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Black and White Photo Time Capsule
A collection of 100 black and white photos that will be attached to a TV satellite and launched into orbit around the Earth could last longer than the Earth itself.
A photo project by Trevor Paglen, photo artist in residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and funded by the non-profit Creative Time organization has some very lofty aspirations. Some 100 black and white photos by Paglen are set to be put into a time capsule that will orbit a lofty 22,230 miles above the Earth after they have been attached to the EchoStar XVI television satellite later this year. The photo works depicting features on Earth will be micro-etched in silicon in bitmap format onto a gold-plated disc bolted to the satellite where they are hoped to last indefinitely in outer space without breaking down. By placing the photos on a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, it is thought the disc might remain in orbit until long after the earth is destroyed.
The disc that could become humanity's final monument is the culmination of the Last Pictures Project by Trevor Paglen. The unique “time capsule” was designed by engineers at MIT to be specifically installed on the EchoStar XVI satellite that is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Soviet Union in the next few months. The EchoStar will join the hundreds of satellites and dead spacecraft currently in orbit that will remain as evidence of humanity’s existence. The satellite is expected to die off after 15 years of service and then continue to orbit indefinitely above our planet. If it somehow does not get destroyed by all the other junk in orbit, scientists say it could last an unbelievable five billion years or until our sun enters its final red giant phase and the EchoStar is consumed by the heat along with the Earth and everything else around it.
Paglen spent several years choosing the final 100 photos in conjunction with many scientists, historians, philosophers, and other artists. He and his collaborators chose a surprising selection of images in black and white that depict mostly natural phenomena like dust storms, typhoons, and melted glaciers, but very few images of humans were included in order to reflect the fact that human existence was but a blink in the lifetime of the universe. The Creative Time group added the cheerful message that "The Last Pictures project imagines a future Earth where there is no evidence of human civilization beyond the derelict spacecraft we have left behind in our planet's orbit."
That none of the photos seem to relate to each other and none are captioned has caused some to say the only problem with the project is the photos because the selection makes it hard for even contemporary viewers today to sort out what the message behind the collection might be. However, that is apparently not a problem for Paglen who has called his own project “absurd” and “nonsense.” Other observers have said that despite all the pretensions and space technology, the collection is just a work of conceptual art. Conceptual art that could potentially last for billions of years that is.
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