Reimagining Extinction: Michael Wang and the Art of Resurrection

NASAAntiquityNOW examines the connections between ancient and modern times to demonstrate that the past is never really gone. In so many ways, we still draw from the wisdom of ancient peoples and times. Even when it comes to climate change.

As we have been hearing, the warnings are dire. The earth is warming at an increasing rate.  Although the planet has experienced natural weather fluctuations throughout its history, the current alarms are sounding more ominous.

NASA has collected a trove of information gathered from earth-orbiting satellites and other sources to offer scientists a comprehensive view of changing climate patterns, much of which has been caused by fossil fuels. And the evidence is compelling. According to NASA:

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.[1]

NASA explains that the current trend is significant since a greater than 95 percent probability attributes it to human activity since the mid-20th century at a rate “unprecedented over decades to millennia.”[2]

In the midst of the debates on what to do, what to regulate and how much of an impact all this data will have on life in the future, one artist is staking claim to his own representational view of our evolving world.

New York artist Michael Wang is fascinated by the interaction of the natural world, particularly the ancient one, with a modern industrial world seemingly bent on destruction. He imbues his art with the concepts of global systems that affect the natural world, including species distribution, climate change, resource allocation and the global economy. Two projects show his unique interpretation:

In Drowned World, which was exhibited at the 2018 European Contemporary Art Biennial’s Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Italy, Wang depicted the collision of the natural world that gives us sustenance and the industrial world that drives civilizations. In the installation visitors to Palermo’s botanical garden climbed steps to look over a wall into the remains of a coal-gas plant that once powered the city’s streetlamps. In that modern-day artifact Wang planted a forest of plants similar to those that grew 300 million years ago during the Carbonifera era, and which over time became coal and other fossil fuels. Araucarias trees, ferns, cycads and epiphytes thrived among rusted remnants of machinery and gas tanks. It was a juxtaposition of ancient, modern and ancient again, an intriguing synthesis of a lifecycle disrupted.[3]

In his art Wang questions what this disruption means to Earth’s future. When humans have wielded their influence with ever increasing consequences, how can the natural world coexist? “Climate change and ocean acidification modify the conditions for nearly all life on this planet. When the effects of human actions are nearly inescapable, what can we consider truly natural?”[4]

Click here to see pictures from the installation.

flower

franklinia alatamaha

In a city of quirks and marvels the rooftop garden of the Swiss Institute Contemporary Art Gallery in New York is unique in design and purpose. In rows of simple aluminum planters grow four different kinds of plants that are fragile vestiges of a verdant history going back millennia. Indeed, in one of the planters flourishes franklinia alatamaha, which is extinct in the wild (EW) as classified by The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Nature’s orphans” and “homeless” is how Wang describes these plants because without human cultivation, they wouldn’t exist in nature. As discussed above, human disruption is once again a factor, an underlying thrust that repeats in Wang’s art. For example, ginkgo biloba, a hardy and popular contemporary tree, began dying off in the wild thousands of years ago in the mountains of central China. Most likely this was due to human hunters who killed the large animal that picked up and shed the seeds across the region. This annihilation of that animal species affected ginkgo propagation. Ironically, during this period people also grew to value the trees so much that they planted them at temples and in cemeteries. Thus, the trees we see today have all been cultivated by humans.

gingko leaves

Ancient fossilized gingko leaves U.Name.Me/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

“I wanted to trace the passage of these species from nature into culture,” Wang says. He questions how humans manipulate nature to the degree that we alter the natural order according to our own self-interests. “How can you cause the extinction of a species in one context while also allowing its propagation beyond what would be purely natural in another context?”[5]

Click here to see pictures from the installation.

Wang fuses his artistic vision with an awareness of ancient systems and an understanding of earth’s peril. His art forces us to consider the inevitable result of human folly, and exhorts us to find the collective will to prevail.

Wang’s other works include “Invasives,” the controlled release of invasive species, “Carbon Copies,” an exhibition linking the production of artworks to the release of greenhouse gases, “Rivals,” a series that connects the sale of artworks to corporate finance, and “Terroir,” monochrome paintings made from the ground bedrock of world cities.

[1] https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
[2] Ibid.
[3] http://www.fruitoftheforest.com/michael-wang-extinct-in-the-wild
[4] Ibid.
[5]https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/culture-clash-nature-and-civilization-face-art-michael-wang

Throwback Thursday! Preserving the Past with 3D Printing

3d printerA fascinating new article on The Conversation explores how advances in 3D printing are allowing us to protect and preserve our precious heritage in new and important ways.

“What is new about digitally-fabricated replicas is that they can be extremely accurate with regards to the shape of the original – the reproduction process uses, among other means, high-tech laser scanners. The power of digitally fabricated replicas also lies in their digital nature. This means they can easily be stored, edited and shared across the world.

People interested in cultural heritage can access these digital replicas, for example from museum websites, and print them at home or at a nearby Fablab on a desktop 3D printer. Most importantly, these digital representations can also be easily manipulated or customised to satisfy different audience requirements under different interpretation scenarios.” – The Conversation

bernard vcl

Bernard Means

AntiquityNOW has been privileged to work with a pioneer in this arena. Read our article, Saving the Past With 3D Printing: An Interview with Dr. Bernard Means, Director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory to learn more about the incredible ways Dr. Means is using this technology to save the past.

