AN ART EXHIBITION TIME CAPSULE
An open call was made in 2021 for this exhibition, which is to be unveiled in the year 2121 – one hundred years in the future.
In 2121 none of us are here. Given the time frame people are encouraged to think long-term, since there is no short-term gain nor any retroactive force with a time span larger than life. The frame can help us reflect on what we are now. Perhaps the most important thing here is the requirement to look beyond oneself – this part of the creative process is thus reset. In relation to 2121, there are no self-reinforcing incentives, no money, nothing to look forward to, nothing to show off.
The artists are not alive when the artworks are finally opened to the public. However, expo2121 is expanded and previewed annually.
An open call is sent out each year, with varying wording and perspective so as to encourage different groups to contribute.
A small group of curators see the contributions each year and discuss them in a public forum. These comments are documented for posterity and are widely available. The curation group changes on a regular basis (members can appoint successors). With these yearly discussions the project is not hermetically sealed: something seeps out, even from black holes.
Who is the document for? Since the exhibition only goes public after the artists are gone, the works could have been sealed completely until 2121, with nothing coming out of it. On the other hand, an anonymized and indirect exposure, through curatorial comments, gives the public something to grab onto during a century of suspense. Limiting the viewing to a few curators still transforms the artist's perspective, deemphasizes artist vanity and careerism, etc.
Works , titles, and artists' names are anonymized, referred to by an entry number (e.g. #8 or #23).
Reviewers are instructed to comment on what they find interesting, or not interesting – in individual works or generally, on trends and themes. The form of this feedback is flexible: paragraphs, questions, notes, pictures, memes, musing, ... an essay.
The curatorial review document is for the project a yearly meta-process which is archived as part of it. The review will be edited for the public, including participants. When finished it is archived as static html/text.
CURATOR GROUP, 2021:
Andy Deck, Bjørn Magnhildøen, Zsolt Mesterhazy
• This is the review document for works submitted in 2021.
At the time of its generation, #1 would have given English-speaking readers a strong impression of incoherence. One wonders, though, whether it will be more notable for its coherence in 2121. After all, minds formed in the infancy of Oulipo were far more accustomed to textual order, consistency, and intelligibility than minds formed in the infancy of TikTok. So it stands to reason that another century along this path could make a randomly generated word salad appear less like a blast of cautionary abstraction and more like the diction of an informed verbalist.
What we see in some works is a deconstruction of the purpose of the project, to become body, take work #1, a text that pronounces that it's found. In case anybody finds it you would think that would necessarily be true. But what is "anybody" at that point? In the case of machines what's the difference between being stored and being read? Is it like our memory and sensation? And between internal and external for machines? Storage and working memory? To be read is to be in working memory? To be found by a machine. Then I wonder about the deconstruction of the future. Already by calling for works for 2121 there's feedback, lines going back from the future. Not only is there a future, but also a transport line going between now and then, in both directions. The word 'then' seems from the past, the mirror hall of to be, reflecting back. In a similar way the image is taken apart. What follows are an endless series of library cards it seems to me, or a system of frames, ending with the card "LEAP INCONSISTENCIES SCIENCE, STATUS".
While still somewhat textual, the emoji-fied keyboard and icon composition of #2 is sparse, and it leans toward a pictorial interpretation for a mind forged in the 20th century. Competing interpretations like (1) corset design, (2) lunar lander, and (3) radio family tree, will undoubtedly fade as new associations emerge to explain this constellation of archaic symbols. Will the work's graphical file format pose problems after a century? Its "portable network graphic" encoding feels easy enough to carry today, but there is ample evidence that technical procedures can become impossibly heavy under future regimes of data management.
Is #2 a genealogy of emotions, of morals? Nietzsche wrote the opposites have very different origins. If you deconstruct the emoticons, even into a wifi-signal – the all-seing eye? – or see the evolved smileys as badly configured wifi-setups... The house of emotions, the yellow box – the neural network of ticks.
For decades the circulation of messages through email exchanges, and reader software, have offered a marketing niche as well as a means of one-to-one communication. But the medium of email has already suffered a long existence in 2021. Its developmentally-challenged technical perversity demands that it surrender to archaelogy in a century. Like a cat chasing its tail, the insubstantial byte bursts of entry #3 are caged by this obsolescence, even in 2021, and will only become more captive as its fever dreams of glorious publication awaken to dead links timing out. The marketing of intellectual product becomes the only surviving product. The remnants of this marketing record become little more than a confusing meta-data, a card catalog entry for a missing artifact in a lost library.
