Confronted by images of our near future, Hannah Watkinson urges viewers to consider what humans have, and continue to do to our planet. The Near Future makes clear the challenges our world faces; extreme weather, degradation of what was intended to be everlasting, human retreat from inhabited spaces and fundamental changes in our values of ‘productivity’ and ‘development’.
Watkinson’s images are formally composed, clear narratives, reflecting traditions of documentary photography. The Near Future disrupts this vernacular which often purports to present ‘real’ information to the viewer. These scenes describe a time yet to occur, Watkinson looking to the future; a consideration, a concern, a warning.
The ecological zeitgeist within which we find ourselves, referred to as the Anthropocene, is founded in human disruption; land cleared for factories which pollute the environment, farmland, state highways and basketball courts taking precedence of native forests, the outputs from our so-called productivity littering the earth. Watkinson centres these disruptions, while removing those responsible - humans.
What is a cement plant without humans? What about a basketball court or a skate-park? Us humans have persisted with our mission to be productive and to develop our society, but to what end? In presenting the aftermath of human intervention with seemingly no humanity intact Watkinson asks why. Do the destructive effects of our collective means render our ends futile? Will we ever meet these ends, and importantly, do we even know what ends we desire?
Watkinson’s images highlight that no matter what we do now, one day we will be gone and nature will take it all back in one way or another: buildings decay, metal rusts, sea levels rise, weather becomes so severe and unliveable that entire regions are subject to ‘planned retreat’. The Earth fights back.
At the conclusion of this journey into The Near Future, Watkinson breathes a sigh of hope into the story. The Large Matai Tree (‘Large Matai Tree’ yellow AA road sign, Karamea Highway, 2016) bursts through sunshine, grounded on a wall of forest green and encroaching into the greyness of the gallery space. A final comment by Watkinson as if to say: This is what we have to lose.
Hannah Watkinson, The Near Future, CoCA Toi Moroki, 66 Gloucester Street
12 June – 28 August
- Hannah Watkinson, Holcim Cement plant main entrance, branding removed in fog, Cape Foulwind, Image courtesy of Hannah Watkinson