“Two hundred million years ago, long before we walked the Earth, it was a world of cold-blooded creatures and dull color — a kind of terrestrial sea of brown and green. 

There were plants, but their reproduction was a tenuous game of chance — they released their pollen into the wind, into the water, against the staggering improbability that it might reach another member of their species. No algorithm, no swipe — just chance.

But then, in the Cretaceous period, flowers appeared and carpeted the world with astonishing rapidity — because, in some poetic sense, they invented love.

Once there were flowers, there were fruit — that transcendent alchemy of sunlight into sugar. Once there were fruit, plants could enlist the help of animals in a kind of trade: sweetness for a lift to a mate. Animals savored the sugars in fruit, converted them into energy and proteins, and a new world of warm-blooded mammals came alive.

Without flowers, there would be no us.

No poetry.

No science.

No music.”

Maria Popova

This quote from Maria Popova felt all too apposite in the face of the existential threat to humanity that the impending environmental disaster poses. It became particularly so for me in 2020 when the Southern Hemisphere’s worst forest fires in recorded history swept through my homeland, Australia, killing hundreds of thousands of animals and causing a level of environmental destruction described by one commentator as omnicide.

This work explores the concept that a landscape isn’t merely a place existing superficially in the present but also a recorded archive onto which past conflicts, environmental catastrophe, memory, and eons of history are written. In this series landscape images of reimagined and distorted places ravaged by fire are offset by photographs taken from British archives of both native Australian animals and introduced animals which caused irreparable damage to the ecosystem. This work considers the view that the environment is an active participant of the past which is constantly in a state of flux. 

Looking beyond the anthropocentric perspective we can interpret the landscape as a living archive where the remnants of past events are preserved, and we can understand nature as an active archive, participant and witness in history. The techniques of removal and categorisation applied to people and animals in the 20th century had a profound impact on the environment, and also on how we currently perceive and interact with nature.

Published by Emergence Magazine: https://emergencemagazine.org/gallery/lost-land/

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