The Last Pictures Will Continue To Slowly Circle Earth Until The Earth Itself Is No More

The Last Pictures

The Last Pictures

Earthrise above is one of one hundred images nano-etched on an ultra-archival disc in perpetual Earth orbit.

Creative Time will launches The Last Pictures (Hardcover $18.45, Kindle Edition $20.16), 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, designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Carleton College.

Human civilizations’ longest lasting artifacts are not the great Pyramids of Giza, nor the cave paintings at Lascaux, but the communications satellites that circle our planet. In a stationary orbit above the equator, the satellites that broadcast our TV signals, route our phone calls, and process our credit card transactions experience no atmospheric drag. Their inert hulls will continue to drift around Earth until the Sun expands into a red giant and engulfs them about 4.5 billion years from now.

The Last Pictures is rooted in the premise that these communications satellites will ultimately become the cultural and material ruins of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, far outlasting anything else humans have created. Inspired in part by ancient cave paintings, nuclear waste warning signs, and Carl Sagan’s Golden Records of the 1970s, artist/geographer Trevor Paglen has developed a collection of one hundred images that will be etched onto an ultra-archival, golden silicon disc.

The selection of 100 images, which are the centerpiece of the book, was influenced by four years of interviews with leading scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, and artists about the contradictions that characterize contemporary civilizations. Consequently, The Last Pictures engages some of the most profound questions of the human experience, provoking discourse about communication, deep time, and the economic, environmental, and social uncertainties that define our historical moment. ❚

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© All copyright remains with artist/geographer Trevor Paglen.