The Mythology of the Anthropocene

Nadja Stolarski
Practice Autonomous Practices
Project Public and Private
Major Illustration
Year Fourth Year

Nominee Drempelprijs Autonomous Practices 2020

Within my project, I am creating artwork exploring scientific research to communicate the lived experience of biological and historical phenomena.

We have the power to both destroy the world or save it. Nevertheless, On the blue sphere, humankind remains only a part of an interdependent ecological community. Instead of playing false gods who disregard and destroy the environment, we need to understand our role on earth. Our power to influence the ecosystems, make us the minders and stewards of the living world.

Man selects only for his own good: Nature only for that of the being which she tends

Charles Darwin


With my graduation work, I am aiming to re-narrate in visually rich way scenarios of the Anthropocene (‘The Human Epoch’), including the present epidemic, using traditions of ancient art and mythologies.

Since the beginning of mankind, we have been constructing mythologies to make sense of the struggle between humans and nature. We created myths about gods and natural forces punishing humans for rejecting the laws of the natural world. A myth then deals with meteorological and cosmological phenomena, in which gods represent natural forces. Often myths are timeless, which means that their place in the past (or the future) is indefinite.

After exploring the old ruins of Greece, Mexico and Egypt and studying its craft, I decided to implement storytelling through symbolism, as well as using characteristics of ancient artworks as the main inspiration for the visualisation.



Therefore, I am creating a 3- dimensional Installation, with the appearance of a monument, using wood engraving as the main technique to tell the story. The wooden sheets, which include recycled wood sheets, were painted beforehand with sustainable black paint, which adds a marble/stone-like appearance and creates a contrast with the engraved parts. The used technique (engraved wood, narrative illustration) aims to create a permanent structure that can last for a long time and adds a delicate touch and sensual experience to my design.



The main story takes place inside the monument in form of a triptych, depicting these three scenes: of the Anthropocene, showing the environment exposed to disasters caused by human impact; of the Mythology, showing the god of diseases sending an epidemic as warning and punishment to humans; and the Restoration, of nature, improving after humans are forced to stop their destructive actions.



The concept of constructing a monument, informs the public about the present occurrence of the Anthropocene while depicting discomforting scenarios. Monuments create a sense of public memory, a globally shared narrative of our history or a current event. It can be seen as a focal point of public identity and gives cultural significance to a public space. The strong inclusion of visual storytelling aims to make the message understandable for people of different languages, cultures, and ages.

By including the current pandemic and by juxtaposing the declining Anthropocene with the blooming Restoration, I want to make people think about the positive effect of our current situation for mother nature.

In order to negotiate this epidemic, we have to work globally together as a community. The virus makes a clear statement: ‘The only way out is mutuality, a sense of belonging, community, the feeling of being part of something greater, that we are taking care and that we can be taken care of. The shared responsibility, the feeling that fate depends not only on you but also on everyone around you."

If we can implement this value of community within our species to fight the epidemic, is there a chance to apply this ideology to our attitude towards the environment?

The Design is still a draft and will be finalised and constructed before September 2020.

Research document "The Anthropocene: Are We Like Gods?".