The Frameworks of Absence


We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis, often referred to as the Holocene or Sixth great extinction, Species are disappearing at upwards of a thousand times the natural rate. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals have disappeared from the Americas in recent centuries. Such extinctions started when the Europeans first colonized these new lands and have continued until today with recent losses like the Eastern cougar (2013), the Pinta Island Tortoise (2012), The Florida Fairy shrimp (2011) and many others.

Responding to this cataclysm, I physically cut images of missing animals from historic prints and publications printed at the time in history when the depicted species became extinct. For example, in RIP Pied or Labrador Duck: After John James Audubon (1856/2007), the image of the birds was removed from an original 1856 Royal Octavo (hand-colored by one of Audubon’s sons) printed at the same point in history as the actual species disappeared. The resulting image minus the subject is what I refer to as a Framework of Absence.

Acquired over several years, these prints, dating from 1640 to 2014, reflect the long-term and continued decline of biodiversity. The cut animal images are burned and cremation remains are gathered. Participants are then asked to scatter these ashes in memory to species gone. This action is intended as a transformative event for individuals: at once imprinting species loss at a personal level and also importantly an invocation towards a conservation mindset to counter future extinctions.

The Frameworks of Absence is accompanied by The Book of the Dead, a memory book of lost species that is available as a pdf to the public.