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An Accumulation of Events

Matthew C. Wilson, Untitled ("Rio notebook" fieldwork), 2015. Video still.

Billions of years ago
Comets strike the earth.

2.3 billion years ago
Cyanobacteria cause The Great Oxygenation Event, one of the largest extinction events in earth’s history. Oxygen, a byproduct of cyanobacterial photosynthesis, accumulates, producing a toxic environment for oxygen-intolerant anaerobic organisms.

3.3 – 2.6 million years ago
Hominins create oldest known, recognizable stone tools.

2.58 million years ago
Pleistocene glaciation commences, beginning the current ice age.

32,000 years ago
A squirrel buries Silene stenophylla seeds in northeastern Eurasia.

10,500 years ago
On the slopes of an Anatolian mountain, a genetic mutation prevents wild grass seeds from dropping when they mature.

~1554 – 1558
The Popol Vuh—one of the few Maya books to survive Spanish conquest, colonization, and subjugation—is written, declaring that, after several failed attempts, the gods created the first humans out of corn.

Twenty years after their steam engines’ first commercial use, James Watt and Matthew Boulton use steam-powered machines to produce all of Britain’s coins for the Bank of England.

Matthew C. Wilson, Untitled ("Rio notebook" fieldwork), 2015. Digital photo.

1792 – 1819
James Watt attempts to heal his son’s tuberculosis through inhalation of newly discovered gasses; uses the same linkages from his steam engines to produce drawing machines, including a portable drawing machine to copy perspective; invents machines for copying sculpture, meeting emerging consumer demand for reproduced art.

Anna Atkins self-publishes Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, at once the first book with photographic illustrations and the first significant application of photography to scientific study.

Frederic Edwin Church charges ten cents per person to see his monumental painting Heart of the Andes, surrounded by tropical plants, which becomes a popular spectacle.

Charles Darwin receives a copy of Das Kapital with the dedication “his sincere admirer Karl Marx, 16 June 1873.” Although Darwin only reads the first third of the book, he writes to Marx in October:

I heartily wish that I was more worthy to receive it, by understanding more of the deep & important subject of political economy. Though our studies have been so different I believe that we both earnestly desire the extension of knowledge, and that this in the long run is sure [to] add to the happiness of mankind. I remain Dear Sir Yours faithfully

(Darwin curiously and repeatedly uses the phrase “economy of nature” in his 1859 On the Origin of Species, reflecting the influence of the 19th-century philosophers of political economy Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus).

Matthew C. Wilson, Untitled ("Rio notebook" fieldwork), 2015. Digital photo.

Maize seeds are the first living organism to be launched into space and successfully recovered.

DNA structure co-discoverer Francis Crick refines the Greek idea of panspermia revitalized in the 19th century—suggesting that life on earth was “seeded.”

With the help of volunteers, Joseph Beuys begins 7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration as a response to urbanization in Kassel.

Bank of England issues £10 notes picturing Charles Darwin and a tropical scene recalling his 1832 travels to Brazil.

Bank of England issues £20 notes depicting Adam Smith.

Bank of England issues £50 notes illustrating Matthew Boulton and James Watt.

A group of Russian scientists unearth and successfully germinate 32,000 year-old Silene stenophylla seeds from the Siberian permafrost.

Voyager 1 becomes the first known human-produced object to leave the solar system.

The editor and this writer make independent, unrelated trips to Brazil, releasing approximately 3.33 metric tons of CO2e into the atmosphere.


Matthew C. Wilson

MATTHEW C. WILSON is an artist based in Brooklyn who works primarily in video, sculpture, and site-specific action. He recently completed the MFA Visual Arts program at Columbia University and the Whitney Independent Study Program.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2015

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