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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

22/09/21 - Grieving the Anthropocene - D.M Witman

There is something ineffable about that moment when you come across something (and for the instance of my subject field) that brings around an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement for oneself. It is like that feeling when you hear a new song.. I am sure there is a technical, scientific name out there for it but you know what I mean, it just catches you in the sweet spot. That moment I have just recently come across with D.M Witman's photographic, video and installation practice. What stands out though for this moment, although exciting it may be for me, there is a sense of sadness around the practices context and so I am torn between the excitement of discovering a new artist relating to my research but also confused as to whether I should be so excited after reading the importance of the works dialogue.

I think what catches my attention first is the photogram and its almost Victorian periodic aesthetical quality. There is a historical characteristic to it and that has been achieved by Witman's ability to manipulate her materials well, using her scientific knowledge to produce new forms of photographic practice. With that said, looking at it as a historical photographic, Witman is capturing and portraying these botanical forms as past objects. Life that has been, although captured in recent times, Witman is playing on this dialogue of past, present, future. To me it is two things conceived here, the botanical forms are within its contemporary time a now lifeless object, they have been picked and have died. The second point is that when showcased as a historical object, we are looking back at things that were and that are either now lost or have been archived as a memory. I am understanding that what Witman is drawing our attention too is how the now will become the lost past due to our impact on the world. Loss is constantly occurring in nature, with climate change a crisis at tipping point, some people are already in a state of bereavement.

What connects the artist to this even further is that it is a part of her personal ecological landscape. Set along the marsh on the St George River in Maine (USA), I picture a small, quite, picturesque North American landscape (the ones I have seen in movies). I share that sense of grief for Witman that her American Sublime is dying before her, and that is an uncontrollable and foreseeable death. She grieves and feels for the surrounding beauty but because of the anthropocene she, along with billions of others, are loosing their world.

Taken from Witman's webpage on the series 'Index' i'l leave you for now with what Geoffrey Batchen noted,“…Such objects seek to remember a loved one, not as someone now dead, but as someone who was once alive, young and vital, with a future before them. In this kind of object, they will always have that future, a comforting thought, perhaps, for those who have been left behind.”

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