204 pages, 176 colour photos
Language: Bilingual in English and German
Fossils are the petrified remains of former living organisms. Their systematics and their former living conditions are studied and described in palaeontology. In contrast to this, Fossil Design attempts to show the character of these life forms as signs and to pursue the question of whether fossils and representations of fossils can be considered 'beautiful'.
For this reason, the pictures' sequence is not based on a palaeontological system of classification, but instead progresses from realistic representations of, for instance, a coral's body in its entirety through ever smaller sectors of the image and details divorced from context to almost abstract images. In an introductory text, Hillert Ibbeken explains the concept and the methodology of the work. The ambiguous expression 'design' is used deliberately – not in the sense of a purposive undertaking by a creating subject, but in the sense of nature making a mark, guided by mutation and selection.
Katja Schoene writes about fossils' reception in the early modern age. The plants and animals enclosed in stone appeared too fantastical for anyone to consider them as anything other than 'freaks of nature' (lusus naturae). Explanations of their origin were as multifarious as their different manifestations. Rudolf zur Lippe deals with the forms of petrified life in relation to philosophical perspectives, pursuing the question of what 'beauty' means and indicating, among other things, that the expression 'beauty' cannot be unequivocally defined; that, for instance, different cultures may have entirely different ideals of beauty.
The illustrated section is followed by a glossary by Helmut Keupp with a synopsis of life's development on Earth and a table of the Earth's history.
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Hillert Ibbeken was professor of geology at the Freie Universitat Berlin. He has had a lifelong interest in photography.