In September 2020, I traveled to the highlands of Harz, in northern Germany. For my surprise, what I found in those forests was, mostly, an unhealthy ecosystem with a colorless landscape in decline. As I walked through the gray, post-apocalyptic landscapes that once caught the attention of poets and painters for their beauty, I tried to understand what could have possibly been the cause of such a catastrophe.
Due to the increasingly warmer conditions in the region, ideal for their massive proliferation, Bark beetles have not only taken over Harz Mountains, but also numerous forests from North America to Northern Europe. These beetles’ infestations have questioned the role of both humans and animals when it comes to shaping the environment.
The pattern that the beetles leave in the bark is often referred to as calligraphy. The insects, that measure not more than 6 mm each, create their unique traces in the bark of the tree by getting fed by it. Once having their canals carved, the beetles cut off the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.
By positioning the human race as the central agent of great-scale environmental changes, the term Anthropocene can sometimes marginalize the power of other-than-humans animals. In A Case of Exceptionalism, I transferred some patterns engraved by different Bark beetles specimens to the surface of old postcards of the Harz Mountains.