Lost in Fathoms: Exploring the Anthropocene


Anaïs Tondeur and Jean-Marc Chomaz

anais_01Anaïs Tondeur, Lost in Fathoms, The Disappearance of an Island. 24 x 11 cm, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist and GV Art gallery.

Lost in Fathoms is a project by French artist Anaïs Tondeur developed in collaboration with Jean-Marc Chomaz (CNRS, France). Bringing together laboratory research and field trips, it explores the causes of the sudden disappearance of Nuuk Island. The evidence drawn up over the course of this investigation is presented in the form of a series of installations and shadowgraphic images. Through a narrative structure at the junction of reality and fiction, the work challenges our perception of oceanic and geologic timescales and of humanity’s impact on the earth’s systems.

Nuuk Island occupied a fictional territory. It had been found by chance, in a reflection, in the middle of time. Despite its modest size, the island was a headland. From there, one could look upon reality: one could observe the great natural phenomena and how they had unfolded over time. The island was located at the intersection between several shifting movements: some sudden (an earthquake, a landslide or a wave), others that had arisen over centuries (ocean circulations), and others still so slow that their motion had remained imperceptible (wandering plates). When the Nuuk Island disappeared, we slowed down time to observe the forces at play over the island. We gave voice to the elements that had formed it; we also questioned the impact of the anthropogenic actions on those forces that seemed inalterable.

anais_02Anaïs Tondeur, Lost in Fathoms, 3rd Expedition on Nuuk. 24 x 11cm, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist and GV Art gallery.

Indeed, the island disappeared at the very moment in 2012 when the 34th International Congress was preparing to pronounce the end of the Holocene. This geological epoch, which commenced around 10,000 years ago, was now being substituted with the Anthropocene (from the Greek anthropos, ‘human’), aka the ‘age of man’. This new term suggests that human activities have a geologic impact that, like a volcanic eruption, alters the planet in a definitive way. Humankind has become a telluric force, a determining agent in the geological evolution of the earth to the point that a new human-made stratum has emerged in geological records. The traces of our time on the planet, the imprints of our industrial, urban and consumerist societies, will persist in the earth’s geological archives for thousands, if not millions, of years to come.

anais_03Anaïs Tondeur, Lost in Fathoms, Paul Syrillin. 24 x  11 cm, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist and GV Art gallery.

Consequently, in this period of unprecedented acceleration, the human timescale can no longer be viewed as distinct from the timescale of the earth system. Was the disappearance of Nuuk Island also the result of a temporal singularity, a collision between the timescale of mankind and that of the oceans, or continental drift?

This project has involved the collaboration of the geologic and oceanographic international community. It was developed during a one year artist-in-residence stay at the Hydrodynamics Laboratory, LadHyX (CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, France) and continued during Summer School 2014 of Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment in Cambridge, UK.

Lost in Fathoms from GV Art on Vimeo.

The LOST IN FATHOMS: Exploring the Anthropocene exhibition is at GV Art gallery, London, 49 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, London W1U 6LY, 17 October until 29 November 2014.

See also Joanna Zylinska’s project on the Anthropocene in Photomediations Machine.

Anaïs Tondeur is a visual artist who lives and works in Paris. She has been commissioned as an artist in residence at the Hydrodynamics laboratory (LadHyx, CNRS, Polytechnique School) (2014-2013, FR), Les 26 Couleurs in their Centre for New Media Arts (2013, FR), Audax Textiel Museum (2011, NL), the Cité Internationale de la dentelle (2011, FR). Her work has been presented in solo shows in Paris and London and in group exhibitions nationally and internationally. She graduated from the MA Mixed Media at the Royal College of Art in 2010, after completing a BA (Hons) in Textiles at Central Saint Martins in 2008. Anaïs Tondeur is represented exclusively by GV Art gallery, London.

Jean-Marc Chomaz is Director of Research at the CNRS, Professor at École Polytechnique, Chair of the LaSIPS department of University Paris-Saclay and associate editor of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. He is Fellow of the American Physical Society, Churchill College and received the silver medal of CNRS and the Ampère price of the French Science Academy. In 1992, he co-founded the Laboratoire d’Hydrodynamique and initiated art and science collaborations which have been shown in France and abroad.

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on “Lost in Fathoms: Exploring the Anthropocene
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