Research Project

The Anthropocene Atlas of Geneva (TAAG) is a long-term research project that studies how representations of anthropogenic global environmental change are constructed, shared and put into practice in the everyday life of one Swiss city. As scientific interpretations of global data increasingly enter the spheres of public discourse, and as the number of people exposed to direct experience of environmental change continues to grow, vigorous discussions and debates about the practical, ethical, and political implications are taking place. TAAG explores these discourses, the processes of representation that support them, and the initiatives and practices that respond to them within Geneva’s scientific and governmental institutions, NGOs, and its networks of artists and citizen activists.

The term “anthropocene” reflects a new consensus among scientists that global social processes are interacting with and profoundly altering the earth’s biophysical processes. Climate chaos, globalized toxification, and the extinction of species are among the most publicized and discussed forms of anthropogenic change. Introduced into scientific literature in 2000, the term “anthropocene” soon spread through the academic disciplines and has established itself in mass media and popular culture. The changes encompassed by the term are of obvious urgent concern and forcefully repose basic questions about the human relation to non-human communities of life and planetary assemblages. They moreover touch the grounds of deeply-held cultural and political values and identities, and raise unsettling questions about environmental justice and species supremacism. Accordingly, the growing literature reflecting on the anthropocene has generated vital debates about the ethics and politics of environmental change and about the legacies and future of capitalist modernity. Even the term has proved to be controversial, with critics arguing for such alternatives as the “capitalocene” (Andreas Malm, Jason Moore, Donna Haraway), the “chthulucene” (Haraway), the “ecozoic” (Eileen Crist), and the “necrocene” (Justin McBrien). TAAG aims to track the traces, echoes, reverberations, and effects of these disclosures and debates as they take form in one locality.

TAAG is an art-driven interdisciplinary research project informed by the reflections of critical, cultural, feminist, and post-colonial studies, and situated at the intersections of science studies, environmental humanities, and animal studies. Anthropocene research is a collective inquiry that works across and bridges traditional disciplines, seeking to synthesize emerging knowledge and combine methodologies in pertinent and productive ways. TAAG also draws on a rich history of artistic and interdisciplinary innovation focused on archives and atlases, stimulated by Aby Warburg’s pathbreaking Mnemosyne Atlas. Integrating a metonymic and intuitive combinatory logic with rigorous scholarship, the atlas here becomes both a form of archival organization and a methodological tool for orienting and energizing research.

The TAAG research working-group consists of CCC associate professor Gene Ray and CCC alumni Aurélien Gamboni, Janis Schroeder and Kate McHugh Stevenson. Its work is supported by an advisory research group of international scholars and artists. A further development of the research project Emerging Cultures of Sustainability (CCC 2010-2014), TAAG is supported through 2018 by funding from the Swiss National Scientific Foundation (SNSF). The research will be shared with the public through an online archive and website and an exhibition.