Some stuff has been with us since the beginning of the net, of www, ftp. #3 deals with the book, an extended networked book, what it says it says itself, steadily serials of grey imminence, of disappearance. Stands strong in its pale beyond, and remarkably consistent. Maybe it should continue, prepare it for robotic takeover beyond itself into the '21s? Already its post-image, post-artist...
A number inscribed, under the auspices of the Joint Photographic Experts Group, using a font that pays homage to a calligraphic tool, #4 says little that will excite any living creatures in 2121. A sum of years and centuries is a rather cold and unapologetic communique from the time of polar icecaps. It is more likely to anger interpreters than to elicit praise. But anger, nevertheless, according to Rage Against The Machine's rap rock philosophy of Freedom, is a gift.
Then #4 depicts the number "42" which isn't even a prime number, though 7 and 3 are of the fairy tales.
Will toadstools speak to the future? Announced as "an HD video," #5 may require extensive forensic efforts to decode from its patent-entangled video format, which likely will have decomposed greatly either from neglect or extinction. Meta-data assertions of mushroom-human partnership may or may not be entertaining to expert systems, informed by mycology and data science.
Are we afraid the machines won't recognize beauty as we do #5? It probably won't be an easy concept to grasp. The layers of human understanding, of non-human understanding, inanimate.
In a project that references past visions of the future, #6 weaves together imaginative literary, mythic, artistic, and academic threads. Despite its ambition to serve as a vessel, its hybrid electronic format already has sprung a DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN leak that may be a harbinger of future leaks, brought on by unresolvable claims. Still, if its themes can be perceived at all, they may provide some comfort that humans of past centuries were thinking about unborn perceptual agencies.
The files, the links, rotten truths. Does a message entail a messenger? Possibly zero man. Entry #6 zooms into a cave and the prophecies. It relies on truth I think, that there is a truth, that swipes left or right, future and past. Now I wonder what we mean by truth if removed from immediate surroundings, of predicate logic. Modal truths. We've had a hard time reconciling language and logic the last hundred years. We want to formalize human language and get into trouble. Not even identity seems a sure case. And language, messy in the first place, of unknown origin, inconsistent and vague. Will there be another language instead, a reconciliation from logic to language? And what do we mean by logic? How come we see the rational as universal? Implication also works on Mars. For a hammer everything is a nail?
In anticipation of a fleshless future, #7 provides a bleak journey through the stroboscopic and image-buffered suspension of charcuterie debris, soon to be lost to the mists of time.
Work #7 evokes post-life, i.e. food. Can we live without dead life? Mass-extinction vs. mass-existence. Diversity. Free-roaming extinction. If not a pyramid then a tree.
Whether seeking to edify or amuse future generations, #8 provides a technical description of a brief script in a computer language, used during the 1980s. A "man" page for a delightful experience in the personal computer age may differ markedly from norms and thresholds of engagement in 2121, but if silent algorithms repeating two pixelated characters can't please a prospective future intelligence, * can go /\/\/ *sel[v|f]*, it seems.
An endless process #8 leading to the castle Gormenghast. Open rooms, closed rooms. Running corridors. Photosynthesis was long a mysterious process. It's eight times the power consumption of human civilization. Titus starts planting trees to find his way.
Without its title, #9 would present a challenge to future philologists, demanding, as it does, either a Rosetta Stone or an appreciation for collections of whizzy signs. The title, however, suggests that the artist has few illusions about the image being exposed to an inhabited planet.
Hmm, #9, what seems obvious and natural to us – to speak, to write – is all a puzzle to outsiders. It's really strange you can read this. And the birth of language? Even the source code of webpages these days are intentionally obfuscated. There is compression, there is compassion. How do we imbue sentiments to letters skeletal.
A century from now, artificial intelligences will dispatch incarceration drones for any artist that pens a preamble that's laden with questions and abundant potential possibilities, even if it is adorned with fetching images of past perpetrators of machine learning. So it's a blessing in disguise that the artist of #10 will already have escaped this mortal coil.
Will AI reviewers ask better questions next year #10? Infested by media dictionary. What is the future of future? Trying too hard. AI NFT can help your economy. What will the wave-function think of us, the right to copy worlds??
