David Attenborough Building, Cambridge, 2016 & 2018

The writing is on the wall. Yet the text is printed very faintly. Members of the public and conservationists connected with the David Attenborough Building were invited, one at a time, to make their mark by over-writing with indelible pen the name of one of the species, drawing attention to it, and bringing it to visibility.

This participatory artwork takes inspiration from the IUCN Global Red List of Threatened Species, and a large-scale text work depicts the 4,734 species that were assessed as Critically Endangered on October 22nd, 2015, those at most serious risk of extinction. Widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species, the Red List is the world standard. To date, experts and citizen scientists across the globe have assessed more than 79,800 species with an ambition to assess 160,000 by 2020.

For each species, the participant concerned donned gloves to handle the pens, and protect the canvas, and overwrote both the common and scientific name, and, in many cases, shared stories about their choice; a choice often related to lifelong concern for, and research on the species. Over 230 accounts were collected and archived along with the work.