Guest Editors: Christopher Orchard and James Farley


Christopher Orchard, James Farley: Introduction: Art and Extinction

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Krista Caballero, Frank Ekeberg, Gwyneira Isaac: Birding the Future: Messages of migration, connectivity and extinction

Keywords: indigenous knowledge, birds, ecology, art, technology

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Birding the Future is an interdisciplinary artwork that explores current extinction rates by focusing on the warning abilities of birds as bioindicators of environmental change. The installation invites visitors to listen to endangered and extinct bird calls and to view visionary avian landscapes through stereographs, sculpture and video. This ongoing project explores how declining bird populations signal profound changes over our entire planet. Birds are a bridge species in that they offer a way to collaborate across environmental issues that are collectively shared, yet separately valued, and enter conversations that would not be possible otherwise. We explore here the methods and technologies used within our artwork and collaborative project with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Pueblo of Zuni to document and communicate the role of birds as messengers of change. We also discuss how through this transdisciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration the project is shifting through learning Zuni community values of “the return”—the annual return of water, birds, and life to the desert as critical elements that defines the cycle of life—not just for an individual or particular place, but for the world as a whole.

Jack Kirne: Staggered Time: Catastrophe, Extinction, and Unsteady Temporalities in Jennifer Mill's 'Dyschronia' (2018) 

Keywords: climate change, Jennifer Mills, Dyschronia

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There is a tendency in certain spheres—academic and otherwise—to defer ecological catastrophe to an apocalyptic future. According to this logic, a "climatic end-game" is approaching, in which it is the responsibility of "global citizens" now to maintain the relatively stable and safe present against a monstrous future. The constant imagining of the future is troubling for many reasons, partly because it defers the reality of the crisis from the now; the upshot of this is that it minimises the crisis’ of the present. For instance, the idea that a mass animal die-off is symptomatic of an emerging climate crisis, rather than a disaster in its own right, posits the idea that present extinction rates fall into the realm of acceptable loss. More problematically, however, is that this desire to imagine the future as catastrophic necessarily erases the catastrophes of the past. In conversation with Jenifer Mills’ 2018 novel Dyschronia, I argue for what I tentatively call staggered time here, an unsettled temporarily that is neither apocalyptic or certain but rather something 'in-between'. In this in-between, the trauma of extinction—human, non-human and more-than-human is repeated to collapse future, present, and past into a simultaneous co-happening extinction.  

Susanne Ferwerda: Extinction and the Art of Erasing: Lucienne Rickard's Extinction Studies


Keywords: Extinction, Anthropocene, multi-species, contemporary art, performance, museum, affect, mourning

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When an image is erased, what is lost and what remains? On September 6, 2019, Australian graphic artist Lucienne Rickard started a twelve-month duration performance called Extinction Studies. Each day, with pencil on a single piece of paper, she draws a recently extinct species, only to erase it as soon as its image is complete. The performance takes place at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), a location saturated with histories of local mass extinction events. Two rooms away from Rickard’s performance, another exhibition shows the bones, skins and some of the last known images of the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus). The juxtaposition of these two exhibitions draws out the relationship between extinction and the act of erasing. This paper examines the affective nature of erasure and extinction. Rickard’s care for each line she draws and erases, reinforces the physical and emotional investment that twenty-first-century extinction events compel. The difference between the two exhibitions is one of scale and time. Where the permanent thylacine exhibition performs the long durée of erasure and ‘extinction afterlives’ of a single species thought lost since 1936, Extinction Studies simultaneously shows the fast-paced acts of erasure of many species thought lost since the turn of the twenty-first-century. 

