Rachel Sussman

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Rachel Sussman (born 1975) is an American contemporary artist and photographer based in Brooklyn. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a BFA, studied at the Bard College MFA program, and began a practice-based fine arts PhD at Central Saint Martins in London. Sussman is a Guggenheim and MacDowell Colony Fellow, spoke about her work at the TEDGlobal conference in 2010, and was a 2016 TED Resident.[1] Sussman's interdisciplinary project "The Oldest Living Things in the World," has been featured in the media all over the world, including the New Yorker,[2] New York Times,[3] Wall Street Journal,[4] CNN,[5] The Guardian,[6] NPR's Picture Show,[7] New Scientist,[8] as well as publications in China, Brazil, New Zealand, and throughout Europe.

In 2008 critic Jerry Saltz cited her work as the "best photography that slipped under the radar" in New York Magazine,[9] having stated in the exhibition review:

“These stately pictures quiet the soul: You enter a reverie wondering how these organisms managed to live so long and if there’s anything in them that might help us stave off the inevitable…Sussman brings you to the place where science, beauty, and eternity meet” [10]

Sussman continues to make artwork about connecting personal time to cosmic time[11] through new installation-based works. These include a sand mandala of the Cosmic Microwave Background at the New Museum Los Gatos, the destruction of which was covered by WIRED Magazine, a handwritten timeline of the history of the spacetime continuum at MASS MoCA,[12] and Sidewalk Kintsukuroi, a contemporary take on the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, at the Des Moines Art Center.[13]

Sussman is a 2016-2017 artist in residence with the SETI Institute.[14]

Oldest Living Things in the World[edit]

From 2004 to 2014, Sussman researched, worked with biologists, and traveled all over the world to find and photograph continuously living organisms 2,000 years old and older.[15] Sussman says "The project is part art and part science. There's an environmental component. And I'm also trying to create a means in which to step outside our quotidian experience of time and to start to consider a deeper timescale. I selected 2,000 years as my minimum age because I wanted to start at what we consider to be year zero and work back from there."[16]

Her book of the same title was published April 2014, containing essays from Hans Ulrich Obrist and Carl Zimmer, and is a New York Times Bestseller.[17] In his essay, Hans Ulrich Obrist states:

"What sets Sussman apart from other conceptual artists is that her research project is closely related to the research of a scientist....the Oldest Living Things is a category that is defined by curiosity, humane character, a fascination with deep time, and the courage of an explorer"[18]

The book is currently in print in Complex and Simple Chinese, Korean, and German.[5]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Guggenheim Fellowship, Photography, 2014
  • LACMA Lab Art + Tech grant, 2014
  • NYFA Fellowship, Photography, 2013
  • Prix Pictet nomination, London/Geneva 2009, 2010, 2011
  • British Council Darwin Now Award, Finalist. London, 2009
  • University of Pennsylvania, Graduate Humanities Forum on Origins, 2008

Notable Exhibitions[edit]

Des Moines Art Center: Alchemy: Transformations in Gold. Sidewalk Kintsukuroi, acquisition. Feb 17

New Museum Los Gatos: New works by SETI Artists, Cosmic Microwave Mandala. Oct 16 – Mar 17

MASS MoCA: Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder, May 2016- Mar 2017

MASS MoCA: The Space Between, Sidewalk Kintsukuroi, permanent installation, April 2016

Hotchkiss School Tremaine Gallery, The Oldest Living Things in the World. Jan-°©Mar 2016

National Museum of Wildlife Art: The Oldest Living Things in the World. May-°©Aug 2015

Bucknell University Samek Museum: The Oldest Living Things in the World. Jan-Mar 2015

National Museum of Women in the Arts: Women to Watch 2015. Washington, DC. May-Sept 2015

National Academy of Sciences: Imagining Deep Time, Aug 2014—Jan 2015

Pioneer Works: Inaugural exhibition,The Oldest Living Things in the World. Brooklyn, New York. Sept – Nov 2014

Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden: Site-specific solo Exhibition. April – June 2012

Museum of Contemporary Photography: Our Origins. Chicago. July – Oct 2011

Speaking Engagements and Appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "Meet the Fall 2016 class of TED Residents". TED Blog. 2016-09-20. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  2. ^ "Rachel Sussman's "Oldest Living Things"". The New Yorker. 2014-09-18. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  3. ^ Jennings, Dana (2015-01-12). "In 'The Oldest Living Things in the World,' Close-ups of the Almost Eternal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  4. ^ Julie Steinerg Earth's Real Senior Citizens NY CULTURE section June 15, 2010 Wall Street Journal
  5. ^ [1] CNN World Report
  6. ^ [2] The oldest living organisms: ancient survivors with a fragile future
  7. ^ Priscilla Villarreal Hunting For The Oldest Living Things In The World The Picture Show March 25, 2010 NPR
  8. ^ [3] 13 April 2010 New Scientist
  9. ^ Best Photography Shows That Slipped Under the Radar: Rachel Sussman The Culture Awards, OLTW: CRITICS PICK & REVIEW BY JERRY SALTZ, MAY, 2008 BEST OF 2008 IN NEW YORK MAGAZINE
  10. ^ New York Magazine, May 2008
  11. ^ "Ξ About Ξ". ⟜ R a c h e l ⋅ S u s s m a n ⤀. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  12. ^ "An artist designed a timeline of the universe that shows you when it began — and when it all will end". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  13. ^ "An Artist Mends Cracks in the Sidewalk with Gold". Hyperallergic. 2017-02-16. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  14. ^ "SETI AIR: The SETI Institute's Artists in Residence Program | SETI Institute". www.seti.org. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  15. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2010/may/02/rachel-sussman-oldest-plants
  16. ^ [4] TED interactive transcript
  17. ^ "Science Books - Best Sellers - May 11, 2014 - The New York Times". Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  18. ^ Sussman, Rachel (2014). The Oldest Living Things in the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. XVI. ISBN 9780226057507. 
  19. ^ "The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University". my.arboretum.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 

External links[edit]