Mars Desert Research Station #2 [MDRS], Mars Society, San Rafael Swell, Utah, U.S.A., 2008 © Vincent Fournier
A contrast made when talking about the Holocene and the Anthropocene Epochs is that the Holocene Epoch is our home. We as a species (and many others) have developed into our existing modern selves during this relatively stable epoch (represented by the previous 10,000 years), and so we are uniquely suited and adapted to it. We are formed from it, literally. Contrastingly, the shift towards a new epoch, the Anthropocene, is a shift into the unknown. It’s a place where our suited-ness is unproven, and so it throws up uncertainties about our futures. This is not the home we have ‘invested’ in, this is something else.
Physical milestones associated with the magnitude of human forcing on the planet seem to crop up with an uneasy frequency. In February 2015, we passed an average of 400ppm for carbon dioxide levels for the month for the first time. Scientific American made the milestone personal by pointing out that “those of us alive today breathe air never tasted by any of our ancestors in the entire Homo genus.”
It was within this context that I first came across Vincent Fournier’s Space Project, an exploration into the collective imaginations of scientific and technological utopias.
Ergol #6, S1B clean room, Arianespace, Guiana Space Center [CGS], Kourou, French Guiana, 2011 © Vincent Fournier
Looking at the photographs depicting the structures, people, and preparation involved in space exploration, the efforts began to seem not exciting but instead misdirected. The scientists and explorers seemed to be missing the alien environment being created much closer to home.
Instead of a celebration of technological prowess and bravery, in the context of the Anthropocene, we can see the fragility of the human body in an environment that it is not suited for. A photograph of Earth presented as a photograph of Mars becomes a representation of an imagined future photograph of Earth.
Mars Desert Research Station #5 [MDRS], Mars Society, San Rafael Swell, Utah, U.S.A., 2008 © Vincent Fournier