Jaxon Waterhouse, Samuel Newman: The Quest for the Night Parrot: Activism, Extinction and Allegorical Investigations 

Keywords: Yeelirrie, night parrot, extinction, conservation, uranium mining

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In August 2019, the Western Australian State Government overturned traditional owner’s appeals against development of a uranium mine at Yeelirrie, a remote location in Western Australia’s Mid West. This decision was made despite EPA reports proving that development will render extinct stygofauna endemic to Yeelirrie and further endanger numerous other species. In response, activist groups and local communities coalesced, attempting to stave off or disrupt this development. As their activity has progressed, however, focus has turned to knowledge of Yeelirrie as the habitat of Pezoporus occidentalis, the night parrot. Long thought extinct, and almost mythological within Australian ornithology and environmental studies, recent evidence points to the bird’s continued existence. In focusing upon this elusive bird, a research-based arts project entitled The Quest for the Night Parrot, has emerged. Whilst searching for evidence of the bird at Yeelirrie to halt Cameco’s activity, this project engages with the history and practice of the hunt for the bird, positioning it as allegorical for the intersection of Western epistemology and traditional knowledge; the search extending beyond the outback into archives, legislation and fictionalised notions of outback and landscape. Enfolded within this project is an understanding that development will be deleterious to not only Yeelirrie’s ecology, but the cultural knowledge embedded within Yeelirrie’s environment. Moreover, it considers ways of maintaining knowledge through industry-caused disruption, seeking creative methodologies for archiving place. This paper introduces the case against Yeelirrie’s development and The Quest for the Night Parrot, through which is considers theoretical and mythological underpinnings found within the clash between the mining industry and environmental/cultural conservation movements.

Yvonne Kaisinger: Frogs as Fortuitous Canaries in our Coal Mine: Silence and amphibian extinction in Mayra Montero's 'In the Palm of Darkness' and Edwindge Danticat's 'Claire of the Sea Light'

Keywords: amphibians, extinction, silence, absence, women

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In The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbertob serves that amphibians “enjoy the dubious distinction of being the world’s most endangered class of animals” (17), which is one of the reasons to make the representation of amphibian extinctions in fictional accounts one of the foci of this paper. The search for a frog that is notably absent in Mayra Montero’s In the Palm of Darkness brings to the forefront ecological, political, and economic issues, three remnants of colonialism as well as postcolonialism. The sesame issues are also present in Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light, where amphibians inhabit the contact zones between humans and the environment and thus offer a way for the characters to be actively engaged with them. Discourses that write extinctions and absences by moving away from using animals as mere metaphors and instead ascribe them agency encourage an investigation of the contact zones between humans and animals in fictional texts.In addition, the vanishing amphibians mirror the oppression and silencing of women. This shift of attention on the absence sand silences of women and animals in narratives can benefit and challenge our own understanding of our place in the Anthropocene.

Luna Mrozik Gawler: (Un)imaginable pathways: Cultivating cross-generational care through an ecological methodology in participatory live art. 

Keywords: Participatory art, ecological studies, extinction


This paper proposes an ecological methodology for the development and delivery of Participatory Live Art (PLA) that foregrounds multi-species inclusion and contemporary Western approaches to kinship practices. The experiential, embodied format of PLA celebrates sense-based knowledge and imaginative exploration, making it ideal for ecological enquiry, as it draws participants into tactile, sensuous engagement with the material world. To extend upon this potential, I propose a methodology that includes, and is informed by, the sites and species with which any PLA project may intersect. Developed using this methodology and presented here as a case study, Flight Path (2019) examines the links between human culture and insect extinction and questions how less visible extinction narratives can be brought to the foreground of human awareness.

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Shaun Wilson: Bullshit Bingo: Designing a response to climate change denialism in critical studio practice

Keywords:  Metamodernism, climate change denialism, climate change

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The recent public discussions about climate change have brought forward two key points of important discourse. The first is the resistance by climate change denialism to accept science as a means of fact-based validation into the effects of human interference within the natural world and the second is the debate on actions to reduce carbon emissions and global warming. This paper will explore the role of climate change denialism through my critical studio practice as a means of social commentary with discussion informed by the artefacts located in the series ‘Failed Design Experiments of Climate Change Denial Machines’ (2018) exhibited as part of the National Gallery of Victoria's Melbourne Design Week 2018 and ‘The Rise’ (2019).