January 5, 2010

Picturing Post-Paradise


Steinbrener/Dempf
"Trouble in Paradise"

Alan Weisman's The World Without Us is an imaginative and engaging consideration of what a "post-human" Earth might look like. The popular success of Weisman's book suggests that a great many readers are willing to entertain an End Times quite unlike that forecast by eschatological messianism. Still, in the United States, a significant percentage of the populace (maybe even a slim majority!) insist that dinosaurs coexisted with early man and that Judgment Day will involve supernatural intervention. For the rest of us, however, Weisman's predictions are more tenable than messianic adjudication and, because we're living through what scientists now dub the Sixth Great Extinction, his vision of mass extinction is also more pertinent.


Steinbrener/Dempf
"Trouble in Paradise"

I thought of The World Without Us when viewing photographic documentation of Steinbrener/Dempf's intervention at Vienna's Schonbrunn Zoo, an institution celebrated as "the oldest zoo in the world." Not all of the installation images impress me, but a few are coolly beautiful. The best of them serve as both a celebration of life's ambivalent persistence and a critique of our romantic notions of wilderness.


Steinbrener/Dempf
"Trouble in Paradise"

Note: This post originally appeared in a different form on Hungry Hyaena (July 10, 2009).

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