Succession generates digital fossils from images documenting the history of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Reload to generate a new composite, save your own to share, or browse the saved fossils below.

Each one is unique, generated by selecting five items at random from a set of about two thousand. At a rate of one per second it would take about eight million years to see every combination.

Succession is a work by Mitchell Whitelaw. It was developed during a 2014 visit to Newcastle University supported by NICAP and Culture Lab. Images are sourced from the Flickr Commons, largely Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, the Internet Archive and the British Library. Built with AngularJS.

Newcastle was one of the crucibles of the Industrial Revolution. Today the city is finding its way in a de-industrial UK, as the rest of the world grapples with the impact of global capital. The term succession is borrowed from ecology, where it refers to the way living systems create the conditions for their own future changes. The question for industrial capitalism is, what next?

This work reveals layers of our shared heritage, rearranging and compressing them to seek out new meanings and latent stories. Our industrial culture was founded on coal: a fossil fuel, a compressed residue made from the dead bodies of ancient plants and animals. Succession in turn produces visual fossils: compressed energy to fuel reflection on the past, and speculation on the future.