AUGUST 9, 2021
This week we recognize the work of artist Jenny Kendler.
Featured is her project Amber Archive, utilizing created amber and ethically-sourced biological material from species threatened by human activities.
The Amber Archive is an in-progress project — a genetic ark or "deep archive" of our planet's bio-genetic wealth.
Each created amber nodule contains a fragment of a species threatened by humankind’s transformation of Earth’s ecosystems, preserving a single species's DNA for millennia to come.
Fur, scale, leaf, bone, feather, insect wing — each carries a genetic code which might be used by scientists at the appropriate time — in some far future when habitats and resources are available for de-extinction of potentially lost species.
The Archive is a biodiversity time capsule for a world generations hence, and a potent reminder to us today of what we stand to lose in the Sixth Extinction.
Though a number of fantastic cryobanks at research institutions exist with similar goals, their high tech deep freezers rely on large amounts of electricity. Were a climate event, pandemic or major conflict to disrupt the electrical grid for a long period of time, these DNA samples would be irrevocably lost.
The Amber Archive seeks a more analog and more ancient method of preservation — one that could survive the potential collapse of Western Civilization and carry these genetic treasures into the far future where there may be a culture willing to, once again, make space on our planet for these marvelous others.
Jenny Kendler is an interdisciplinary artist, environmental activist, naturalist and wild forager who lives in Chicago and various forests. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006) and a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2002, summa cum laude). Kendler is a co-founder of the artist website platform OtherPeoplesPixels, and created the OPPfund, which gives grants to arts, environmental and social justice organizations, and awards the MAKER Grant each year to two socially or environmentally engaged artists in partnership with Chicago Artists' Coalition. Kendler was also named one of Chicago's Top 50 Artists by Newcity in their biennial list in 2018 and 2020.
Featured Images: ©Jenny Kendler, Amber Archive, 2018-2021
Above: Jenny Kendler/Photo: Nathan Keay for Newcity's "Chicago's Top 50 Artists," 2020