A Picture That's Worth a Hundred Years
May 9, 2014 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Jonathon Keats is asking people to hide cameras around Berlin. Each of his specially designed "photographic time capsules" will slowly record an image over the next hundred years. If all goes according to plan, "future viewers of the images will be able to see urban development and decay over the span of a century captured in single frames." The exhibition is scheduled for May 16th, 2114.
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

An art exhibit in a hundred years?! We can't even get people to save the environment for our decedents a hundred years from now! What makes him think people will actually do this and not screw it up by moving the camera?
posted by StarmanDXE at 9:07 AM on May 9, 2014

Even a 5% success rate would make an interesting exhibit. Even a 1% success rate would make a very interesting photograph.

Replying on a r-selection strategy hoping that some survive rather than all the resources into one or two well documented and guarded examples.
posted by edgeways at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mr. Keats does not plan to attend the 2114 event, as he'll be dead.

People keep telling me that artists think big.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2014

I have a conflict on that day. Samarra.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:36 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was skeptical that any of these cameras would be able to stay in place long enough to capture anything other that a big gray blur, but then I remembered that it doesn't matter to the artist if the results are any good-- they'll be long gone. Now I'm kind of liking this.

Of course if it was me I would have pre-exposed spooky images on each plate so in 2114 they'd open all the cameras and OH MY GOODNESS A SPOOKY GHHHOOOOOSSSTT the 21st century must have been haaauuunnted
posted by phooky at 9:36 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Somewhat ironic that an artist with the same name as a poet most famous for celebrating the capture of a single, eternally unchanging moment would seek to do precisely the opposite.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

most famous for celebrating the capture of a single, eternally unchanging moment

Well, interpretations of that poem vary, but I think most critics these days would agree that there's no simple "celebration" of the urn going on there. Keats calls it a "Cold pastoral"; there is, for him, something inhuman in its unchanging nature (the fact that it is a "still unravished bride of quietness" speaks to it being outside of our normal human cycles of desire, reproduction, mortality; we can read this as "superhuman" if we like, but the "super" is also "in-").
posted by yoink at 9:59 AM on May 9, 2014

I've experimented with combining long exposures into multiple-exposure photographs using a static perspective at different times. This is basically the same idea on a much longer scale. Personally I've found the idea tough to wrangle into an interesting conception, but I'd be fascinated to see how these could look.
posted by cribcage at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2014

Here are some of the longest photographs ever taken. Some show architectural changes over very long periods of time.
posted by fake at 10:10 AM on May 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

Anyone want to go on a scavenger hunt and photobomb each and every camera?

I suppose the requirement would be you have to be able to stand still for a long time.
posted by comradechu at 10:55 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I suspect the discovery of an ancient guitar, 2 years before the exhibition, will generate far more interest.
posted by davebush at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2014

For what it's worth, Jon Keats is primarily a conceptual artist whose previous work has included:

-trying to get Berkeley, CA to pass the Law of Identity (A=A) as a statute
-copyrighting his own mind as a work of art created by thought
-choreographing a ballet for honeybees
-developing an ouija-board based voting machine

so I expect that he considers the debate (and possibly the destruction, confiscation, or misplacement of the cameras) to be part of the artwork and that actually producing viewable images would be, at most, a bonus.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

most famous for celebrating the capture of a single, eternally unchanging moment

Well, interpretations of that poem vary, but I think most critics these days would agree that there's no simple "celebration" of the urn going on there. ...

Nor did I say there was; in fact I was careful to leave the urn out of it altogether: "celebrating the capture of a single, eternally unchanging moment," which I think is central to the poem:
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
You're the one who's apparently fixated on the urn.
posted by jamjam at 11:46 AM on May 9, 2014

Nor did I say there was; in fact I was careful to leave the urn out of it altogether: "celebrating the capture of a single, eternally unchanging moment," which I think is central to the poem:

But that's the "moment" that is captured on the urn. You know, the "brede of marble men and maidens" with which the urn is "overwrought." (And we should note, by the way, that "marble men and maidens" also underscores the inhuman and "cold" nature of the scene the urn presents.) And, in the end, he sums up this "happy, happy" scene as a "Cold pastoral" which "doth tease us out of thought." In other words, he seriously complicates the apparent praise for that "moment" with which the ode begins. And, really, no one can safely appeal to "beauty is truth, truth beauty" as a clincher to any kind of argument about the urn. If we just begin with the textual problems alone (there are versions with quotation marks just around the "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," versions with no quotation marks and versions punctuated as you have it above--all of which with some claim to authority) the instability of whether this is the message the urn (and its decorations) is giving us--and in reference to which we might choose to be skeptical--or whether it is the message the ode is giving is an absolutely central crux in all critical interpretation of the poem.
posted by yoink at 11:55 AM on May 9, 2014

I should add, by the way, that Keats is clearly fascinated by and deeply attracted to the notion of a moment suspended out of time, but it's also important to understand that he's troubled by that very attraction. One thinks of "Ode to a Nightingale" where he travels "on the viewless wings of poesy" to be with the Nightingale in a kind of magical moment of creative fiat ("Already with thee!"). But as soon as he finds himself there signs of trouble and discontent emerge: "I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, / Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs." Even giving himself over to the Nightingale's song won't do:
                Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                        In such an ecstasy!
         Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
                   To thy high requiem become a sod. 
And, in the end, he has to call into question the power even of art to defeat time (just as he does in "Ode on a Grecian Urn"):
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
         As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf. 
We find a similar sense of the mingled danger and attraction of being "suspended" out of the ordinary time of mortality in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" and, in a different vein, "The Eve of St. Agnes" (the lover's dreamworld is seductive, but we must flee out into the storm at the end).
posted by yoink at 12:27 PM on May 9, 2014

@yoink @jamjam I think your continued debate about the other Keats (the reason I came to this thread as well) , and the existence (or non-) of a "single, unchanging moment", and it's preservation (or not) is great. Especially in the context of what this modern Keats actually does, in general, and is doing in this particular piece.

WRT the original piece, i think it'll be neat to see what these capture. Visually, as well as what they actually signify (whatever the fuck that turns out to be).
posted by DGStieber at 12:31 PM on May 9, 2014

I wanted to figure out what the ISO film speed for this is so I found this pinhole camera calculator and after playing with the values some I got:

Focal Length: 50mm
Pinhole Diameter: 0.1mm
Film Size:60mm

ISO/Film Speed: .00000031

For a sunny day exposure time of 875056 Hours (100 years is 876,000 hours)

I'm very curious as to what kind of film and emulsion is being used and how it is made. The precision involved in making film just barely sensitive enough to have an exposure time that long must be incredible.
posted by metaphorever at 5:43 PM on May 9, 2014

I think it isn't film at all, just regular black dyed cardboard. It will fade more in the over exposed areas, less in the under exposed, making an image.
posted by bystander at 12:36 AM on May 11, 2014

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