Throwback Thursday! T. Rex: Feathered and Fabulous

TRex American Museum of Natural HistoryThere is a new and exciting exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History and it will bring you face to face with the king of all dinosaurs, the T. Rex! But, you may be surprised to see feathers sprouting from the leathery hide of the toothy tyrannosaurus. The museum is displaying a brand new, full size model of the T. Rex, complete with feathers. You can read all about it in this article in the New York Times.

And for more information about feathered dinosaurs and the link between our modern day avian friends and those terrifying lizards from the past, check out our very first blog post, What’s That Baby T-Rex Doing in My Birdcage?.

Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Baking Month

It’s National Baking Month! This is the perfect time of year to enjoy a few of our delicious and ancient baked goods recipes. Red velvet cake and whoopee pies are yummy, but check out the recipes below to indulge in some sweet and educational baking fun!

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Um Ali

om_aliWe love Egyptian recipes! There are so many delicious ancient Egyptian foods, ingredients and dishes to explore and today we’re bringing you one more. Um Ali, also called Om Ali, is a sweet and creamy bread pudding dessert that has become a traditional modern Egyptian dessert. It brings so much joy to the palate, but it has a surprisingly dark history. It was actually created in the 13th century to celebrate the murder of Shajar al-Durr, a sultana. Click here to read the entire sordid affair.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be celebrating something so dark and dismal in order to enjoy this traditional sweet. It can be served cold or warm depending on the season and it’s made with ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen right now. For a fancier and more complex version, visit click here. Enjoy some Um Ali this holiday season!

p.s. Click here for a list of our other Egyptian recipe posts.

Um Ali

Ingredients

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar, divided
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. Place the pastry sheets in the baking dish and place the dish in the oven. Watch it closely. When the top layer turns crunchy and golden, remove it from the oven. Continue until all the sheets are cooked.
  3. Preheat the oven’s broiler.
  4. In a bowl, combine walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, raisins, coconut and 1/4 cup sugar. Break cooked pastry into pieces and stir into nut mixture. Spread mixture evenly in 9×13-inch dish.
  5. Bring milk and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour over nut mixture.
  6. Beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over nut mixture in dish.
  7. Place dessert under oven broiler until top is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

 

Throwback Thursday! Rescuing Our Cultural Legacies

AN Forum

As news broke this week that Nimrud had been recaptured from ISIS, the world held its breath as the extent of the destruction began to be revealed. So much has been lost and though ISIS is being driven out of many of its strongholds, they continue to systematically destroy cultural heritage.

In this terrifying and heartbreaking time, we wanted to republish a previous blog post that highlights the good that is being done to protect the world’s cultural heritage every day. In the exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener, co-Founder and Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), speaks to Global Heritage Fund’s Executive Director Stefaan Poortman about the importance of cultural heritage and what the Global Heritage Fund has done to save the world’s cultural treasures.

AHE is a resource partner for AntiquityNOW’s The Slavery Project (TSP), a series of curricula for high school students looking at the long and inglorious history of slavery. This interview with Global Heritage Fund was published on Ancient History Encyclopedia’s website in August 2015. It is reprinted with permission of both parties.

Click here to read the full post and interview.

Submit Your Work!

The World is in our hands1Did you know you can submit your work, art, lesson plans, blog posts, research papers and more to AntiquityNOW for publication on our website? We love working with new writers, scholars exploring new topics, students discovering the ancient past or teachers eager to share their resources. Our goal is to foster excitement and curiosity about our shared history and how that history affects our past, present and future. We can only accomplish that goal with your help. Our past unites us and helps us to see that we are all connected. So join us by sharing your talents and passion for the ancient past. Click on Submit Work in our menu and let us know how you celebrate antiquity!

And visit our Today’s Muse, Science Fiction and Teacher-Submitted Curriculum sections to see examples of work already submitted by our viewers.

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Happy Halloween!

In this 1904 Halloween greeting card, divination is depicted: the young woman looking into a mirror in a darkened room hopes to catch a glimpse of her future husband.

In this 1904 Halloween greeting card, divination is depicted: the young woman looking into a mirror in a darkened room hopes to catch a glimpse of her future husband.

Halloween falls on a Monday this year, which means you can celebrate all weekend! We’re here to make sure your feasting and frivolity is not only fun and delicious, but also ties you back to your ancient past. Check out the links below to learn more about Halloween’s connections to antiquity and scroll down for some yummy ancient treats to make that will be sure to dazzle your trick or treaters! Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Roman Seafood Fricassee for National Seafood Month

fresh-seafood-on-iceIt’s that time of year again! Not Halloween, although we’re pretty excited about that too. It’s National Seafood Month!

Check out our post from last year with all of our ancient seafood recipes and information about how seafood has sustained humanity for thousands of years around the globe: Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Seafood MonthOnce you’ve satisfied your curiosity, click here for an all new ancient recipe for Roman Seafood Fricassee. Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Pork Month

porkPork is an ancient food with a complicated past. It has nourished numerous cultures for generations and yet, for religious reasons, has been taboo in others. This month we celebrate the succulent meat by looking back on some of our ancient pork recipes below. And then check out this new ancient recipe for Roman Pork Bites (Aliter Ofellas).

Of course, we know that not everyone will want to celebrate this holiday, so for our vegetarian and vegan followers, check out some of these scrumptious ancient recipes.

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Figs Part 1: Pork and Fruit Ragout

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Pork Dumplings for the Year of the Horse

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Slow-Cooked, Mustard-Crusted Pork Loin