Baum & Leahy with Stefan Schouten, Julie Lattaud, Laura Schreuder and Gabriella Weiss

Microbiocene: Ancient ooze to future myths

In collaboration with Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Texel

Welcome to the Microbiocene. Although, you’ve always been here. The Microbiocene, an ancient and ongoing epoch, has been unfolding and expanding since the beginning of life nearly four billion years ago. Overarching the Holocene, the Pleistocene, and our current, forty-year old era contestably named Anthropocene, the Microbiocene will continue on, far beyond our species’ lifespan. Now, as we become aware of the tremendous impact our species has upon the planet and its biosphere, we seek guidance from our tiny ancestors.

The Microbiocene is a speculative epoch envisioned by Rose Leahy and Amanda Baum together with Julie Lattaud, Laura Schreuder and Gabriella Weiss from Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). Situated in a far-future archaeological site, a monument inscribed with myths materialises this era. These tales are told in microglyphs, a symbol system co-created by the artists and scientists, mutating and evolving textual language into an ecology of signs. The stories are based on studies of microbial fossil data extracted from ancient sea sediment which was collected during monitoring cruises in the North and Black Seas. By analysing the microbial fossil molecules, environmental conditions from thousands of years ago are revealed. In materialising this epic timespan, Microbiocene translates hidden information from deep within the Earth to tell tales of ancient ecologies and possible future scenarios. Thus, Microbiocene presents a point in time where we start carving out ways of moving into the mindset and materiality of deep time. By reading the relics of this future microbe-human-made monument, visitors are invited to explore and imagine what we can learn from more-than-human ‘kindoms’.