Untitled Idea

This is an adapted transcript of a talk I gave yesterday.

This talk is about an untitled idea about a project I never started.

Living is dying

I like the apparent contradiction in this sentence. It reminds me of how ephemeral our existence is. By the time we take our first breadth we can immediately conclude that sooner or later we are destined to die. Our existence, whether due to our actions or not, is limited.

Our life is inherently ephemeral but our knowledge does not have to be. We pass our knowledge through generations by teaching history to our descendants. We told them about the atrocities of the Great Wars, we told them about that time we went to the Moon, we told them about our ingenuity and breakthrough innovations. We did all this because a solid knowledge of the past, allows us to understand the root causes of our issues and as a result shape the future.[1][2][3]

Our life depends on plants – whether it is for food, fuel or clothing. Yet our existence is compromising the existence of plants. Construction, food production, climate change, wars are a few examples of phenomena that are having a significant impact on plants. In order to honour our responsibility with the future generations we started storing seeds of plants. There are seed banks all over the world, some examples being:

  • The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership which plans to store seeds for 25% of known flora by 2020 in a nuclear proof building in Sussex. [4]
  • Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Bank acts as an insurance of last resort for the seeds stored in over 1700 seed banks worldwide.[5][6]

We do all these things and more because we have a responsibility towards the future generations. But I often wonder, what is worth protecting for posterity?

I love public art.

I like how it transforms cities into an open canvas. I like how it makes art accessible to a larger audience than museums do. I like how it makes art commonplace instead of just something for the elite. I like to see how it can be used to transform our current pains and aspirations into something beautiful.

Yet it is one of the most ephemeral art form – a wall might be destroyed, painted over or just fall victim to the effects of our atmosphere. So, I wonder how much of it we will be able to pass to the following generations. Will the Monalisas of street art last for 100 years? I hope they do.

The project I have in mind would have as its sole responsibility to ensure that would happen. It would be a digital repository of all the public art ever created. You would be able to learn all about an artist and his/her work. You would be able to see the current and past pieces of a city.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a movie about a building being built in Finland which is going to store spent nuclear fuel[7]. Due to the longevity of nuclear fuel, the building has to last for 100,000 years – it is the first building we are building to last that long (to put in perspective, Mankind exists for 50,000 years and the pyramids for 5,000 years). There is a ton effort into making this building last that long, which makes me wonder, should we spend a comparable effort preserving other things that we care about?

[1] http://msc.gutenberg.edu/2001/02/the-importance-of-history/

[2] https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/archives/why-study-history-(1998)

[3] – http://www.nchs.ucla.edu/history-standards/preface/significance-of-history-for-the-educated-citizen


[5] https://www.croptrust.org/what-we-do/svalbard-global-seed-vault/

[6] https://northeurart.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/perpetual-repercussion-by-dyveke-sanne/

[7] http://www.intoeternitythemovie.com/