Anthropocene review by Tori Ball
It is fascinating how the landscape of Anthropocene is painted without it physically existing. In the warmth of the Bluestone Church Art Space, the vivid dreaming of the death of humans, Earth and the spiritual collapse therein is captured within the humble floor constraints. Perhaps it is because it is a reality so permeating in our consciousness, so imagined in our pop culture, that we are ready, prepared, to surrender to the story at hand.
This is the creation of Ollie Crafter, Iona Julian-Walters, Rose Harley & Georgia Smith. Crafter is a maker with energy so bursting that their story of the show’s genesis that precedes the final performance feels as integral as the show itself. It is key knowledge that this work burgeons from young activists of the climate movement. Crafter’s introduction to Anthropocene is a healthy reminder that works like these are the embodiment and expression of a community nourishing itself through art.
The work is at times both horrific and serene, matching the contradictory nature of striving to make the climate movement stronger as weather patterns become ever more extreme. To embrace the tension of fighting a losing battle, pouring energy into the transformation of climate policy that is smothered by those in power, is a powerful undertaking. That those who fight for the climate make time to explore the deeper meaning of loss that we are dancing around is key.
The collaborative nature of Anthropocene is clear and strong. The surreal, towering giant puppets that glide across the stage are grotesque in the original sense: stretched from our organic concept of human to something with only the uncanny remaining, the end result of destructive transformation. There are no tech-future solutions here, no solar panels to save these shadows of Adam and Eve. The only remnants of life before the apocalypse are the rats, still thriving, still cunning, following even these relics of humanity, just as they follow the urban mass wherever it treads today.
In a cyclical, ritualistic nature, shadow puppets punctuate this descent of the human in a symbolic narrative that is layered with projected imagery; an information-saturated reminder of what feels like an otherwise ancient tale. The puppets and projections mesh in a somewhat disjointed fashion, as old and new forms that share a plane while evoking divergent emotions with their stories. The pacing of these moments creates a reflective space, where we can connect these jarring, absurd images to the complex emotions produced by a transforming climate. A pause in the slow, steady march towards the end.
The expression of rage and bitterness in Anthropocene is a necessary catharsis, a means to carry on. It is humbling to gather and reflect on how the story of humankind might be told in the future when we are just artifacts unearthed. The mythological mode of story telling in Anthropocene captures the scale of the narrative we are learning to tell. It is a bitter ritual to the faction of humankind that have led us down this crumbling path.