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Room 8: Exit
Existential Gratitude

'every generation gets the end-of-the-world anxiety it deserves;  it used to be transcendental, then it became elemental, and now it's environmental’ 

                                                                                               (Self 2002, vi).

Living in the Anthropocene is full of intriguing contradictions that require an acceptance of the hubris of human progress, and the shame about the destruction wrought to get us here.  We participate in the formation of this world, full of both tragic possibility and of positive opportunities for resolute action, with a fine line between sublime despair and the paralysing politics of indifference. 

As co-inhabitants of our more-than-human worlds, humans are limited agents in the cumulative agency of others, us made by-and-for the world, not the world made by-and-for us.

    So how can we fix things by ourselves, when we say that it is

    us that have broken them?                                                                                                                                                                           

The deep timeframes of the Anthropocene potentially help to free us from a human-centred focus and allow us to step outside of current constraints in comprehending problems and taking action. To do this we can aim to listen creatively to detect unrealised common agendas,  in order to make common cause for living as well as possible in more-than-human worlds. As such collaborations are good for some but not all, we are required to identify what positives are provided to compensate for what is lost. 

It matters what ideas are used to think other ideas, what stories are used tell our stories, and it is difficult to think only with stories that end badly. We can navigate our existence in an uncaring universe by developing ‘existential gratitude’, rather than its opposite ‘existential revenge’, with generosity and curiosity, forming antidotes to precarity and uncertainty. Through creative political action, we can convert a belief in the world into resolute action in making creative gatherings and common worlds in which we have the possibility of happiness.

The aim becomes making preferable 'good enough' worlds that are permanently provisional. Therefore, our human truths about the future, and human truths about the past, are made and remade at different times and places.

In curating a certain reality, it is not controversial to say that these truths are fabricated, merely to expect that the fabrication should remain invisible and disconnected from the validity of the event. This is the same as speculations about our future, as it is in our descriptions of the past.       



Dean Sully

UCL Slade Scientist in Residence 0002019-0002021



Cecilie Gravesen

Visual artist and filmmaker


Project curators

Xiaozhou (Ariel) Li  & Katherine Beckwith

UCL IoA MA Museum Studies

Participants (updating)

Yee Chow, Blithe Germ, Ivan Kashdan, Jimmy Loizeau, Grace Mattingly, Inigo Minns, Hannah Morgan, Olivia O'Dwyer, Janna Oud Ammerveld, Iman Raisa-Datoo, Kay Richardson, Davinia-Ann Robinson, Russell Royer, Yuli Serfaty, Ruth Siddall, Hermione Spriggs, Misa Tamura, Emilie Trehu, Jo Volley, Matt Ward

Our sponsors, commencing 0002035:

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Suggested Citation: 
Sully, Dean., Gravesen, Cecilie., Beckwith, Katherine., Li, Xiaozhou., 2020. Objects of the Misanthropocene: A Time-Travelling Exhibition from the Museums of Beyond.

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Further Reading: 

Adams, Douglas., 1978. Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy (BBC Radio 4 programme). The original radio scripts published in 1985.

Bolander, Brooke., 2018. The Only Harmless Great Thing. Publishing.

Colebrook, C., 2019. The Future in the Anthropocene: Extinction and the Imagination. In A. Johns-Putra (Ed.), Climate and Literature. Cambridge Critical Concepts,  263-280. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Connolly, William, E., 2011. A world of becoming. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Dupuy, Jean-Pierre., 2007. Rational Choice before the Apocalypse. Anthropoetics XIII, no. 3, Fall 2007/Winter 2008.

Dunne, Anthony, and Raby, Fiona., 2013. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming. The MIT Press.

Hoban, Russell., 1980. Riddley Walker. Jonathan Cape

Haraway, Donna., 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hill, Jonathan., 2000. The Illegal Architect. Black Dog Publishing.

Mulgan, Tim., 2011. Ethics for a broken world, imagining philosophy after catastrophe. Acumen: Durham.

Petersson, Bodil., Holtorf, Cornelius., (eds.)., 2017. The Archaeology of Time Travel Experiencing the Past in the 21st Century. Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology.

Self,  Will., 2002.  Introduction to Riddley Walker by Hoban Russell.  Jonathan Cape.

Tsing, Anna, Lowenhaupt., 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press.

Yusoff, Kathryn., 2018. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. University of Minnesota: Minneapolis.

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