The Last Pictures
An event featuring Werner Herzog, Trevor Paglen, and Tracy K. Smith
Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 7–8:30pm
Bryant Park, Upper Terrace
6th Avenue and 41st Street
New York City, 10018
*In case of inclement weather, the event will take place in
Proshansky Auditorium at CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Avenue
This fall, Creative Time will launch The Last Pictures, an archival disc created by artist Trevor Paglen, into outer space, where it will orbit the earth for billions of years affixed to the exterior of the communications satellite EchoStar XVI. To create the artifact, Paglen micro-etched one hundred photographs selected to represent modern human history onto a silicon disc encased in a gold-plated shell. The images contained in the artifact constitute what the artist describes as “cave paintings from the 21st-century,” as they will become one of the longest-lasting material remnants of contemporary civilization. Following its launch from Kazakhstan in late 2012, the artifact will remain in the Earth’s geosynchronous orbit in virtual perpetuity.
Audiences on Earth will be able to experience the project through a book co-published by Creative Time Books and University of California Press, as well as through a series of public events and programs held in New York City, across the country, and around the world. On Wednesday, September 19, the public is invited to experience a special evening under the stars in New York City’s Bryant Park, co-presented by LIVE from the NYPL. This free event will feature Tracy K. Smith reading from her Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poetry “Life on Mars: Poems,” an introduction to The Last Pictures by Creative Time Chief Curator Nato Thompson, a preview of the project’s 100 images with Trevor Paglen, and a conversation between Paglen and filmmaker Werner Herzog about cultural artifacts, space exploration, and the legacy of human civilization, moderated by Paul Holdengraber of LIVE from the NYPL. Telescopes will also be provided for viewing the night sky by the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.
Paglen developed The Last Pictures through years of research and consultation with leading philosophers, scientists, engineers, artists, and historians and through a residency sponsored by the Visiting Artists Program at MIT. The project originates from the idea that the communications satellites in Earth’s orbit will ultimately become the cultural and material ruins of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, far outlasting anything else humans have created. These geostationary satellites, located above the equator at an altitude of 24,000 miles, experience no atmospheric drag, and will remain in orbit until our sun expands into a red giant and engulfs the earth about 4.5 billion years from now. The Last Pictures 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. It is both a message to the future and a poetic meditation on the legacy of our civilization.
“For almost forty years, Creative Time has been taking artists and publics to unexpected, exciting, thought-provoking places around New York City, the nation, and the world and now, into outer space,” says Anne Pasternak, Creative Time’s President and Artistic Director. “As much as The Last Pictures is an opportunity for Creative Time to further its programs beyond our Earth, it is also an opportunity for artist Trevor Paglen to push his artistic practice into new realms. With The Last Pictures, Trevor has created an artwork that will likely be a part of our skyscape for billions of years—even longer than multi-celled organisms have been on Earth. It is a timescale so vast, it is difficult for us to comprehend.”
The Last Pictures is made possible through the visionary support of Lawrence B. Benenson, Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins, EchoStar Corporation, Epner Technology, Inc., and the National Endowment for the Arts.
About Creative Time
Since 1974, Creative Time has presented the most innovative art in the public realm. The New York- based nonprofit has worked with over 2,000 artists to produce more than 335 groundbreaking public art projects that have ignited the public’s imagination, explored ideas that shape society, and engaged millions of people around the globe.
For more information, visit www.creativetime.org.