Carlo Borer, Sleeping with the Gods, Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger | KBH.G.. Foto/Photo: TES.

Who knows or has seen these animals: Psephurus gladius (Chinese paddlefish 2019), Diceros bicornis longipes (West African black rhinoceros 2011), Ectopistes migratorius (passenger or wild Pigeon 1914), Porphyrio albus (Lord Howe Swamphen 1834), Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian tiger 1936), Hydrodamalis gigas (Steller’s  sea cow 1768), Coregonus gutturosus (Lake Constance white fish 1970),  Raphus cucullatus (Dodo 1690), Lagorchestes leporides (Eastern Hare Wallaby 1890), Lipotes vexillifer (Chinese River Dolphin 2002) and Equus quagga quagga (Quagga) ?

Probably nobody. They have been extinct since 1690 and in subsequent centuries.

The installations entitled „Sleeping with the Gods“ by the artist Carlo Borer (1961) taper the milestones on the evolutionary timeline. They represent the demographic development based on models by the UN and the dramatic loss of flora and fauna.

Demographic growth

The explosive demographic growth and the extinction of animal species are the focus of this show. On the other hand, the artist is fascinated by technological advances and related developments. That is the hopeful message of the exposition by the Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger | KBH.G. Whether it will work this time as well, after the remarkable recovery of the Rhine or the disappearance of the Smog in London, for example, remains to be seen.

It is a well-designed and artistically powerful display of how both are related, although the issue does not often show up in the current climate discussions. Carlo Borer calls himself a builder of objects and installation art.

His Design, material and concept are based on science and industry. It also applies to this show. The underlying message is, that humankind is destroying the environment.


Destructive machines and fragments of a vulnerable planet are symbolised by his sculpture “Digger”, a construction looking like a mixture between an alien and a mining machine. It symbolises the exploitation of nature by humans and seems to take on an existence of its own that its creator cannot control anymore.

Moon landscape

Another installation shows a part of the moon landscape one-to-one but fragmented, based on data from NASA. The moon represents a dead planet (the future of the earth ?). In its shape shown here, it has disintegrated and serves science merely as a forensic research object.

Sleeping with the Gods

At the heart of the show is a large-scale installation, a timeline from the year 1700 until today. The floor represents the time about 320 years ago. Various grass-covered cones of different heights taper steadily upwards until some of them fizzle out. In the middle, a mighty, highly polished cone made of stainless steel raises up.

It represents the rapid demographic development, the grass-covered finite cones the other species that are first decimated and finally eradicated during the time of the biggest human interference with nature. The different species get a symbolic commemorative plaque in neon writing. The writing in Latin names of extinct animals is from the artist’s mother who wrote the names down.


Another sculpture made of stainless steel is placed on a pile of scrap like a thin pipe or a longhorn, showing the demographic development of humankind over the past two thousand years, based on reliable data.

Humankind lived fully dependent on the rhythm of nature until industrialisation started in the eighteenth century. From this time onwards, the balance of power has changed dramatically and humankind is confronted with the consequences of human interference with nature, symbolised by the scrap.

On the scrap, the artist mentions the so-called Fibonacci numbers. These numbers represent the exponential population growth. Leonardo da Pisa or Fibonacci (c. 1170 – c. 1240) devised this series of numbers for the exponential population growth of rabbits in 1202 as written down in his book Liber Abaci.