Remembrance Day For Lost Species 2020

I am very happy to announce the 2020 Lost Species Day exhibition – Beyond Ruin – is now live.

You can visit the online exhibition here. If you can get to Brighton you can also view the exhibition in ONCA’s gallery windows, which features 2 of my pieces alongside poetry by Selina Nwulu, original hand-painted window installation by Ruby Wolfe, and the photo series Amazonas: Guardians of Life by Felipe Jacome.

On the 24th December the window exhibition will change and feature works by Josephine Chime, Denilson Baniwa and Deru Anding.

I’m extremely grateful to the team at ONCA and Remembrance Day For Lost Species for inviting me to collaborate on the curation of this project with them. Please read our curatorial statement to learn more about our aims, challenges and reflections on this work.

My personal ritual of remembrance.

Today, 30th November 2020, is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. This is a project I sewed whilst on residency in Costa Rica in January. 20 names of species that have been ‘declared’ by science to be extinct in the 21st century. Where we knew an Endling, I have also included the name given my their caretakers.

Please watch this video of my person ritual of remembrance:

The cloths are old and used. Some very. Collected and donated to me over decades. The only addition I made are the words and dates. In their former lives they would have been handkerchiefs, table runners, doilies etc. I hope that in the future I’ll be able to share them as an installation, and intend to keep adding to them.

However, in coming to share this work, and this ritual, I thought a lot about it’s irrelevance, it’s futility. I have not spent my usual research time in understanding the history of each of these species. I do not know their significance to the people who lived in their ecosystem. I do not know what specific hurts they each suffered. I just looked them up, and noted their names, and stitched them down. That’s all I did.

This weekend I attended some of the events around Lost Species Day, and more than ever it has galvanised me in my art and activism. As a white person in the global north, in western society, it is violent to just simply mourn, without offering any form of effort to fight for a future in which everyone can live. I often struggle to find the language to adequately express my feelings and intentions, so instead, for now, I am sharing these words from Marcus Coates, offered to the collective on this occasion.

An Apology and a Promise

I address this statement to you, the species, cultures and communities driven to extinction by exploitation, extractivism and settler colonialism.

I acknowledge your historical habitation of this Earth.

I acknowledge your right to have lived your lives without limitation from exploitation, extractivism and settler colonialism.

You had the right as individuals, species, cultures and communities to inhabit this world and to exist in the manner you were uniquely adapted to.

I apologise for my role in contributing to your demise and ultimate extinction.

I apologise on behalf of the exploitative colonial culture I’m a part of, and anyone whose actions have led to your extinction.

I apologise for the actions of those who were directly responsible for killing you in numbers that exceeded the need for personal survival and whose actions were motivated by financial profit or gain.

Your extinctions are defining moments in the history of the world.

As a representative of the exploitative colonial culture I’m part of, I deeply regret causing or contributing to this, however indirectly.

Your absence is an irreparable loss which I will continue to mourn.

I will continue to remember those of you I can name, I will remember your vital part in my life.

For those of you I cannot know, I will imagine and feel your loss, as if you were someone close to me.

Your extinctions are a warning to me that I must be vigilant.

I promise to challenge my own capability for destruction and capacity for permanent damage.

I promise to recognise and learn from the impact of my actions and non-actions on the ongoingness of life.

I promise to continue to reimagine my own relationship with all species, cultures and communities, to examine and redefine my comparative place on this Earth.

I promise to question how I value lives and the cultural and physical environments they depend on.

I promise to stay alert and critical of the influence my culture and therefore my own value system is having on the lives of species, cultures and communities.

I promise to challenge the commodification of our environments and the species, cultures and communities within them.

I promise to challenge historical and neo-colonial hierarchies that perpetuate the exploitation of species, cultures and communities and consequently drives extinctions.

I promise to be active, generous, creative and open minded in finding hopeful, playful and positive ways I and others can relate to species, cultures and communities.

I promise to seek the knowledge and awareness that can show me how my life choices are threatening the lives of species, cultures and communities I share this earth with.

I promise to find it within me, to respect all other life. To grant animals, plants and their ecosystems the care and respect I would want myself.

I promise to take notice of myself and do everything in my power to scrutinise my motivations and actions towards other species, cultures and communities, which are all interconnected.

I will work to honour your once thriving existence here.

I promise to do all I can to protect the lives that remain and to maintain the diversity of ecological, cultural, political and economic conditions necessary for their survival.

I will share the stories of your extinctions with people and promote care for other species, cultures and communities.

I will do all that I can to prevent future extinctions and harms.

Names of the Species on the cloths; date declared lost:
Pyrenean Ibex, 2000
Caspian Tiger, 2003
Saint Helena Olive, 2003
Heredia Robber Frog, 2004
Po ‘o-uli, 2004
Golden Toad, 2004
Caribbean Monk Seal, 2008
Yangtze River Dolphin, 2008
Christmas Island Pipistrelle, 2009
Vietnamese Rhino, 2010
Western Black Rhino, 2011
Alaotra Grebe, 2012
Japanese River Otter, 2012
Pinta Island Tortoise, ‘Lonesome George’, 2012
Formosan Clouded Leopard, 2013
Christmas Island Forest Skunk, ‘Gump’, 2014
Long Jaw Tristramella, 2014
Eastern Cougar, 2015
Bramble Cay Melomys, 2016
Chinese Paddlefish, 2020

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