transitioning Earth system, what sociopolitical considerations emerge through the geological evidence for the Anthropocene? How does the global fingerprint of humankind manifest itself in Earth’s sediments? In which way does this evidence influence decision-making in the face of planetary challenges? How is cohabitation on Earth possible amid conflicting assumptions and cosmologies?

Since 2019, the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) has been searching for stratigraphic evidence indicating the geological onset of the Anthropocene at various sites around the world. Through a close reading and contextualization of this material evidence of planetary upheaval, the yearlong program Evidence & Experiment gathers material testimonies of the Anthropocene stratum. In the face of the urgent political challenges of this new epoch, finding the nexus between the production of evidence and the outlining of the scope for experimentation and social maneuvering is nothing less than essential. It is this uncharted space between the evident and the experimental, between what is “given” and the collective search for adequate responses, that the program strives to explore.

The planet has entered the first stage of the Anthropocene: a highly disruptive transitional period of “global weirding” within which ecological patterns and societal structures are changing radically. Over the past two years, the Anthropocene Working Group has been assembling stratigraphic evidence for the geological reality of this new Earth epoch.

Throughout 2022, Evidence & Experiment assesses the conditions, values, and scales that define the ongoing planetary transformation on the basis of the AWG’s stratigraphic research. A series of events, publications, and exhibitions provides a unique opportunity for a public engagement on the Anthropocene by thinking with and through the specific scientific undertaking that is set up to formally define its geologically distinct beginning. Anthropocene-curriculum.org offers a comprehensive repositorium for the geologic exploration of the Anthropocene and of the many program strands unfolding both on- and offline.

The Geological Anthropocene publication provides in-depth information on the AWG’s stratigraphic research to support the formalization of the Anthropocene and includes a detailed overview of the twelve sites that have been analyzed as possible stratigraphic references for the new epoch. Alongside these site guides, “Defining a New Earth Epoch” offers an introduction to the practicalities of establishing a new geologic time unit, while in an interview, Jan Zalasiewicz, former chair of the AWG, explains the interdisciplinary work of the of group and the challenges of defining the Anthropocene from a geologic standpoint. The FAQ and Glossary shed light on key terms and processes around the formal ratification of the new earth epoch.

The special publication Anthropogenic Markers: Stratigraphy and Context explores and contours some of the historical contexts and epistemic settings around the ongoing work of Anthropocene geology. In seven thematic dossiers, contributions from the fields of geochemistry and paleobiology, history and science studies, artistic research, archaeology, literary studies, and anthropology reflect on selected material markers of human impacts on earthly strata.

The events, publications, and exhibition taking place in the framework of Evidence & Experiment on site at HKW will be amply documented on anthropocene-curiculum.org: the multi-day event Unearthing the Present (May 19-22) connects the geological analysis of the present with a discussion of the changing scope for social and political agency. Where is the Planetary? (October 12-16) explores shared planetary-scale practices for an equitable cohabitation on Earth. The exhibition Earth Indices (May 19-Oct 17) by artists Giulia Bruno and Armin Linke addresses the scientific and social conditions producing the new geological epoch. At a concluding press conference in December, the final recommendations of the AWG on the geological reference point of the Anthropocene will be presented.

With this program, the HKW concludes a full decade of Anthropocene programming and research in which it has undertaken an experiment of its own. In a long-standing collaboration with the AWG and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), Berlin, the HKW set out to explore the shifting boundaries of knowledge production under the growing rumblings of the Anthropocene. Here, in this final program, this direct engagement with the geosciences and the humanities is prompted to look closer at the scientific evidence and its production and bring it into conversation with the promises and pitfalls of reacting to these findings through social, artistic, and epistemic experimentation.