9.18.2012

Cave Painting from the 21st Century: Trevor Paglen on The Last Pictures


Tomorrow in New York, Trevor Paglen and Creative Time kick off The Last Pictures, which Paglen dubs a "cave painting from the 21st century." He'll be attaching a disk micro-etched with 100 images from Earth onto a communications satellite to be launched next month. The satellite will go up some 24,000 miles and, after 15 years, go into a "graveyard orbit," where--thanks to a lack of gravitational friction--it'll remain, intact, for 5 billion years or so, awaiting discovery and decoding by some future civilization. For the Lowercase P: Artists & Politics series at the Walker, I interviewed Paglen about the project. Here he is on the cave painting metaphor:
If I had to distill the whole project into one image, it would be the famous “shaft” painting at Lascaux, which shows a stick-figure man with an erection, a bison, and a rhinoceros. It’s a bizarre image. Of the thousands of images in Lascaux, it’s the only one that has a human figure in it, and it seems to depict a scene of great violence. Historians have all kinds of theories about what the painting means, but when I look at it I see a painting of a humanoid who has just inaugurated the greatest mass extinction that the world has ever seen and is sexually excited by that. I sometimes think that the artist who painted that scene meant it as a confession to the future. In a similar way, I imagine The Last Pictures as a cave painting for the distant future. On one hand, the conceit of The Last Pictures is that it tells a story about what happened to the humans. But at the same time, I think images detached from their historical and cultural contexts are literally meaningless.
Some of the images he'll be sending up:

1 comment:

Dr. kold_kadavr_flatliner, MD said...
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