In a unique co-publishing arrangement between University of California Press and New York’s Creative Time Books, artist and scholar Trevor Paglen has written and edited The Last Pictures (September, $27.95), a collection of 100 photographs that represent the most profound questions in politics, science, and art and which will be etched into a silicon disc and launched by satellite into permanent orbit around the earth.
The disc will be affixed to the exterior of the communications satellite EchoStar XVI and launched in late September from Kazakhstan. A concurrent event in Bryant Park in conjunction with the New York Public Library will celebrate the publication of The Last Pictures and the release of the disc into outer space. Paglen is the author of such books as I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed By Me (Melville House, 2010), Blank Spots on the Map (NAL, 2010), and Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes (Aperture, 2010); his art is in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.
Creative Time commissioned this public arts project on which Paglen spent four years interviewing specialists in anthropology, science, art, and philosophy. According to Creative Time’s press release The Last Pictures is both a message to the future and a poetic meditation on the legacy of our civilization. Paglen describes the photographs, which come from a variety of sources, as “cave paintings from the 21st century,” and hopes they will become one of the most enduring material remnants of contemporary civilization.
Nato Thompson, chief curator of Creative Time says, “In essence Cupernicus used the skills of representation to transform our ideas of where earth existed in the universe. In that spirit, Trevor Paglen’s project might just do the same for us, only by giving us a sense of the radically astonishing small space we hold in time.”
Paglen will tour extensively this fall for The Last Pictures, giving lectures in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC as well as major international cities.