Cocktail umbrellas can save Earth from the Anthropocene

Number 4

Liz Foster Light Painting Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

When naturalist William Bartram explored the south-east of what’s now the US in the early 1770s, he discovered gopher tortoises, sandhill cranes and rivers overflowing with trout and bream. Retracing Bartram’s path in 2007, artist Mark Dion found golfers, retirees and highways jammed with SUVs.

Nothing daunted, Dion set out to observe and record suburbia with the same objectivity Bartram brought to those territories. Dion also collected human objects, treating them as specimens which he catalogued and displayed in a museum that was once the Bartram family home. He called his project The Travels of William Bartram – Revisited.

One of the large wooden cabinets Dion filled with his finds is currently installed at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston as part of Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-century naturalist. Another installation by Dion is on show at the Natural History

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New Scientist – Earth

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