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VIRTUAL PLACES: CORE LOGGING THE ANTHROPOCENE IN REAL TIME

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VIRTUAL PLACES: CORE LOGGING THE ANTHROPOCENE IN REAL TIME

2014

retail sediments

“One of my favorite art investigations of the stigmata of the Anthropocene is Ryan Dewey’s “Virtual Places: Core Logging the Anthropocene in Real-Time,” in which he composes “core samples of the ad hoc geology of retail shelves.”

- Donna J Haraway, Staying with the Trouble (p181)

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.

 HISTORY

Original blog post (11.13.2014)

Association of American Geographers annual meeting (4.21.2015)

Donna Haraway’s lecture at the San Francisco Art Institute (4.25.2017)