Stories

Apocalypse How?

  • Serial
Mixed media digital artwork combining found imagery from vintage magazines and books with painted and textured elements. The overall hues are blues, yellows and reds. The illustration is split in two by a red and yellow line running vertically through the image at a slight angle. On the left side of this line is the black and white archive image od the head and upper body of a man with a white beard wearing a suit from the Victorian era. The top half of his head from his nose up has been replaced with strips of newspapers arranged in a step formation to resemble a Mayan temple. The first level of newspaper has the word 'Revelations' in all caps. As the levels rise the words, 'calendar', December 21st', 'Maya' and '2012' appear in newspaper print. At the top of the temple structure is a bright light and an explosion of red and yellow wedges shooting up into the blue background. A large crack runs down through the temple. On the right side of the vertical lines, the image of this temple structure is duplicated and enlarged to reveal it in more detail and crop out the man's lower head. A small figure can now be seen flying through the air, propelled by the force of the explosion.
Deciding a date for the end of the world. © Gergo Varga (varrgo.com) for Wellcome Collection.

We humans have predicted our own doom over and over in a myriad of dramatic ways, from the Biblical apocalypse to movies like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, with its enormous climate-shift tsunami. In this seven-part series, historian Charlotte Sleigh explores previous prophecies and sciences of annihilation, asking what we can learn from them. Hope, depression, fear, inspiration, selfishness and altruism resulted at different times and in different places. Our appetite for epic disaster tales makes it difficult to imagine how climate change will take place – or rather, is already happening. Climate change is different from the rest, but with the benefit of history, we might approach the brink a little more wisely this time.

About the contributors

Head and shoulders photo of a woman with short, fair hair, against a background of hills and fields.

Charlotte Sleigh

Author

Charlotte Sleigh is an interdisciplinary writer and practitioner in the science humanities. Her most recent book is ‘Human’ (Reaktion, 2020). She is Honorary Professor at the Department of Science and Technology Studies, UCL, and current president of the British Society for the History of Science.

Black and white head and shoulders collaged artwork showing a portrait of Gergo Varga.

Gergo Varga

Artist

varrgo is a place where Gergo creates and animates mixed-media projects, particularly in the style of collages and cut-outs. He enjoys working with things that have already had a life, from old magazines to scribbles in a notebook. His longest-running creative project is ‘oners’, where he visualises one-minute quotes from contemporary thinkers.