A new work by photographer and experimental geographer Trevor Paglen will launch into outer space this fall. The Last Pictures, which will be sent into Earth’s atmosphere affixed to communications satellite EchoStar XVI, is an archival silicon disk encased in a gold-plated shell onto which Paglen has micro-etched 100 photographs he believes represent human history.
Creative Time is funding the endeavor, which Paglen developed during a residency at MIT. The work is inspired by the idea that when human civilization ends, satellites will exist as ruins for a new era. The micro-etchings, which Paglen refers to as “cave paintings from the 21st-century,” are created by transferring a photographic design onto a metal surface and exposing it to ultraviolet light. The satellite with hover at an altitude of 24,000 miles, and thus experience no atmospheric drag, allowing it to stay in earth’s orbit for 4.5 billion years, at which time it is projected that the sun will expand into a red giant and consume the earth.
The satellite will be launched into the great unknown from Kazakhstan in September, but viewers won’t need a telescope to see it. A gold-plated disk, similar to the silicon disk in space, will be on display at MoMA in the fall, and Creative Time is planning artist talks, a website and a book to accompany the piece. To celebrate the satellite’s launch, Creative Time and the New York Public Library are also planning an event in Bryant Park with performances and conversations with scientists and philosophers.