There are some who hold out hope that the public stamp and the hash key of the blockchain of the performance asserted by #11 will be stored, retrieved, or discovered in some way by someone, or the NSA, but pragmatic sorts may one day concede that the un-documentation has been too effective for any recollection to occur.
Incantation of words #11 my, oh my. Something is new and something is not new. R-speak. Incantation incantation. Something was not. Followed by. Maybe who knows, and if so, then everything follows. Everything follows from nothing follows.
By leaving to an "artist of that time" (2121) to complete the work, the artist of #12 – a monochromatic "diagram" – has requested an INCOMPLETE grade from the review board. This is not an option, however, so the verdict must be that the completed work will be somewhere on the spectrum from fantastic to forgettable.
It's 2121 the musical in #12. There is either sound or silence, black or white. What if it turns out that it can be read upside-down? The left-hand universe. What do we mean by perspective, invented the year 1212 by a monk? Did the church ban the perspective? All roads lead to God, All lines point to the future, which disappears in the horizon. The scenes and plateaus, maybe an empty structure, to be filled in time, with time.
Lucky contestant #13 captures a collection of video loops that are felt, by a quintet of followers, to represent 2021. These audio-visual sensations are leveraged in a bid to generate neurotransmitter floods and hurricanes worthy of the next century's altered psycho-environmental conditions.
Do loops have? Time crystals? It wants to break out of itself, it modulates through loops. We are changed at each run. A story repeats but a slightly different one, a dream river. At least, spewing worlds, forking paths. So is #13 a meta-story, – different runs in time? There's the dimensional problem, and of endlessness, but if it loops?
In the dystopian future portrayed in #14 – a desolate world without tennis courts, rackets, or nets – mimes are forced out of retirement to appeal to Olympian god-bodies for the restoration of a once-great sport. In less than a half of a minute, the work's relentless spectacle demonstrates hand-eye coordination not seen since Vito Acconci played the game, while simultaneously offering hope for a purge of ersatz handball and pickleball pastimes, and an end, once and for all, to 'paddy cake ball.'
Another walking by in #14. Also a loop. If it bounces back, hundred years. We probably have the wrong idea about scale. Why is the future so far away for instance? The time-compression, claustrophobic and hyperbolic. Inclined to. You could imagine the push from uncertainty, that time is pressed forward, there just isn't planckspace enough for more than one. It would have to juggle particles, two hands and three balls is possible then, two locations and three particles. You know, that might be driving time or something. A looping motor there, the chair-game. 160 year old human, why not. 0 is cast as a loop, entities out casted. Why doesn't a number revolve around itself?
Will there be snow in 2121? If not, the text and imagery of #15 may serve as a bitter reminder not only of the wintery wonders of 2021, but also of the snow-blind optical unconscious that can be cured with the right glacial GIF file.
Chance like a snowflake in hell it's said. There, and in #15, you have a clash of entropies. Noise and heat. Structure related to cooling down, or you heat up and loose structure. Smoking out the Higgs particle, a little snowflake decaying almost immediately. Will spam improve in 2121, maybe we are spam? In a sense, with our slow-churning, heat-hungry, noisy brain, a very inefficient network the boys will say. Leave them to the arts to entertain us.
If it comes to pass, as some have suggested, that only machine "intelligences" will remain to examine the artifacts left behind here, there's no work in this collection that is more likely to baffle a soulless electronic interpreter than #16. Its improbable twists, and jarring history of loss and survival, are exactly the kinds of content that must remain mysterious to post-human processing.
Even if we get a better understanding of the configuration space we're still left with dementia and smoke screens in #16. What was the meaning of real-time? And capture, measurement, with a volumetric sensor processing? A corrupted wave, not coherent. Touching, which then makes you part of it, as it survives by splitting.
It may be, as the artist of #17 suggests, that the senses of the body are more important than knowledge or judgment. But if this is so, then no review would matter more than this corporeal report: a sense of inertia was the dominant sensation of the period spent looking at work #17. Thoughts moved in various ways, but the body was inactive.
