Lost in Fathoms is a project by French artist Anaïs Tondeur developed in collaboration with Jean-Marc Chomaz (CNRS, France). Bringing together laboratory research and field trips, it explores the causes of the sudden disappearance of Nuuk Island. The evidence drawn up over the course of this investigation is presented in the form of a series of installations and shadowgraphic images. Through a narrative structure at the junction of reality and fiction, the work challenges our perception of oceanic and geologic timescales and of humanity's impact on the earth's systems.
Nuuk Island occupied a fictional territory. It had been found by chance, in a reflection, in the middle of time. Despite its modest size, the island was a headland. From there, one could look upon reality: one could observe the great natural phenomena and how they had unfolded over time. The island was located at the intersection between several shifting movements: some sudden (an earthquake, a landslide or a wave), others that had arisen over centuries (ocean circulations), and others still so slow that their motion had remained imperceptible (wandering plates). When the Nuuk Island disappeared, we slowed down time to observe the forces at play over the island. We gave voice to the elements that had formed it; we also questioned the impact of the anthropogenic actions on those forces that seemed inalterable.
Indeed, the island disappeared at the very moment in 2012 when the 34th International Congress was preparing to pronounce the end of the Holocene. This geological epoch, which commenced around 10,000 years ago, was now being substituted with the Anthropocene (from the Greek anthropos, 'human'), aka the 'age of man'. This new term suggests that human activities have a geologic impact that, like a volcanic eruption, alters the planet in a definitive way. Humankind has become a telluric force, a determining agent in the geological evolution of the earth to the point that a new human-made stratum has emerged in geological records. The traces of our time on the planet, the imprints of our industrial, urban and consumerist societies, will persist in the earth's geological archives for thousands, if not millions, of years to come.
Consequently, in this period of unprecedented acceleration, the human timescale can no longer be viewed as distinct from the timescale of the earth system. Was the disappearance of Nuuk Island also the result of a temporal singularity, a collision between the timescale of mankind and that of the oceans, or continental drift?
This project has involved the collaboration of the geologic and oceanographic international community. It was developed during a one year artist-in-residence stay at the Hydrodynamics Laboratory, LadHyX (CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, France) and continued during Summer School 2014 of Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment in Cambridge, UK.