Ästhetische Eigenzeiten – Zeit und Darstellung in der polychronen Moderne

Urzeit und Umwelt. Inszenierungen des Prähistorischen in der Moderne

Christina Wessely (Lüneburg)

Teilprojekte Phase: 1. 2.

Primeval Times and Environment: Staging Prehistory in Modern Age

The discovery of deep time around 1800 laid open a dark abyss of time confronting modern age with an unprecedented aisthetic problem. To make the locked up primeval times accessible, geologists and palaeontologists in collaboration with artists and engineers developped new media and methods of representation.

Access to that apparent boundless space of time was obtained by studying the sedimentary environment. That is the specific depositional setting of a particular sedimentary rock and is unique in terms of physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. The sedimentary environment contains the primeval times in compressed, spatial form. To make them perceptible, geology and palaeontology had to study the laws of sedimentation and to develop methods and techniques of retransferring the sedimentary environment into primeval times. The main thesis of the project is thus that the exploration of primeval times always requires the reconstruction of prehistoric environments.

Talking about time demands staging spatial relations. Hence, the project focuses on the transfer of time in spatial constellations. It aims thereby (1) at analyzing the various scientific and artistic techniques and media that were used to stage, present and represent primeval environments. Scientific and popular scientific writings, literary texts, paintings and picture series, as well as sculptures, dioramas and scenes which were used in exhibitions and on theater stages allow to investigate both the close collaborations between scientists, artists and engineers and the poetological and epistemological consequences of these collaborations. The project focuses (2) on the formation of ecological and environmental concepts as a result of these interdisciplinary collaborations, since the production of these primeval environments provoked questions about the qualities and limits of environments, milieux and habitats. Geology and paleontology will thus be investigated as important arenas for the formation of modern ecology.