....Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish Citizen and artist Matt Baker

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

the ultimate time-based artist?

‘The World Without Us’ (Alan Weisman 2007) suggests that the pretty much everything that humans have created would be ground into oblivion by the action of the glaciers of the next ice age (due in approx 10,000 years). In considering what might be the human artefact with the best chance of surviving the longest into the future Weisman settles on the gold disc carried by the Voyager space mission –predicted lifespan one thousand million years – this contains recordings of material ‘representative’ of humankind (eg ‘Johnny Be Goode’), the cover of the record carries graphic instructions for making a device capable of playing the disc:

 This was designed by Jon Lomberg
Lomberg also designed the plaque carried by the Pioneer 10 space mission:

But surely Lomberg's finest artistic hour was ‘Portrait of Humanity’ that was to be engraved holographically on a diamond wafer the size of a coin and deposited on one of Saturn’s Moons. The project was eventually dropped as NASA was wary about the levels of commercial sponsorship involved in the artwork. This is the ‘Portrait of Humanity’ (taken on a Hawaii beach)

Last word:
 ‘In all likelihood, space probes will be the only things of ours that endure after our species is gone and our planet utterly changed -- a few inert, pitted machines will be the sole clues that we ever existed, and the ancient messages they carry our only chance to explain who we were. It’s vanishingly unlikely that any being will ever find the Pioneers, Voyagers or the New Horizons probe in the billion-odd years during which their messages will remain readable. But though imagining such a discovery borders on an act of faith, it’s not impossible. And since it isn’t, shouldn’t the only trace of ourselves be something more substantive than an unbelievably ancient PR campaign? Don’t we owe ourselves a final testament that’s something more than space spam?’
                          ©2006 by Jason Fry. Published by The Wall Street Journal Online - January 23, 2006.

Last,last word:
Mr Lomberg also has a contract with the agency charged with storing the US's nuclear waste. Lomberg is designing signage that will remain effective in warning people about the hazardous waste on the site for 10,000 years. It is an accepted that a living language will transform beyond recognition in approx 600 years - hence symbols are again being employed - carved into granite pillars and cast into ceramic discs that are buried in the soil covering the site. For an excellent discussion of the artistic implications inherent in the philosophy of long-term storage see also 'Friends of the Pleistocene'


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