R A C H E L S U S S M A N
The Oldest Living Things
In The World
La Llareta #0308-02499 (Up to 3,000 years old; Atacama Desert, Chile; 44" x 54", archival pigment print, 2008
"The Oldest Living Things in the World" is an interdisciplinary effort by artist Rachel Sussman to find and photograph the oldest continuously living organisms on the planet. She is researching, working with preeminent biologists and traveling all over the world to photograph life forms 2,000 years old and older; the oldest thus far clocking in at half a million years. Her subjects, living in nearly 20 different countries, include over 30 different organisms ranging from trees to predatory fungus to ancient bacteria.
Soil sample containing Siberian Actinobacteria #0807-tv26 (400,000 - 600,000 years old, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen). 8" x 10" digital optical microscopy image, 2007
Sussman is researching far afield from her fine arts background in areas such as mycology, dendrochronology and microbiology in order to work with plant and planetary biologists to locate, indentify, and understand these exceptional life forms. In a unique collaboration between biology's expertise and Sussman's creative eye, her critically acclaimed work is in turn generating a dialogue amongst scientists whose research is otherwise too specialized to provide a comprehensive picture of global species longevity.
Bristlecone Pine #0906-3033 (Up to 5,000 years old; White Mountains, California) 44" x 54", archival pigment print, 2006
This project asks viewers to consider the precarious balance between the complex natural history of our planet and its uncertain future. Are these organisms, which have survived millennia often in extreme climates and remote locations, resigned to a certain fate? Is the damage irreversible or are we waking up at the eleventh hour? This is a question to be answered by science, society, and time.
Armillaria Ostoyae #0907-03 (Malheur National Forest, Oregon; 2,400 years old) 44"x 54", archival pigment print, 2006
Email: "me [at] rachelsussman [dot] com"
Project blog: oltw.blogspot.com