ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLICITUDE
A Concept for Josette Jacobs and the NUON. (Version 1.0 -- 17 April 2001)
The challenge is to represent sustainability.
Not as an object, simplified and abstracted but as a process, a present and a past, a history of interaction and interpretation, time-based and cumulative, not a drama but an epic. For we firmly believe that an object can not properly represent sustainability. Sustainability -- as a concept -- is too vague and slippery to be universally objectified. The artwork which sets out to represent sustainability can only be arrived at by initiating a process -- for the notion of sustainability (to all three parties involved here: the artist, philosopher and practioner) is by definition simply not simple, not in theory, not in practice.
The challenge then is to find a way to communicate this fact: that sustainability is neither simple nor absolute -- that sustainability is necessarily conditional, that it reflects a relative and particular perspective, the relativity of a particular time and space, the relativity of our individual and collective ideologies -- what we see as our history. (In this regard it can be said that love is simpler than sustainability. For unlike sustainability, love -- and this is the beauty of it -- can be unconditional.)
The proposal is to represent one hundred years of solicitude, a century of concern, a century of involvement in and within the world. To create a poetic chronical of human relations. A measure of our relations with others and with the environment.
To this end we propose to construct a calendar for the next hundred years. A public space in which we can record individual lengths of time. Lengths of time which exist between the stops and starts of our lives. A space to measure the duration one's own life streams. The periods of stability interrupted by changes. The duration of one's education, one's jobs, one's projects. The length of love affairs and relationships. The periods of movement, of travel, the periods spent living in particular places. Whatever one chooses. Whatever endures. Whatever one finds important, noteworthy, remarkable.
And all of this in public. A public calendar of countless concerns. (How many? We believe that there should be a limit to the number of concerns that a particular person can have running at once. Constraining the number of durations or 'timers' would help the user to clarify and prioritize his or her concerns. But what about the system as a whole? Should the system have a limit? An upper limit would not only facilitate the system's initial planning but would give a sense of scope to the whole endeavour. One hundred thousand users maintaining 10 concerns or 'timers' each would add up to a million concerns. Let us say "up to a million concerns.")
What we are describing is a simple application which will persist for a long period of time. This means a willingness to set up such a space and a commitment to maintain it. The prospect is not trivial. From the outset we see the need for a set of financial, administrative, and legal constructions to cover the contingencies of a century of technological and social change. Even in this regard the artwork seems to invoke an epic process, a poetic gesture, a procedure which is itself a test and measure of sustainability.
Why should this thing work? What would make it compelling? The simple answer: we count. We all like to count. If we stop to think about it we realise that there is no time without change and there is no change without memory, without history. And history begins with each of us counting. Children do it. Count and compare. Measure change and difference, and as such, duration. A large part of being human is deciding which things are worth sustaining and which things are not. One Hundred Years of Solicitude would remind ourselves of this and in doing so -- over the course of time -- would generate a new landscape, a wistful panorama of personal sustainabilities and lapses.
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