London 2015

Culture, Memory and Extinction

The Natural History Museum, Flett Theatre 9am-5pm, December 11 2015

Recent months have seen an explosion of public, media and academic interest in the idea, threat and reality of extinction. The wide readership of Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent publication, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014), has demonstrated a growing awareness that we are in a new era of mass-species extinction. This acknowledgement has contributed to debates over climate change and other, related, ways that humanity has altered environments and ecosystems in this epoch we have begun to call the Anthropocene. This one-day conference asks what role can culture play in widening the understanding, representation and, indeed, remembrance of this unfolding and catastrophic species loss. With this in mind, the event aims to foster dialogue between academics, journalists, museum curators, charities, writers, environmental groups, and the media to explore how societies engage with the complexities of the processes of extinction and remember the extinct. More specifically, the event examines how increased dialogue between these communities and constituencies contributes to the public re-evaluation and remembrance of life on our planet.

Programme (click here for a pdf):

9.00-9.30 Registration

9.30-9.45am Opening Remarks

9.45am-12pm Panel 1: Extinction, History, and Nostalgia


FAE BRAUER (Professor of Art and Visual Culture, University of East London): ‘Becoming Simian: Modernism’s Challenge to the Anthropocene’

JULES PRETTY (Professor of Environment and Society, University of Essex): ‘The Extinction of Experience’

SEBASTIAN GROES (English and Creative Writing, Roehampton University): ‘Against Nostalgia, against Spectacle: Climate Change Art, Memory and the Apocalypse’

 MELANIE CHALLENGER (Author, On Extinction): ‘A Sentimental Approach to Extinction’


12pm-1pm Lunch (own arrangements)


1pm-3pm: Panel 2: Extinction, Communication and Conservation

STEVE PARKER (Author, Extinction: Not the End of the World? ): ‘They’ve gone extinct: does it affect me?’

CATHY DEAN (Director, Save the Rhino International): ‘On rhinos and unicorns: From existence to extinction’

MATTHEW WILLS (Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath): ‘Extinction in a Macroevolutionary Context’

MATT WILLIAMS (Associate Director, A Focus on Nature): ‘Vision for Nature: saving wildlife past, present and future’

3 – 3.15pm: Break

3.15 – 4.50: Panel 3: Extinction, Curation, and Commemoration

SEBASTIAN BROOKE (Director,Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory): ‘”…such a trivial thing as a rotten Shell”: An introduction to the MEMO Project: World Heritage, geology and architecture on a semi-detached island’

DAN BARNARD (Artistic Director, fanSHEN theatre company and Senior
Lecturer in Drama and Performance, London South Bank University): ‘Climate Change, the challenges of imagining the future, and
how the arts might be able to help’: practice-informed reflections

BERND SCHERER (Director, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin): ‘The impact of the Anthropocene thesis on curatorial practices’


DAN BARNARD (Artistic Director, fanSHEN Theatre Company)

FAE BRAUER Professor of Art and Visual Culture, University of East London

SEBASTIAN BROOKE Director, MEMO (Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory)

MELANIE CHALLENGER Author, On Extinction

CATHY DEAN Director, Save the Rhino

SEBASTIAN GROES English and Creative Writing, Roehampton University

STEVE PARKER Author, Extinction: Not the End of the World?

JULES PRETTY Professor of Environment and Society, University of Essex

BERND SCHERER Director, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

MATT WILLIAMS Associate Director, A Focus on Nature

MATTHEW WILLS Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath

Tickets are free, but spaces are limited, so please register on eventbrite 

Please address any queries to our Research Assistant Ifor Duncan (Goldsmiths):

Generously sponsored by the University of Westminster