Steve Rowell

Humans Lived Here Once

"The first time I recognized the clouds brought by the plague-wind as distinct in character was in walking back from Oxford, in the early spring of 1871"

– John Ruskin, 1888, The Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century.

This moving image work is about deep time, the geological, and the existential threats to life on Earth, focusing specifically on climate change and technology. These act as specters which exist simultaneously over the horizon and over our shoulder, with us now, as part of our daily lives.

We are forever entangled with our own destructive potential. Britain, home of the industrial revolution and the first computer, is the landscape featured. As a former empire, its misapplied inventions have spawned a global acceleration of doom. Recursive cascades are events which start small and grow, exponentially, in the form of a runaway feedback loop. Control is lost when a recursive cascade event is underway, meaning that everything in its path is overwhelmed, undermined, or deleted. The conclusion of a recursive cascade within an ecosystem is disruption, adaptation, then evolution. Within a species it usually results in extinction.

Humans Lived Here Once
22:00 HD single channel video with 5.1 sound, computer numerical control (CNC) router carved styrofoam model of NASA photograph AS17-148-22727 “The Blue Marble”, blue styrofoam dust
2017 (Oxford edit) /2021 (final edit)

This film was supported by a Erna Plachte scholarship at the University of Oxford and a 2019 Guggenheim Foundation fellowship.