What traces of our current civilisation will be left in the geological strata of the planet? What will become of the technological devices that so dominate our lives today in millennia to come? How will these objects be transformed as they travel through deep time?
Drawing on the contemporary debate around the Anthropocene, Stephen Cornford (GB) speculates on the deep future of electronic waste as it sediments into Earth’s stratigraphic record. To travel vertically into the Earth is to look back in time, so to project an object of electronic waste into a potential future in which it petrifies in the lithosphere, Cornford melted his phone in a geological furnace at temperatures up to 1500ºC.
The molten fragments were processed, photographed and analysed using the instruments and experimental processes of petrology. By applying these geological techniques to a hypothetical technofossil, Cornford seeks to materialise a now inevitable scenario in which discarded technologies become part of the planet’s geology, their high concentrations of scarce metals combining to form new minerals that will evidence today’s technological civilisation long after its demise.
In Petrified Media, colourful microscope imagery is combined with the Atlas of Media Metallurgy, in which the images’ elementary composition is analysed, and captions provide background information on the origin of these indispensable metals used in the production of modern technological devices. Three essays by Siobhan Angus, Jan Zalasiewicz, and Cornford himself, reflect on the subject from each writer’s theoretical background.