Future Stratigraphy Collaboration

Future Stratigraphy Collaboration

6-29 October 2016 

Following on from my involvement with the colloquium Arts, Science, Oceans, I was invited by Oliver Smith,of SCA’s New Materialism in Contemporary Art research cluster to collaborate with Professor Ron Boyd, a geologist from University of Newcastle.

The artwork was presented as part of the Future Stratigraphy exhibition, symposium and The Sea Within the Land masterclass.

Marine-Geologist Prof. Ron Boyd with Artists Karen Benton, Angel Gill and Callan Micallef

Marine Geologist Ron Boyd has long seen the artistic potential existing within the images generated through his scientific research mapping ocean floors and the layers beneath the earth’s crust. In the context of the Anthropocene, informed by a new materialist fascination with the agency of matter, of the forces shaping the land beneath the sea and of the geological stories revealed by stratigraphy, these images offer the opportunity to develop detailed and visually compelling projections into possible future landscapes. To investigate this hypothetical cartography a creative collaboration was proposed between Ron and three artists studying at SCA: Karen Benton, Angel Gill and Callan Micallef. In response to images and information provided by Ron the three artists have produced images exploring the idea of future stratigraphies. 

Karen Benton has worked as a seismologist - Karen states:

With a background in both design and Marine Geology, I was inspired to translate my thoughts on the implications of rising sea levels for Sydney. I walk past Sydney city tower blocks every day. Viewed as symbols and reflections of our Capitalist society, I am left wondering that if business continues as usual, this century will be marked by a rapid deterioration of our physical, social, and economic environment. The impact of climate change is now visible and being felt, but the projections for these impacts, place Sydney in a precipitous position. Rising sea levels will see Sydney’s shoreline flooded and our way of life collapse into the stratigraphic layers that have supported these lifestyle choices. Viewing the stratigraphy of the past through the windows of the present, highlights that our choices are not made in isolation. We are all connected, human and non-human.


The Future Stratigraphy exhibition focused on art practices that metaphorically and actually engage with various layers of complex geological strata showing traces of human impact, commonly referred to as the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on earth’s geology and ecosystems. In a multi-disciplinary response to these discourses, Future Stratigraphy asked, ‘how will current human activities reveal themselves in the layers of the future?’ through engaging human relationships with matter and materiality, exploring traces and scars of human presence on earth, challenging how we work with, exploit, understand and attempt to rehabilitate our planet.

EXHIBITING ARTISTS INCLUDED John Roloff, Josh Wodak, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, Tracey Clement, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Elaine Gan, Kath Fries, Sean O’Connell, Penny Dunstan, Bryden Williams, Emma Robertson, Dell Walker, Kenneth Mitchell and Madeleine Boyd.