The starting point of our multidisciplinary project was the English paleontologist Mary Anning. Anning was born, lived and died in Lyme Regis, England (1799-1847). For many, Anning is an unknown historical figure, but the never before seen marine reptiles that Anning discovered and studied provided key pieces of evidence that gave birth to theories on extinction and evolution. Annings groundbreaking work predated Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Due to her gender and social class, Anning was prevented from actively taking part in scientific life in 19-century Britain. She died of breast cancer at the age of 47.
The result of our project was a series of works that presented a new portrait of Mary Anning, revealing alternative views of her life that questioned, discussed and contradicted each other. Our aim was to create a new portrait of Anning, through the embodiment of her work.
During our project, we walked the beaches the paleontologist used to work on, taught by local geologists, who have helped us in understanding the science of rocks and the timeline they represent. The harsh landscape that dictated her labor, influenced our reading of her life. The materiality surrounding her, and constituting her life, has also been the material we have used to portray her.
We are interested in questions of how nature and its components can be seen as a portrait of a person, and how, through a bodily experience, we can convey a biography of a life. The works consist of materials that oppose these natural materials, and create a dialogue between the different works.
We wanted to create a work that touched upon metaphysical themes, materiality, and natural wonders. The work also communicated ideas of geological time, through fossils; how one small ammonite could envelop life and the extinction of life over billions of years. This enabled the representation of the collapsing of time and distance in one small stone. The base of the work was a two-year long period of grueling research to unearth any information available to us on the science she loved, and the life that she led. During the project we not only worked with different scientists, but also in the realms of theatre, as the second part of the project was a theatre performance (Mary Anning 1799-1847).