After the Apocalypse

The climate and environment on our planet are changeable - sometimes to an extreme extent. 13,000 years ago, in what we today call Germany, a large volcano erupted violently - with major consequences for plants, animals and not least humans. Drawing on this past apocalypse, the exhibition ‘After the Apocalypse’ asks if we can learn something from the past when disaster strikes us in the future.

Climate, nature and society

The background of the exhibition is a four-year long research project on the eruption of the so-called Laacher See volcano. The exhibition presents the results of the project, which have provided new insights into the eruption itself and the ways in which the subsequent ash fallout over Europe – from Italy in the south to Russia in the north – affected the climate, nature and society at the time.

Disasters mirroring society

The aim of the research project has not only been to explore this violent incident of the past, but also to use it as a mirror. Can we learn something from the events of the past in relation to our own time and to the future we are facing? If people in Europe – and in Denmark – were affected by a distant volcanic eruption back then, could it happen again? What will be the consequences ? And what is it that makes us vulnerable to such events? 

Between science and science fiction

In the exhibition, visitors are confronted with both the past and the future: First, you experience the period 13,000 years ago and the science behind the Laacher See eruption. The event, like the eruption of Vesuvius many thousands of years later, preserved an ancient landscape in remarkable detail. Through the archaeological finds, visitors get up-close to the eruption: How was the eruption experienced, and how did it affect the people of that time? In the second part of the exhibition, we let the eruption happen again in a thought-experiment of science-based fiction. The year is 2100, and in a scenario like our modern society, the exhibition asks: How would a similar eruption affect us today?

Apocalypse as catalyst

The Laacher See eruption 13,000 years ago caused unrest and upheaval for the affected people, but also created fertile ground for a cultural flourishing in southern Scandinavia. Extreme events - volcanic eruptions, storm surges, pandemics - give rise to reflection and often accelerate the development in a society. In a world plagued by climate change, loss of biodiversity, migration and political antagonism, the mirror of the past reflects our future. Perhaps it even helps us to be better prepared for the extreme events that may happen?

After the Apocalypse will open on September 12, 2020. 

 

The background of the project is the large four year-long research project “Apocalypse then? The Laacher See volcanic eruption (13,000 years before present), Deep Environmental History and Europe’s geo-cultural heritage”. The project is financed by the Independent Research Fund Denmark through their Sapere Aude program for groundbreaking, challenging and interdisciplinary research, and with additional support from the School of Culture and Society at Aarhus University. The exhibition has been curated by researchers from the Laboratory for Past Disaster Science at Aarhus University.