Monday, September 12, 2016

What Do Artists Do All Day? Katie Paterson is Creating The Future Library

Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Recently, artist Katie Paterson was highlighted on the BBC America show What Do Artists Do All Day? She was working on a sculpture created from wood from 10,000 trees—every species in the world including the oldest tree (over 4,000 years old) and the tallest tree in England. The samples are all polished rectangles of various sizes. In the art piece, the wood “grows” from ground level to a canopy high above so people will be able to walk into the sculpture like walking into a forest.

          While this was an interesting project, Paterson explained she had another wood project she was working on called The Future Library. To complete this project, she has planted a forest outside of Oslo. In 100 years, these trees are to be felled, pulped, and made into paper for books.

          In the meantime, 100 authors are being chosen now, one each year, to write books that will be printed on this paper. The first author is Margaret Atwood. The second is David Mitchell. Their books are only to be read as part of this project.

          Will paper books still be prevalent in 100 years? Will people know how to pulp wood and make paper then? I guess instructions will be included with the 100 manuscripts just in case. It’s difficult to believe that things we take for granted today may be faint memories a century from now.

          Of course, this happens all the time. I just read an earlier book (1989) written by a current author. In it, a woman couldn’t call for help from her bedroom because a receiver was off the hook in her kitchen. This was a minor shock to me as cell phones have made this problem inconsequential. How much more of our everyday lives will be inconsequential 100 years from now?

          I keep considering that someday our culture will be considered primitive. How is this possible with computers, tablets, wi-fi, etc.? We’ve sent a Rover to Mars! Except 100 years ago imagine how modern people felt with indoor plumbing, electricity, and now ordinary household appliances.

As a writer, I’m interested mostly in the authors writing books that won’t be read for up to 100 years. They are writing through time. Knowing the audience will have different sensibilities, will that change their work? Or will they just stay true to themselves and write it as just their next book to give the future audience a feel for life as it is now?

          A book takes a lot of time and effort to finish. Imagine, after all that work, getting no appreciation or feedback from your audience. Of course, if the project is completed as planned, the authors will have whole new audiences.

          I hope Katie Paterson’s Future Library is a success. I’d like to think book readers continue on long after most everything else is obsolete.

UPDATE: Reported on BBC the next day: Sony’s new digital books bringing characters to life by swiping the illustrations from the page on to any table top where they danced around were highlighted at a Tech Expo in Germany. It’s getting harder to believe books on paper will be available 10 years from now let alone 100.

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