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Waiting 100 years from now

Posted April. 13, 2023 08:01,   

Updated April. 13, 2023 08:01


“I would rather wait for the future audience 50 to 100 years from now,” said Marcel Duchamp, who was rejected at an art exhibition for displaying a urinal in 1917. Around one century later, young Scottish artist Katie Paterson showcased a piece that would be completed after 100 years. The piece was not even displayed in an art museum but in a public library.

The Deichman Library in Oslo, Norway is the role model of the 21st-century public library, equipped with theatre, auditorium, cafés, and game rooms. The location that has captured the most attention, however, is the Future Library on the top level of the building. It is a small room linked to a curved hallway, which was designed and planned by Paterson. The transparent drawers placed in the room of wooden interior are time capsules of unpublished manuscripts of writers.

The ‘Future Library’ is a public art project. One thousand trees were planted in forests on the outskirts of Oslo. After a century, those trees would be used to make paper for 100 books of 100 writers. Every year since 2014, a writer has been invited to join the project. Their manuscripts will be locked and published in 2114.

The first writer to be invited was Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood. In 2019, Korean novelist Han Kang became the first Asian to be invited. She attended the ceremony held in the forest of Oslo and handed over her unpublished novel “To loved ones.” Novelists and readers of today will not be able to live to see the published novel. Writers and volunteers around the world are willingly taking part in the project for the audience of the future generation.

Maybe in 100 years, paper books may no longer be used, forests burned down or the library no longer standing. Still, Paterson emphasizes the wait of 100 years. The artist invites us to a slowly moving but hopeful co-project in an age of speed and unlimited competition. She encourages us to think about 100 years later, no matter what happens now, whether it be art, books, policies, or institution.