Extinction Gong

The Extinction Gong is a ceremonial automaton for the Sixth Mass Extinction, the human-induced process of planet-scale biological annihilation first formally recognised by scientists in 2014. Taking the form of a large traditional ‘Chao Gong’, its rear face is fitted with a mechanism that beats to the rhythm of species extinction, estimated by eminent biologist E.O. Wilson to be about 27,000 losses a year, or once every 19 minutes. The significance of this figure (and those like it from other scientists) cannot be overstated: for millennia the average ‘background rate’ of (plant, animal and insect) species extinction has been between 1 and 5 a year, right back to the 5th Extinction that took the dinosaurs 65M years ago. Should biologists declare a new species extinct while the Extinction Gong is active it will receive an update via a 3g link and perform a special ceremony: four strikes in quick succession alongside a text-to-speech utterance of the Latin name of the species lost, resonating through the gong. Seen at its front, the Extinction Gong hangs in a large metal frame and bears the stark neo-primitivist image of the Extinction Symbol, the official mark of the Sixth Mass Extinction. Seen from the back, however, it is a work of engineering, complete with mallet, electro-magnet, audio transducer, embedded computer and 3g downlink. This diametric expresses a brutal and contradicting irony: while advances in science and technology augment the devastating impact of human endeavours over wild habitats, so are they our best means of studying and understanding it. The Extinction Gong is a 2017 project by Crystelle Vu and Julian Oliver.