The Extinction Image – Bryan Norton – Cultural Politics

This essay explores the artist Gregory Chatonsky’s development of a new type of image—the extinction image. Emerging as a by-product of new technologies such as deep learning and neural nets, this nonoperative image is typified by a painstaking attempt to come to grips with the current threat of human extinction. It arises as a symptom of numerous crises endemic to the Anthropocene, providing a speculative tool for planetary thinking to develop alternatives in and through what has been called postcinema by scholars such as Steve Shaviro and Shane Denson. For Chatonsky, the Earth itself must now be imagined as a disarticulate user of postcinematic media, producing images that display a stunning indifference to the presence or absence of the human species. Close examination of Chatonsky’s work will reveal a radical ecopolitics defined by a concern for what Alexander Galloway has called whatever being. Urging us to think carefully about the planetary emergency presented by climate change and geopolitical unrest, the extinction image serves as a reminder that the future of life on Earth is not a foregone conclusion.