Today I had the privilege of having a guest speaker in my Art History Course (Current Art Practices and Production: Make Space or Move on: Spatial Politics in Current Art). This guest speaker was Rachel Sussman, a contemporary photographer from Brooklyn. Her critically acclaimed work "The Oldest Living Things in the World" was a ten-year project in which she photographed and documented the oldest living things. She worked with over 30 different scientists and was able to create a work of art that combines art, science and philosophy into one amazing piece of work.
Her talk really struck a cord with my current pull towards using art to convey a message. She sought to travel the world in order to document these living organisms that have been around for at least 3,000+ and still coexist with us today. She discussed a number of her photos in length, explaining pictures and giving the audience an idea of how crazy it is for these things to exist and how just because it is old doesn't make it permanent.
One of the stories that stuck with me was when she traveled to Florida to photograph the Senator Tree outside of Orlando. She described the experience of nothing out of the ordinary because it was in Florida, compared to the other places she had been it felt like nothing. But about a while later, she would hear that kids had decided to enter the tree (because it was hollow) and smoke. They caught the tree on fire and it would burn to the ground. It just goes to show you how things can disappear, whether it's our carelessness or a slow process overtime.
She discussed three other projects that she has completed since then. One dealing with the art of Kintsukuroi (meaning to repair with gold). She worked with cracks to bring this ancient tradition to the contemporary art world. Finally, she has worked with astrobiologists to create a history of the space time continuum.
It is amazing how art can be used in multidisciplinary ways. Not only was Sussman able to document something that had never been done before, but she brings information and ideas to the general population in a beautiful way.
She truly inspired me to stay on the path that I have been pursuing with my art.