facing Extinction is a limited edition book and online publication (coming soon) that aim to creatively engage with The Sixth Mass Extinction Event, a topic ‘so enormous, so existentially all-encompassing, so planetary, that it is hard to know whether any kind of feelings – and if so, which ones – are possible, appropriate or recognised’.
facing Extinction draws on the Voicing Silence residency led by Liverpool-based artist Laurence Payot, culminating in a holographic video installation exploring the emotional impact of biodiversity loss. Originally designed to engage visitors to Manchester Museum, the COVID-19 lockdown led to an online workshop programme with collaborating artists Scott Farlow, Jon Hughes, Laura Spark, Stacey Atkinson and Mark Hilditch, involving over 150 participants in the summer of 2020.
Alongside newly commissioned writing, facing Extinction features artwork by workshop attendees, including two groups of refugees and asylum seekers invited through Manchester City of Sanctuary and Welcome to English (Hull), home educated children, families and other members of the public invited through an open call.
Using creative writing, choreography, animation and music, participants engaged with the topic of extinction across 14 workshops. Their work was the inspiration for a new video work by Payot; find information about touring ‘Voicing Silence’ here.
facing Extinction was produced as part of the wider AHRC-funded project Thinking Through Extinction, the UK arm of an EU-funded consortium, ‘Extinction as Cultural Heritage’. With partners in Norway and Poland, the project explores how museums and galleries are engaging with biodiversity loss, recovery and memory.
The facing Extinction microsite was designed by Piper Haywood and Ashleigh Armitage (dust design collective), following a limited-edition print version posted to 150 international recipients in November 2020.
Excerpts from facing Extinction:
she imagines herself as a tree –
perhaps by then seeds will have grown from my buried palms, a tree springing from my mouth like my lost words. perhaps my descendants will eat fruit from the tree’s generous branches
and think of me.
Anna Souter, ‘a sounding of sensitivities’
Thinking about the ghost flower made me alert to what I cannot see. And being alert to things I can’t relate to is urgent. It is increasingly pressingly obvious that human worlds depend, for their very existence, on the operation of microscopic creatures, or of huge and complex spreading networks of interactions.
Daisy Hildyard, ‘Three Ghosts’
Texts like The Lorax do not just illuminate, contextualise or mirror the global biodiversity crisis. They also throw up difficult but important questions regarding the role of art, storytelling and creativity in a time of ecological catastrophe.
Dominic O’Key, ‘Speaking for the Trees’
A Corridor8, University of Leeds and Manchester Museum collaboration