To what vast extent man has changed the Earth since his first appearance on the world stage around 250,000 years ago is at the centre of a special exhibition at the Deutsches Museum Munich, the largest scientific-technical museum on the planet.
facts and fiction and Klaus Hollenbeck Architects have been entrusted with the task of designing and implementing the exhibition "Welcome to the Anthropocene". It's about visualising the past, present and - presumably - the future of the newest era. A case for our atelier krafthaus.
The term Anthropocene describes the beginning of a new geological era around 1800, characterised by profound human intervention in the geo- and biosphere. If homo sapiens was still defined by its success as a hunter in the Pleistocene, before graduating to the big players in the earth system as a farmer in the Holocene, then the Anthropocene is characterised by global industrialisation and mechanisation. Instead of biomes - natural habitats - we now live in anthromen, or cultural landscapes.
Humankind is responsible for a quite a lot of things: the massive use of fossil fuels has changed the composition of the atmosphere, increasing the average temperature. Materials such as plastic have become a problem for the oceans and animals; dams and canals affect the flow of water.
Six main themes are staged on themed panels reminding one of the fragments of a once contiguous continent: Urbanity and resources, mobility, man-machine, nature, nutrition and evolution. All in all, they provide insight into the interactions that characterise the Anthropocene.
Another dominant element of the exhibition functions as a reference to the location, the German Museum. A twenty-metre-wide, three-metre-high object shelf which appears to consist entirely of corrugated cardboard contains typical objects from the history of science and technology placed in cut out cavities. They stand for the formative role of technology in the Anthropocene. They are set in relation to one another with calligraphic drawings and cross-references as in a sketchbook.
A media installation of different monitors designed as a three-metre cube refers to the importance of the media in the global society of the Anthropocene. The central screen shows "Anthropocene spots" representing the various themes of the Anthropocene in the form of entertaining commercials. They all end with the slogan "You are Anthropocene". This refers to our role as global players no matter how small we may assess our own impact to be.
The exhibition illustrates opportunities and risks - from the destructive potential of humankind to its unique creative and spiritual possibilities. Out of this grows the opportunity, but also the responsibility, to shape the Anthropocene. At the end of the tour, visitors are invited to take part symbolically as a gardener of the Anthropocene. They can design a landscape with self-folded origami flowers thus leaving their traces behind at the exhibition. Visitors express their thoughts and ideas on the Anthropocene on these paper flowers in the hope that they will bear fruit in the future.