Virtual Places: Core Logging the Anthropocene in Real-Time

I'll be presenting at the Association of American Geographers annual meeting in April 2015 on my project that reveals traces of the anthropocene in local neighborhoods. The presentation is the documentation of a performance work that explores speculative core samples of the ad hoc geology of retail shelves. Here's the abstract and a picture of my initial test cores, although for this project I'll produce an entirely new cycle.


Supply chains have broken the first law of geography by creating localized convergences of materials gathered over massive distances. Through mines and quarries, minerals become commoditized “sediments” and experience speeds and distances of travel that surpass those otherwise possible through natural means in the same amount of time. Erosion, sedimentation, and deposition are no match for the intermodal logistician. Supply chains are geologic forces whose movement is visible in the stratigraphy of sediments on the shelves of discount department and home improvement stores. The movement of these anthropogenic patterns of geologic flow can bring together bentonite clay from Wyoming with fuller’s earth from Florida and Pacific sea salt with salt mined in Ohio all under the same roof.

This convergence of geologic materials from multiple disparate places creates a new category of local “place” that is otherwise geophysically improbable without the help of supply chains and retail shelves. This project presents a series of core samples of these displaced convergences of materials as evidence of the geography of these ad hoc virtual places. 

By recasting retail shelves as stratigraphic layers of some infrastructural landscape, core samples of this condition reveal a new sort of geologic time: the real-time accumulation of distributed-on-demand geologic components. This renders sediments as both discrete objects in packages waiting for purchase, and also as potential new elements of sedimentary deposition in the substrate of whatever town to which the logistician determined they should go.



core samples of the anthropocene