Continues into the senses of the body, rather than knowledge or judgement, judgeledge. Safely preserve the present stuff, deep in the earth. Problems with the world seed vault, water is leaking in, as an objective irony. In #17, gray sleeping pills, looks like bombs. Then you are sent to the stones. Line 111. A meta-reference inscribed and lost. Hands that are hands, as long as they are. A sleeping capsule. If we can imagine, is there someone inside that capsule? Someone outside it? Drawings as if scratched on the side of a boat, or were they from the waves? As the day passes by, it seems as though nothing happened. Still acrobatic through the fires. Forming symbols with the limbs? How many bodies do we need to spell help? Inhabiting the river. Latching onto a semented block. Present in parentheses, epoché. Remove tenses, remove senses. Recollection of particular acrobatic momentum. The flame is like a tongue, does it speak? Through the wall? Of references?
Although its ideas and imagery feel futuristic in 2021, the rhetorical framing of #18 seem somewhat unrelated to an art exposition in the next century. Will problem-solving adaptations of machine learning remain relevant in a field that is advancing by leaps and bounds? Perhaps this work will feel edgy again in a post-apocalyptic future.
A bingo-card, crossword dictionary. #18 down. How to live in a screensaver. Zero order, self-organisation. Still wonder about where the body belongs - does it inhabit an identity, a clone, a house that looks like itself? Topology is mostly about holes - without holes no houses. Technology will at least provide us with a language. Evolutionary, generative. Now, where was I? Contributing to science, to epimetaphysics, after and above, so before and below.
[Note: artist decided after the review was complete to retract his work]
Combining la poésie with steganography, #19 weaves French, ancient Greek and Portable Network Graphic encoding into a manipulated "non-image" that is difficult to un-see. Should some future spectator penetrate its abstraction to discover the temporal poetic theme, the code-bent philosophical riddle could finally strike a target.
"Too early if before and too late on the other hand...." Spend quality time with the present. Two big wheels are churning. And still others appear as interference patterns, even when zooming in on the now. You keep zooming and something is uttered or executed, run off. If there's an inside and an outside how do we? An inner faculty called x. Call x. Y is received. The way out of it is a way in. Decohered to code. It's a beautiful image, grand and austere, interference and entanglement. If you look at the code it's both too early and too late.
The manifesto that is #20, which insists that it be tied to its promotional Uniform Resource Locator, could be a bridge drug for a future intellligence that is yearning for the self-consciously uninhibited Dadaism of 1921. But it will surely fail to deliver this fix because the domain name will be gone.
Hybrid of what? We all have a notion of the virtual, of something that only could have existed. This (#20) seems different from the impossible. A dead drop. Coordinates, even on a sphere. The circle began and it ended. What isn't can say something about what isn't. The AIs will conclude that much wisdom was hidden in poems, or hidden from existence.
The silent motion picture sequence of #21 provides 38 seconds of grayscale videography, 17 ducks, and one quotation. Were the ducks cold? The camera provides no conclusive evidence.
In #21, the camera has perspective, has a horizon. For the eye everything looks like a splinter. Frozen time. Seems the snow is coming from the distant future. Time will make ducks, even clusterducks, time will make trees come true. What about the subject? Can I have spam without the spam? And for the little photon time doesn't exist, from its view and interaction there's no such thing as a future.
#22 aggressively strains the carrying capacity of the term 'netart' by whipping it into river foam – a screenshot, a passing journal entry. Perhaps it's a needed sign of a crick run dry. But the portage from a headwater feels easier with some expectation or goal.
I know, you can always add 'I know', (#22). It's like the transcendental unity of apperception. Whatever is on your monitor is on your monitor, even if it's unplugged.
Already in 2021, if given a large enough training data set from continental theory blogging, the ideas of #23 could be generated artificially through the assistance of machine learning. For better or for worse, this statement appears to be a direct rhetorical product of a human mind, though it drifts toward the musings of a self-loathing robot.
Chain of events (#23). Necessarily. An unchained event? The now? Words expand into kennings. Pictograms producing offsprings. The Born rule, born rule, or Bell event. No, it seems to be unchained, but predictable, what inspired hope in us robots.
Jittery compositions drawn from time-lapse computer interface recordings divide this music video into bursts of familiar or erotic imagery. As a portrayal of life in 2021, the work, #24, suggests a highly distracted and impulsive visual experience, while at the same time calming the nerves with meditation grooves. But will your 'tube still be online?
Passing events, in review of death process. Moving in its poetical clip-click violence. Together it forms a see-through matrix, even of compassion.
The captioned photo compositions #25 asks us to assess the importance of legacy, without exactly saying that the artist (pictured in the work several times) is unconcerned with his own legacy.
