10,000 Year Art Show
Following the persistence of the Long Now Foundations ideologies, I posit that it could be possible to create a curated collection of art over 10 millennia. Through a generalist approach, works throughout the ages, and in future ages, would be secured and protected for future generations.
The Long Gallery
The Long Now Foundation peaks my interest, and someday I hope to become an active member. Until then, I reflect on it’s influences in my life, especially where far-range thinking is concerned. Their ideas of maintaining a consistency for humanity over the next 10,000 years is truly engaging and at the same time daunting.
Working as an artist and designer, as well as an educator, I lean heavily on design thinking. I also don’t think it is necessarily a trend. Design thinking is a persistent framework of varying flexibility that can stand the test of a very, very long time. Viewing my Adagio for the Long Now video, one discovers I’ve narrowed the focus of what I understand as long-term thinking.
These aspects are:
- Longevity – Going slow
- Maintainability – Use familiar materials
- Transparency – Rehearsal Motions
- Evolvability – Flexibility to change over time
- Scalability – Use simplistic interfaces
Long Now Clock Face
In my design practices, these are always useful as well. I think these fit well into the ongoing, iterative nature design thinking brings. Applying them to the curation, preparation, and installation of art old and new, I propose an art gallery to last 10,000 years.
Countering a Trend
There are a couple of traditional museums in my home town, as well as a few that are following a more modern trend (yes, there are trends in museums). The more modern institutions bill themselves as ‘non-collecting museums‘. This means they have shows and exhibitions that rotate in and out. They never keep any works in a permanent display or collection. While not on its surface problematic per se, issues emerge because truly unique or effective works may never be seen again or at worst completely dismantled. Ideally, the showing artist or collection does have or gains a permanent home eventually. Still the chance exists some great work becomes lost.
The Long Gallery counters this trend by earnestly evaluating such institution’s exhibitions along the criteria above to preserve a core message of the show or event.
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts share a courtyard, and a ‘non-collecting’ nature.
Tian Tan Buddha, Ariel View
The Long Gallery already has a substantial collection available to it already. From ancient artifacts (see feature image) and the works of the Great Masters to Asian traditions among others. It goes without saying this includes Michelangelo’s David as well as Tian Tan Buddha. From such works, and even long lasting and preserved paintings, evaluation strategies can be established that fit the Long Gallery aspects above.
Maintenance and Protection
Artists and Art historians are already knee deep in restoration processes, especially for pieces from the likes of Da Vinci. The goal is not to rewrite or reinvent the wheels of preservation and restoration. The Long Gallery works to codify and unify techniques across the entire world to better ensure consistent and near permanent display of its collected works. A polymer glue that keeps something together may be good for a century, but what about 5 or 10? Truth be told, I know human saliva makes the best cleaner ancient artifacts.
The Long Gallery wouldn’t necessarily work in preservation immediately. Instead, the Long Gallery funds and insures the continued pursuits of restoration and preservation on its selected works. Eventually, the Long Gallery takes over preservation practices, but only after perhaps the work lands in its true possession.
Works collected can range from standard definitions of Fine Art to modern installation and digital media formats. In all cases, techniques must be flexible enough to address the needs of whatever artwork selected. For example, deep questions come with allowing Nam June Paik’s Zen for TV (Smithsonian American Art Museum) to be on and remain powered for 10 millennia. The question of who pays for it is merely short-term. Would solar power work? What if a volcano spews ash into the air, blotting out the sun? How do the pieces parts stand over 100 years? 500? 1000? A possible issue to arise at this point reflects the Ship of Theseus paradox. How is that addressed or avoided? I don’t have these answers yet.
How much of the ship is still the ship if one replaces every mast and plank?
The Long Gallery will not decide what is ‘good’ artwork. The collection consists of effective and influential work first and foremost. The Gallery also need not establish its own aesthetic, but adapt its valuation strategies throughout the future to insure culturally significant works are protected.
The Long Gallery thinks extremely long term. Museums keep their treasured works, but the Long Gallery researches and maintains backup spaces and avenues in case institutions, or heaven forbid their host nations or societies, fail, collapse, or fall. The Long Gallery likens itself to the Monuments Men of WWII. A battalion of men (historians, art historians, etc.) sent in as Hitler retreated across Europe with the mission of saving and recovering any and all artwork the Nazis tried to keep for themselves, or worse destroy. There was even a movie. The Long Gallery’s mission exists to ensure a Nazi-like doesn’t obtain such works in the first place.
Only if the artwork were under eminent threat, would the Long Gallery actively pursue attainment, and only if it had registered the work as worthy of preservation.
Preservation and decision of valued pieces would not be judged on static criteria, but a criteria which allows for additional (perhaps nonexistent yet) works without sacrificing the value or integrity of works already selected. The selection process would have to take years as well, for viability and valuation reasons among others. The art world is one of trends, and a trend may surface for a year and peter out before anyone notices. If it still influenced society, its work bear considering. Whereas other pieces evaluated on their representation of an entire age or century.
I can see a process of maybe 10 items being considered over a decade and only 1 or 2 making into the Long Gallery’s ‘collection’.
Monuments Men with a find
I do not prentend to know or have already defined this criteria. I believe they need to align to the list above in some way. Additionally, with works selected, Long Gallery processes start finding, keeping, or creating a home for it capable of withstanding the collapse of civilization. This would require extensive research into environmental stability, contamination, and damage avoidance. Again this space may only be a back up. It may be far and away from any city should the unthinkable happen. However, locative issues like keeping track of where the work is incase civilization collapse is highly necessary. No good keeping a thing if you can’t find it back or forget where you put it.
In the end, the true Long Gallery’s display space would be the world. Works insured to remain in situ for as long as possible. Only if issues of direct, eminent, or egregious threat, damage, or destruction arose, the Long Gallery take action to move the collected piece into protective custody.
This idea may never be a thing, but it’s nice to think about I think.