Saturday, 14 May 2016

Art Imitating Life: 100 Years and Long Time

Our lives are governed by time, an infallible force that dictates over our lives, but it is not very often that we devote thought to deep time, although we are now attempting to understand it more and more. Since the development of paleontology in 1822, we have been trying to reconcile ourselves with the fact that we exist for a fantastically short amount of time. Homo sapians have existed for only 200,000 years on a planet that is 4.54 billion years old, itself a minor player in a universe that is estimated at 13.772 billion years old.

The concept of long time is becoming more prevalent in our current culture though. The anthropocene, a proposed new epoch in Earth's history, created due to man's indelible mark on this planet, has forced people to question what our legacy will be in hundreds of thousands, even millions of years into the future. Figure's like the time scales I mentioned above, may sound awesome but the are often overwhelming, and its very hard to some times appreciate the scale of those numbers. The Long Now Foundation, based in San Francisco, are attempting to direct thinking towards the long term, with projects designed to highlight responsibility in today's "accelerated culture". One project is the 10,000 Year Clock, described by its inventor Danny Hills as "a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years." It's currently being built inside a mountain in Texas.

One recent foray into long time is an advertisement for Louis XIII Cognac. Written by John Malkovich and directed by Robert Rodriguez, 100 Years was made to highlight the production process of Remy Martin's most exclusive product, which regularly retails at over £2000 a bottle, and is aged between 40 and 100 years. The film itself sets to ask what Earth will be like in 100 years, proposing three different futures that include "ultra urbanisation", "nature" and "retro future". The teaser trailers all have the same premise: Malkovich is late to the opening of the Louis XIII safe, and is greeted by a lady (Shuya Chang), where they both stomp off to the safe. After it opens, and the crystal bottle is exposed, a stern looking man (Marko Zaror) comes into the door way, and asks what they are doing there. In the "retro future" version, this man is particularly Terminator-esque. And of course, the twist is that the film won't be released until 2115.

While I do hold a bit of disdain for something that is essentially an advert, I am intrigued by the idea of this film, not so much in what it thinks Earth will look like in a 100 years, but in the idea that this film will only of achieved its purpose after 100 years. 100 Years is a time capsule, made to highlight just how much the world can change in such an expanse of time. If we look at what has been regarded as the first sci-fi film, George Melies Le Voyage dans la Lune, the passage of time is plain for us to see. At 114 years old, this early film is positively quaint in its anticipation of space travel, and although played for amusement, is full to the brim with late Victorian motifs and ideals. Although 100 Years tries to guess the future, how much of our present will it give away?

Then, of course, there is the question of how they will watch this film. While the teaser trailer shows a film reel, that has to be used purely for its symbolic value, and I imagine that somewhere there is a USB stick with the film on it. In Remy Martin's insistence that this film be preserved for future advertisement, they are dictating what is deemed important to future film viewers. Through advances in technology, many films have been abandoned to their formats, like the many lost films of the silent era (more lost than those which have survived) whose film reels spontaneously combusted or were simply thrown away, to the VHS era, where many films are at risk of being forgotten by the public if they aren't updated to contemporary formats like Blu-Ray and digital downloads. Remy Martin may have the money to preserve their films, but how many films nowadays that we watch will people still be watching in 100 years?

Although 100 Years is billed as "The movie you'll never see", the truth is a 100 years is not a long time. The time to this film's release will pass quickly, and the likely hood is that the future will not be as "futuristic" as what it depicts. Prehistoric art can be dated to over 500,000 years, ranging from petroglyphs to Venus figurines, and so this film can only make us question what the next 500,000 years of art will be like. Of course, art only last as long as the people who have an interest in it.

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