Something to last the ages?

Stories; some of the oldest surviving ‘things’ are stories, even those independent of a formal institution like the church to perpetuate them fully; Gilgamesh, Beowulf, homers Iliad and odyssey, etc, etc.

Can I do something with books/print? How about newspapers? Those are quickly all being replaced by digital counterparts, and much of the news and publishing industry debate their fluctuating futures.

It’s be interesting to create a system to make these adapt/last through the digital age while preserving what makes it fundamentally different from having the same content on a screen.

Interviewed a friend working at Pitt News;

What are some things I would want to be preserved no matter what?

  • music
  • the bible
  • painting
  • storytelling
  • dancing
  • reading
  • our history/catalog of knowledge
  • universal truths
  • books/language

Why are all of the above so vague? Because there actually isn’t anything so very very specific, that I see is worth preserving, or is able to be preserved to keep the same qualities that we value and make it unique or would need to be preserved.

I’ll address why I feel some things don’t need to preserved. It’s not to say I don’t think it’s worth saving, rather it has such fundamental, and inherent value universally across cultures that so long as there are people and human nature, a specific designed intervention would not be needed. Case A would be music. Even under oppressed conditions not worth celebrating music and rhythm survived (take a look at the history of African American Step dance — first originating from the slaves being marched to the coast in heavy chains. They walked in synced rhythm with each other to minimize the painful clanks of iron shackles and to keep their spirits up and communication flowing when they were otherwise forbidden from singing). Music, and the want for rhythm is as natural to people as a heart beat, which is why I don’t think it needs a designed intervention to preserve music practice unless I specifically want to preserve music as it is practiced in today’s day and age specifically (which I don’t see anything more worthy about this style or time period as opposed to others). I suppose in a distant future where people don’t have natural beating hearts or are birthed from other humans I might be concerned…

I feel like people value old things, sure for the rarity, for the history, for the possible things we could learn for it, but ultimately for a reason underlying everything is that we value time. It’s why anything handmade is (aside from issues with craft and function) is infinitely more valuable because of it’s representation of time, and of life being put into it. Why chinese cut paper craft can sell up to $10,000. The material isn’t expensive itself, but the labor and time and life put into it is something I think subconsciously resonates with everyone. There is respect for it because we value our time. Because time is limited. When we see something incredibly old, a, say a painting that meticulously archived, there’s a respect for the time put in to preserve it, respect for it’s rarity (for everything else from that time period lost to time), an awe for something beyond hope of scope for understanding.

Will explain context for this:

Idea: reuse old newpaper stands as print industry goes digital as pop up crowd sourced (ala geo-caching) art galleries.

It’d be fun to preserve something like paper; a common, everyday throw-away object (average paper life in the office is roughly 5 minutes). This has the inherent value people see in handcrafted things because it takes so much time and limited life to create, but with laser cutting and the market on the cusp of mass produced generative ‘unique’ objects., idk how special this will still be culturally…but if I can save this long enough that it will become a rarity and then a novelty, then by simple virtue of it’s age should keep it safely preserved….and then to get it museum worthy, the subject matter would then just need to be culturally relevant and as a poignant reflection of the time period it came from.
Something incredibly beautiful found unexpectedly in a place it doesn’t belong is like a random act of kindness from a stranger—it makes the act so much more poignant. There is something incredibly powerful about that. Can I simulate that by giving someone the chance for discovery? Let the intervention build up a experience for whoever recieves it to have emotional durability without me having to build up a social system around it.
If I can get it going on a big enough scale, I’m fairly certain I can count on pop culture and crowd sourcing to keep the momentum. Why do I believe in crowd sourcing? Lol, think about the bridges with locks. So stupid, but it’s a touristy thing. I can count on the commerical side of hotels and beaches/vacationa resorts to possible promote this novelty.
Can I put enough bottles with pieces of a paper crafted story into key, specific ocean points, that in exactly 100, or 1,000 years they can be expected to surface at major beaches? Can I include more paper and an exacto knife into the bottle so whoever discovers it can add to it? I wanted to do a pop up art gallery that is crowd sourced to stay generative and cultrally relevant, but something like a bottle series and ocean currents has a nicer….well, lack of ties to specific locations and times. Eventually, the stories cut into the paper will be like a family quilt that tells the history of its people the cloths are made up of. It will have enough history and meaning to people across generations that there is an immediate respect for it.

IN SUMMARY: preservation of papercut stories through crowdsourcing, initial advertising for momentum (ask popular artists, social media out sneak peeks, hype it up, famous people of the time contributing, etc, etc). Creating emotional durability through the simple pleasure of surprise and discovery. Rely on human curiosity to keep the practice up, rely on beaches to still be enjoyable places (insert research on horizontal lines and calming). If people take the paper cutting and bottle out of circulation, rely on people at least keeping the paper art. (The art of paper-cutting (jiǎnzhǐ 剪纸) in China may date back to the second century C.E. The cut-outs are often used to decorate doors and windows. People used to glue the papercuts to the exterior of windows, so the light from the inside would shine through the negative space of the cutout. People could at least display it and whatever social media out there then will pick it up. Wax seals on added to the paper cut art will ensure the date gets kept)

ANOTHER TANGENT:

Cameron Tonkinwise once lectured us about the sublime, and why there’s something incredibly powerful about people’s relationship with the unknown. Time is very much something beyond our understanding and control. (space to a degree too, could I just do something very work intensive on a massive scale? Like the nazcar lines? terraform and make the earth do what I otherwise need to?)

So when a museum chooses something ‘worth’ preserving, they save the a piece of lost time. An artifact that was a powerful shaper, and poignant representative of the culture and slice of time that gave birth to it. Something that was culturally relevant in a history and background that still has repercussions in how today’s culture is shaped. Something that is both representative and having something worth learning from.

Other brainstorms for means of preservation:

  • glass (sea glass) glass takes so long to decompose
  • dormant volcano (put a heat-conditional object stored within a volcanoe to be discovered once the volcano blows? Could I make a giant gag gift/prank package that would blow up like a surprise? The novelty, and lack of knowledge people have of how and why, say, the volcanoe blew up pink and glittery, would create enough of a hubbub…not really preserving anything social or ritualistic around an artifact, so I think I’m missing the point but this sounds fun too) Could I blow up many volcanoes at once and then it’ll be strange enough of a ‘natural’ phenomenon that I could just rely on the history books to remember this? Or live on through fun facts?
  • deep ocean (we have yet to even explore much; we know the surface of Mars better than our ocean depths. A bunker with a vacuum space would be safe from earthquake, natural disaster and war)
  • make it so big it can’t be destroyed. Or too much effort to willfully destroy it. Or big enough that it’s a novelty. The Nazca lines have no decipherable religious or cultural significance either currently or back then. They remain a mystery and are preserved without a ritual practice around it. Make it big enough and beautiful enough that whatever country takes over will still keep it as a national park. (I can’t imagine someone bombing mount everest or the Grand Canyon (key point: these are not religious points for the general public))

Other random ideas for now:

ex: dysprosium — rare crucially needed irreplaceable metals. Has a lot of value because of it’s scarcity. It’s scarcity won’t change regardless of social and cultural practices. (dysprosium in particular has unique magnetic powers that are also key in burgeoning green technologies like electric vehicles and wind turbines, in addition to in your smartphone. It’s got no viable substitute)

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Marisa Lu’s story.