‘Nature is over’, declared Time magazine last in 2012, in its roundup of new ideas for the twenty-first century. That’s right. We are now, according to Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen, in the Anthropocene – a period in which humans are the dominant influence over biological, geological and chemical processes on earth. This is hardly news to Katja Novitskova, who has been approaching our technological age as a new evolutionary stage for several years now.
In 2010 the Tallinn-born artist, who currently resides in Amsterdam, created Post Internet Survival Guide, which manifested as a book and an installation, in which she encouraged collaborators to believe that online should be treated as a new terrain for habitation, and space in which what it means to be a human is renegotiated. The project was collected under headings such as ‘Learn Basic Skills’ and ‘Remember Where You Are’.
A recent body of work charted the evolution of new technological species against the demise of existing biological ones – a rare, delicately winged butterfly becomes extinct, but is traded for a new silicone wafer. Images of cute baby giraffes might survive better than the actual creatures themselves, suggest her large display stands featuring aluminium cutouts of the animals (Approximation II, 2012), while digital prints of the Cambrian dolphin, on papyrus, no less, reference animals that have been bred and trained to carry out military operations. Novitskova’s work is undeniably appealing and has an authoritative, almost helpful manner, as though the artist has taken it upon herself to smooth our passage into the future. But one of the fundamental reasons why I’m so interested in her work is because it scares the hell out of me.
This article was first published in the March 2013 issue