The city of Perm gives its name to the Permian, an extremely rich period spanning from 299 to 252 million years ago that ended with the largest mass extinction in history, an event that has been compared to the ongoing sixth mass extinction. Caused by human activity, the current wave of species extinction has accelerated rapidly since the start of the 20th century and has reduced the planet’s biodiversity in unprecedented ways.
The Permian Extinction results from a residency carried out by Axel Straschnoy in the Perm Regional Museum and its collections in 2018. Straschnoy became interested in the paradoxical relationship between life and death at the museum and across geological periods.
Like many natural history museums, the one in Perm had previously presented dioramas depicting nature outside the museum through dead animals. However, when the museum took these down, the stuffed animals were stored in former office spaces, giving rise to unlikely and unnatural combinations of biotopes and predator-prey configurations. Today, many animals are endangered or extinct; they have stopped belonging to nature outside. Straschnoy has created a series of photographs portraying the animal in their new habitat: the museum storage.
One of the museum’s jewels is its entomological collection, focused mainly on forest insects. However, living insects threaten these, and the museum regularly exterminates living insects to preserve the dead ones. At Straschnoy’s request, the museum gathered the insects it eradicates into a separate new collection.
The exhibition in Turku Art Museum consists of lenticular images, photographs and a piece of volkonskoite, a green pigment derived from a clay-bearing sandstone, used by Russian painters and even Picasso. Volkonskoite formed in the Permian Period and is found only in the Perm region. A book accompanies the exhibition.
Axel Straschnoy (born 1978) is a visual artist from Buenos Aires, based in Helsinki, whose work deals with the social practices in science and art. His long-term, research-focused projects span planetarium films, performances, video installations, editions, travelling exhibitions, museum collections and VR films. He is interested in expeditions: literal and metaphorical, scientific and artistic.
This exhibition is generously supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, The Finnish Cultural Foundation and Vladimir Potanin Foundation. It is produced by Kolme Perunaa.
Thanks: Perm Regional Museum; Yuliya Glazyrina, Head of the Natural History department; Larisa Zhuzhgova, Head of the Natural History Collections and Evgeniya Vyguzova, zoological collection curator.