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PRINT October 2019

LAND OF THE LIVING

Agnes Denes, Wheatfield: A Confrontation, 1982, New York.

ASHES TO ASHES . . . Before the recent wave of disquisitions on our planet’s impending demise, there was Agnes Denes’s Book of Dust: The Beginning and the End of Time and Thereafter (1989). A heavily researched investigation of the death of all matter, written between 1972 and 1987, the book is full of passages that ring clear as a bell today, none more so than this:

The paradoxes of our existence: alienation in togetherness, uniformity in specialization, illusions of freedom in group mentality, ignorance in the midst of information overload, greed in the face of neglect, self-aggrandizement in response to ineffectuality. It is comparable to going into the ice age and the heat wave of the greenhouse effect simultaneously. 

Denes’s ecological artworks, which she commenced in the late 1960s, are just as prescient as this early diagnosis of climate catastrophe. Over the ensuing decades,

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