Commonwealth & Council presents PRESENTS, an exhibition of inadvertent time capsules that are perennial gifts forward and multiplications of our present(s). The six artists co-opt systems of excavation and burial to forge contemporaneity with time.
Karen Lofgren’s Sun Rise Site Line (108° South-Southeast) is a sculpture made in the form of the construction line used to guide the direction of a mounded cairn, a large number of small stones, marking the burial site of Trajectory Object c. 2000-2050 in Pioneertown, California. Throughout prehistory and through medieval times, megaliths and monuments were predominantly aligned to the angle of the rising sun on the day that work began. On January 11, 2014, at 1PM, Lofgren buried and positioned Trajectory Object c. 2000-2050 to associate with archaeo-astronomical constellations visible in both the distant past and far future as we rotate on earth's axis. It is shrouded and accompanied by the earthly goods needed to guide it through the ages. Placing contemporary cultural objects in a broader history of the world, it uses extensive research and our moving stars as a guide. Giving life to the unseen object and process, an editioned artist publication encapsulates the work for consideration in the present. Pre-opening book launch will be held from 4—6PM on Saturday, May 3rd.
In September of 2008, Anna Mayer buried 12 "crumpled" slabs of clay inscribed with both found and composed text in various canyons in and around Malibu, CA. Almost six years later and still waiting to be fired by wildfire, these time capsules remain dormant, yet offer pure potentiality. Presently, Mayer’s Fireful of Fear project lives primarily in its re-telling and imagining. Each year on its anniversary, Mayer sends out a commemorative postcard to the same group of 12 people, an email update to a much larger group, and maintains a blog that candidly posts her reveries regarding the promise of futurity that FOF holds in the present. For PRESENTS, Mayer exhibits 12 watercolors that are a phantasmagoric aftermath of wildfire—rendering each of the unfired clay pieces as if with protean ash glaze. By taking this liberty, Mayer brings to the fore the corporeality of these earthen time capsules.
Christian Mayer invites visitors to share his focus on a living time capsule in Los Angeles. At 170 years, this California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) is the oldest living organism in Los Angeles that can be evidenced with photographs. During its life cycle, this palm tree bore witness to the city’s transformation from a small pueblo to megalopolis while being relocated several times: from a quiet desert oasis to San Pedro Street in the 1850s; further to the front of the historic Arcade train station in 1888 where it symbolized California to the newly arrived; and finally in 1914 to its current bucolic setting in Exposition Park, its service commemorated with a plaque. The last sentence on this plaque, stating that "it and its sentimental associations will be permanently preserved" and the impossibility of this promise being fulfilled (the maximum lifespan of this palm ends in 30 years) led to Mayer's idea of burying a time capsule next to the palm on September 5, 2014, the 100th anniversary of the palm at its current location. Containing material, both scientific and fictitious, that preserves the palm's story safely into the future until unearthed in September 2114, this time capsule evokes thoughts around the construction of history, the passage of time, permanent preservation of culture and nature, and the unavoidable failure that is inherent in any attempt to do so.
Gala Porras-Kim proposes to find artifacts at the bottom of the Papaloapan River where fishermen discovered La Mojarra Stella, one of four substantial archaeological discoveries, containing the undeciphered Isthmian script. Deploying systematic procedures of archaeology and museology as an autodidact, Porras-Kim agitates the restless surfaces of stones at the bottom of the river between the location where the artifacts were found in Veracruz and their source in Oaxaca, and approaches them as potential artifacts eroded over time. Underwater video footage and found rocks become vehicles to produce new meaning in the present, as time and erosion reclaim these objects and make them impossible to be accessed again. Only in theory or in the imagination, these newfound artifacts extend beyond the parameters of expert appraisal, as interventions by humans define a natural stone from an artifact. During the renovation of the ancient Egyptian themed Luxor in Las Vegas, a series of murals were commissioned to adorn the interior of the casino and be exhibited throughout the property. The murals were unknowingly painted with a memory of the 1923 Cecil B. Demille film The Ten Commandments, and interweave historical pastiche with film memories and American ideology. They were displayed between 1998 and 2007 until Egypt copyrighted many of their ancient historical temples and statuary. Egypt called for MGM (who at the time owned the Luxor) to give them a share of profits for each iteration that the ancient motifs were exhibited in. MGM and the Luxor declined this mandate and instead chose to cut the murals out of the walls and gut the interior of the majority of ancient Egypt themed designs. These murals along with various artifacts and architectural details were then accessioned into the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and incorporated into a permanent exhibit about ancient Egypt. In their new context, the murals became history paintings and were shown with other fabricated artifacts from the Luxor and some legitimate artifacts from Egypt.
For PRESENTS, Daniel Small selects the deaccessed murals from Las Vegas Natural History Museum that depict the temples of Abu Simbel partially buried and have men in medieval garb in and around the sand dunes—some of them sketching the temples’ likeness perhaps in devising a plan for their future excavation or removal.
Over the course of 2014, Daniel Tucker is developing a documentary project entitled Future Perfect - Time Capsules in Reagan County dealing with the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the phenomenon of time capsule burials in southern California. Speculating on the contents of many of these time capsules, Future Perfect considers what Reagan's science-fiction imagination of the future was and how that vision constituted parts of the political terrain of the present. Presented in Tucker's first exhibition in LA, The Preface to Future Perfect is a photography installation presenting materials from his ongoing research while in residence at Grand Central Art Center (Santa Ana, CA).