Conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has launched a new large-scale millennium camera project that aims to capture the long-term effects of climate change on Lake Tahoe, namely, of course, that its devices can survive a thousand years.
"It will not work in so many ways," he says. "I'm doing everything I can to not be a hubrist."
Lake Tahoe is the third site where Keats has installed a millennium camera. The first was installed in Tempe, Arizona, in collaboration with Arizona State University, and the second overlooks the Holyoke Mountain Range, located near Amherst College. While his previous projects involved a single camera, this time he installed four cameras each with a unique perspective of the lake.
"This is the most ambitious in terms of scale, time and more cameras to see more space under more perspectives," he says. "It's also [more ambitious] in terms of the level of community engagement. "
This time, Keats collaborated with Tahoe Public Art and Sierra Nevada College. Without their support, Keats says his ambitious project would simply not be possible.
The series aims to document the long-term effects of climate change on the planet and to encourage people to consider how they can modify their current behaviors to change the appearance of the final images. Keats thinks that when people engage in the project, they are also forced to confront the interactions between man and the industry with the natural world.
Keats says the project is somewhere between documentary photography and surveillance photography. Noting that when someone sees a camera, this often has an effect on his behavior.
"In this case, it's not the Walmart, the US government, or your neighbors who are spying on you," he says. "It is the future generations, not yet born, who will be deeply affected by the decisions we make collectively today."
Design a camera to last a millennium
Creating a camera that has the potential to last 1000 years has taken a little ingenuity. According to Keats, it was important to make the camera durable, with a minimum of moving parts. It will also help the people who will be at the other end of the project.
"I wanted images that look essentially like Polaroid, self-made, but of course you can not use Polaroid chemistry or any other normal chemistry," he says.
The millennial cameras are circular and entirely made of copper, with the exception of the pinhole opening pierced in a 24-carat gold coin. Keats has turned to Renaissance artists to create the surface inside the cameras that will capture any images. Keats prepared the inside of each of the cameras by rubbing them with a pumice stone to make the surface grainy and then covering it with garlic. Once the garlic dried, he painted on layers of a red pigment called Rose madder – which was also used by Renaissance artists. During a 1000 year exposure, the areas inside the camera exposed to the largest light will fade and become lighter.
If the cameras survive, the images they create will be displayed by Sierra Nevada College in 3018.
Keats notes that it is obvious that a number of things can go wrong between yesterday and today. Its exposure time can be shifted, someone might steal cameras, or natural disasters could all derail the millennial camera experience. "Plate tectonics could finally be overcome by using the earth as a tripod," he says.
But it seems that all the reasons why this might not work are part of the project's call for Keats.
"We are going through a pivotal period and we can always act in such a way as to have a profound influence on the future and to redress what is already happening," he explains. "I have no compelling evidence that we will endure or that the planet will be recognizable within 1,000 years. But all of this is caused by us. Therefore, any mechanism that I can create that will facilitate a sense of responsibility, I am ready to do. "
If Pop Photo is still in the process of publishing 3018, we will certainly inform you of the evolution of 1000 year exhibitions.