And we pass into eternity with a question in #25. Also very moving, not really so different from the above. But his has already happened, after the goodbye. Light and shadow. "But in any case..." The most private is the most public, what concerns all. And vice versa, the most public concerns no one.
Call for participation. 100 years to go!
First annual project reviews.
Q. Does the show require a live and sentient audience, human or otherwise?
A. This has to be open. It's reasonable to envision a machinery audience, so artists were guided to consider creating art for machines, whether they like the scenario or not. Art for machines may be a thing as time goes by.
Q. Will the project's domain name be purchased for 100 years?
A. Someone will have to inherit it to maintain its public presence. Probably it will need to migrate many times. Recording the transitional dimension of it with notes will be important for maintaining the history of expo2121. Saving everything seems like the best policy since nobody knows what will be useful in 2121.
Q. Will it be as easy for machines to play dumb as humans to play intelligent?
A. One could suspect that our unconscious would be hard to simulate, though so far it seems the easiest part, which begs the question why we are stuck in dreaming dreams. How far away is AI dream-therapy for directing the show? And what is a dream without bugs?
Q. Where will the audience be? Where will the show take place? Intergalactic? Mars only? On low-orbit satellite? On earth? At sea? On dry land?
A. This and other things are speculative at present. Suggestions for maintaining the feasibility of the exhibition in 2121 can be proposed by future curators. Bury it in the desert? Throw it into a lava stream? Future collaborators will have to let circumstances guide them.
Q. What would be interesting for an audience in 2121? Would they rather look back to those who looked forward to them again? How does it involve the present? What is to be communicated - the human witness, the truth? Is it reasonable to assume that truth is the most durable, that which will have value beyond ourselves?
A. This requires not only objective scientific truth or facts, but human, experienced truth, simple and sincere, things we'd rather like to postpone and project into the future, or cover over from the past. What happens when this elastic breaks? We can build what the Germans used to call a Giftschrank, a poison cabinet that contains dangerous ideas and works that should still be preserved and available under certain circumstances.
From a curatorial standpoint, mounting an unfunded exhibition that won't take place for a century is not a sure thing. Would the artists who respond to an open call be ready to address this unusual format and adapt their themes accordingly? While there was some work contributed that didn't quite fit, there's more cohesiveness in this collection than might have been anticipated. In spite of the shortcomings of some individual works, as a whole the collection address topics and conundrums that are out of the ordinary in contemporary art.
The strangeness of the exhibition placed some pressure on the artists to deliver something new. That some of these responses feel awkward is unsurprising given the scenario, and the unknowability of the future. There's a hesitation – don't science fiction authors do this kind of long-range imaginative work better?
But after reviewing everything, what stands out is that the concept of the show resonated with the artists. Many were immediately ready to tackle the contingencies of a post-human future, machine intelligences, and the like.
The show will grow with works over the years, the point is that it goes live in 2121, so people won't see their work showed – they'd be long dead. So there's an element of the cryptographic and hidden. As in noemata.net/ueop works can be proved to exist even without being shown.
For art in general, there's a shade of the monkey in mindless creation, which may come from the need to do things – it's bodily necessary. You give some to rationalism and leave the rest to the body itself, it demands its purposeless actions, purposeless because it doesn't need purpose. And then it falls into the art domain by not having further instructions. But how's anybody to reduce x to y? That's already on the side of rationalism, of logic, but for which even identity x=x remains problematic. A relation to itself, it seems more like an unattainable infinite regress.
What do we do with the black box? The black box of quantum mechanics? It's been already hundred years, what could possibly be revealed about the wave-function in the next? The simplest solution seems to me, B., to be the reality of the wave-function, but which spews worlds and library-cards. At any point, any change, there's a hard fork. What is this hard fork, the frame of our phenomenology?
I kind of see myself as a worm eating earth, chewing my way, and my way is created as I chew. Now the boundaries, what I experience as my edges, they seem to be already in place, no matter what I choose to chew. It's a sort of foundness, I find myself choosing x or y. It bounces at the mirrors and only diffracts, falls to pieces, with its constituents or reconstructed body, the property of being found, of a being found, reserved and available under certain circumstances.
• Media formats will change. Metadata should be included, on how to experience the work, since media strategies may be obsolete in 2121.
• Domain names won't last 100 years. Some references for domain name research:
From where will the domain name be registered? International space station? NFT of the domain name? Long video on NFT:
There is not consensus about using blockchain due to its high carbon cost.