4 Projects Designed to Be Seen in the Future
Most artists get to celebrate their achievements with some sort of premiere—a film screening, a book launch, a gallery opening. But a few bold writers, filmmakers, musicians, and other artists have elected to create work that they won’t be alive to see, designed to be sealed from public view for up to a hundred years. Here are four artistic works that were made to only be appreciated by future generations.
1. THE FUTURE LIBRARYIn 2014, artist Katie Paterson announced the Future Library, a 100-year-long endeavor that began with the planting of a forest in Norway and will end with the publication of 100 unpublished books on paper made from those 1000 trees. Each year, a different author will contribute an unpublished text (whether a story, novel, poems, or just a single line of text), that will be kept sealed in a room at the New Oslo Public Library until its publication in 2114. Only the titles of the texts will be revealed before that time. So far, the trust holds work by Margaret Atwood, Cloud Atlas writer David Mitchell, and Icelandic novelist Sjón. While you can’t read the books just yet, Paterson is selling 1000 certificates entitling the bearer to one copy of each of the texts once they’re published. The certificates currently cost $1000.
2. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAINThe world didn’t get to experience the iconic American writer’s autobiography until long after his death. Late in his life, Twain began dictating his life story to his official biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, and a stenographer, Josephine Hobby, but he specified that the work shouldn’t be published in its full form until after his death. “I am literally speaking from the grave, because I shall be dead when the book issues from the press,” he says in the book’s preface. “I could be as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter if I knew that what I was writing would be exposed to no eye until I was dead, and unaware, and indifferent.” He specified that editions be released in 25-year increments: “Many things that must be left out of the first will be proper for the second; many things that must be left out of both will be proper for the thirds; into the fourth—or at least the fifth—the whole autobiography can go, unexpurgated.” While the first edition of the work came out in 1924, UC Berkeley’s Mark Twain Project released the first installment of the complete, uncensored version in 2010, a century after his death. Twain may have had a motive beyond wanting to write an embarrassingly honest text. ”I would say, can you spell marketing plan?” historian Robert Hirst joked to NPR when the first uncensored volume came out in 2010. "If you say here's a little bit of the autobiography, but you can't see the whole thing for a hundred years, you're gonna sell a book. Mark Twain knew how to sell a book."
3. ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHAOLINIn 2014, the hip-hop titans of the Wu-Tang Clan announced that they had made the ultimate limited-edition album: a single record. The rappers specified that the 31 tracks of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, completed over the course of six years, were not to be released to the general public until 2103. Sealed inside a vault in Morocco prior to its sale, all digital traces of the album were erased—should something happen to that one record, the whole thing would be lost. The 88-year copyright bars its owner from releasing it commercially. In 2015, controversial pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli bought the record at an auction for $2 million, making it the most valuable single record ever. Contrary to the musicians’ stated intent, Shkreli leaked portions of the album in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election to celebrate the win of his preferred candidate, Donald Trump.
4. 100 YEARSIn 2015, Louis XIII Cognac hired director Robert Rodriguez and actor John Malkovich to make 100 Years, a film that won’t come out until November 18, 2115. Written by Malkovich, the whole point of the project is to highlight the craftsmanship of a bottle of Louis XIII’s cognac, each of which has been aged for a full century before arriving on shelves. The only thing Louis XIII said about the movie in its press release announcing the project was that in it, Malkovich and his costar, Shuya Chang, “journey through an unknown future achieved by innovative set design and extensive CGI effects.” The spirit company released three teaser videos, but the actual movie has been locked in a custom-made safe that will open automatically in 2115, stored until that date at Louis XIII’s headquarters in Cognac, France. The teasers star the same actors, but don’t include footage that’s in the full film, so not even those will give you a true idea of what’s on that film reel. Even the cast and crew of 100 Years won’t see the final cut, so you really will have to wait until 2115. One descendant of each of the people invited to the film’s preview in 2015 will get a ticket to the real premiere 100 years from now.
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