The Last Pictures

Trevor Paglen

Humanity’s longest lasting remnants are found among the stars. Over the last fifty years, hundreds of satellites have been launched into geosynchronous orbits, forming a ring of machines 36,000 kilometers from earth. Thousands of times further away than most other satellites, geostationary spacecraft remain locked as man-made moons in perpetual orbit long after their operational lifetimes. Geosynchronous spacecraft will be among civilization’s most enduring remnants, quietly circling earth until the earth is no more.

Trevor Paglen - The Last Pictures Project Video from Creative Time on Vimeo.

Slideshow »

Commissioned by public art organization Creative Time, The Last Pictures marks a distant satellite with a record from the historical moment from whence it came. Artist Trevor Paglen collaborated with materials scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a micro-etched disc with one hundred photographs, encased in a gold-plated shell, designed withstand the rigors of space and to last for billions of years. Inspired by years of conversations and interviews with scientists, artists, anthropologists, and philosophers, the images chosen for The Last Pictures tell an impressionistic story of uncertainty, paradox, and anxiety about the future.

In November 2012 the communications satellite EchoStar XVI reached geostationary orbit with The Last Pictures mounted to its anti-earth deck. The satellite will spend fifteen years broadcasting television and high-bandwidth internet signals before maneuvering into a “graveyard” orbit where it will become a ghost-ship, carrying The Last Pictures towards the depths of time.

For more about The Last Pictures, click here.

The Last Pictures Artifact
EchoStar XVI under construction with reflectors fully extended
The Baikonur team poses with EchoStar XVI just prior to final housing in the Proton Breeze M upper stage
EchoStar XVI launch in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, November 21st 2012
The Last Pictures onboard EchoStar XVI 36,000 km from Earth
Soyuz FG Rocket Launch, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Typhoon, Japan, early 20th century
Greek and Armenian orphan refugees experience the sea for the first time, Marathon, Greece
Old Operating Theatre, St. Thomas Church, Southwark, London
The Old Operating Theater in the garret of St. Thomas Church, London, was built in 1822 to pro- vide surgical facilities for the women's ward at St. Thomas Hospital. The high vaulted ceiling and skylight in the garret's roof ensured that the theater received ample light, making it easy for students to observe proceedings from the surrounding bleachers. Operating theaters of this sort, designed to optimize viewing, gained prominence in the nineteenth century.
Glimpses of America, American National Exhibition, Moscow World's Fair
Charles and Ray Eames's 1959 film, Glimpses of the U.S.A., was commissioned by the U.S. State Department for the National Exhibition in Moscow. This seven-screen installation flashed 2,200 images (both still and moving) inside a massive golden geodesic dome that served as a major throughway during the event. That summer, over two million people visited the display, which was the first cross-cultural exchange between the two nations since the Bolshevik Revolution. Glimpses of the U.S.A. popularized the idea of watching an array of television screens at the same time- a way of seeing that quickly spread to NASA mission control centers, air traffic control towers, factories, financial centers, and the multiple monitors found on many computer desktops.
Migrants seen by predator drone, U.S.-Mexico border
Cherry Blossoms
Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana, 1940
Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana, 2006
Narbona Panel, Canyon de Chelly, Navaho Nation
In 1805, Antonio de Narbona led an expedition of Spanish soldiers, accompanied by allied Native Americans, into Canyon de Chelly in the Navajo Nation to attack the Navajo tribe. When the Navajo learned of Narbona's impending arrival, they scaled the canyon's vertical cliffs, finding refuge in a cave where the Spanish could not reach them. Narbona's men fired upward; bullets ricocheting from the walls of the cave took the lives of all of those inside. The cave is now known as "Massacre Cave." Although the Spanish claimed to have taken the lives of ninety Navajo warriors in addition to twenty-five women and children, the Navajos recall the dead to have been mostly women, children, and the elderly, as the men were away hunting during the Spanish invasion. The massacre is depicted in this Navajo pictograph in Canyon de Chelly. The image shows the Spanish cavalry wearing flat-brimmed hats and long winter capes. Soldiers on horseback carry muskets, followed by a priest wrapped in elaborate robes.
Waterspout, Florida Keys
Dust storm, Stratford, Texad

Join Metanexus Today

Metanexus fosters a growing international network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature and culture. Membership is open to all. Join Now!