Becoming-Loaf, Becoming-Fossil and Becoming-Trace: Rome, Statues and the eco-monument Rethinking Relations: Michel Serres and the Environmental Humanities
International Conference, Dresden, 2022
A new fold, an added folding over adds to age like a new quarter. The baker Penelope, up in the morning, ages with every fold; she weaves time, but in the other direction... The system ages without time escaping; it garners age; the young escutcheons are knotted, drowned, under the mature escutcheons; the baker moulds memory.
- Serres, Rome
Folding and enfolded, hands move swiftly, deftly. The baker, Penelope, kneads her dough - the dough becoming a vehicle through which to discuss the manipulation of time, the adding of age and the moulding of memory. We apprehend Penelope and this endless regathering of time deployed by Serres in Rome (1983/1991), reading it through and through it the eruption of Pompeii (AD 79) and preserved loaves of bread found amidst the city’s ruins. With this, we follow the dough into the realm of the statue/Statues (1987/2014) - covered over by lava, trapped within the ruins; this organic matter preserved by the hand of ecological disaster, emerging in the contemporary as a temporally and compositionally troubled and tangled object. A more-than-human monument to history; the trace of the baker’s hand, now absent, are contained within the fossilized loaf.
Through tangled monuments we move, from this strange geologic relic, into the ecologic, towards attempts to freeze landscapes in time, these temporally complex spaces in media res - and consider the designation of sites as national parks and biospheres as a means of arresting the destructive progression of humanity and mitigating its influence. of the human and arresting . In protecting/preserving ‘wilderness’ in this way, these sites become ecological monuments - albeit flawed, imperfect and continually under threat.
As Serres tells us, monuments remind us of our atomic entanglement - via Lucretius. As such, we mobilise this through shared mattering, in recognition, and to consider the ecomonument as marker of the more-than-human, a future memorial, a marker of life before and into collapse, or a recognition of the hominescence hinted at by Serres in his later work, a monument to Biogea. Through the frame of our ongoing research project, Ecological Gyre Theory, we seek to mobilise Serres through flows across time and space - embracing the accelerations and cycles of the ecological turn toward reimaginings of our shared mattering from the past and into our rapidly changing and precarious presents and futures. We begin our investigations with the dough, temporally complicated, becoming-loaf, becoming-fossil and becoming trace, from Rome, to Pompeii to the present, a locus around which we orient a consideration of the future of human and more-than-human, to reflect, within a Serresian frame, upon what traces will be left in the dough from our ecological perspective.