Architecture | Performance | Anthropocene

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The Space-Time we currently inhabit, according to atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, is the Anthropocene. This term, which he coined in 2000, suggests that we are in a new (-cene) epoch of human (anthropo-) impact, made evident through mass extinction, altered oceans and atmosphere, changed climate patterns, and a trace at the geologic scale.

“The Anthropocene… is an idea that emerges from earth sciences, but it is also cultural: indeed the geological epoch of the Holocene (the last 11,700 years) marks the period in which most of the world’s major civilisations and cultures have emerged; it includes both the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions. To assert that the planet has moved ‘beyond the Holocene’ is to assert that humanity (indeed all life) has entered a new cultural and physical space that has not been previously experienced. Questions of how humans live in a planet with changed atmosphere, oceans, land systems, cities and climates are moral as well as physical. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described climate change as the ‘greatest human rights issue of our times’.” [1]

Ten fourth year students of architecture at the University of Arizona spent a semester studying the Anthropocene. Beyond this research, the premise of the studio was to develop research-based-practices and practice-based-research drawing from experimental material, spatial and performative modes of working.  The intended outcome of the studio was that the students would have an expanded notion of practice and have created individual and collective works in response to critical issues, brought about by climate change, in this new epoch: the Anthropocene.

Over the course of the semester the studio explored the Anthropocene and its multifaceted “qualities,” manifest through conditions and relations that are material and climatic, living and non-living, locally expressed and globally networked. The individual students in this studio developed methods for researching-practicing, inspired and informed by other makers (with matter), situators in sites, choreographers (of score and scripts), and performers (of events).

Students first identified what matters and motivates them individually, as seen in the independent research section of the book, and then what matters to them collectively in a second iteration or incarnation. Ideas “rehearsed” in the first half of the semester were folded into the feedback loop for critical re-examination and collective re-shaping during the second half of the semester. The outcome of the studio took shape and time as a spatial event, conceptualized, fabricated and performed collectively—the Field of Leftovers.