Chart for the coming Times(2012) / Pile of posters / Hand-painted book / Hd video 13’52” – Still Frames
Photograph of the clay cylinder that is buried on site of the filmings
Photograph of the wall used to make cast for the clay cillinder
“Summer, year 5473. A gentle breeze blows on the white beaches of the island once known as Britain. The sand undulating dune after dune is so pale as to look like snow. There are no rocks, no trees, no distinctive shapes to be reflected in the burning mirror of the sea. The island’s scorching heat has long since forced any surviving human beings to retreat to climate-controlled compounds away from the shore. Yet if one of them were to come out and walk down the beach path, they might spot the outer edge of an earthenware cylinder that the wind has started to uncover. They might even be intrigued enough to free it completely from the chalky dust and attempt to decipher the signs imprinted in its fired clay: a triangle, drawings, and letters redolent of the linguistic system used in these parts in the early 21st century. “JAMES”, “ICE”, “OE.”
Sitting on the sand, the cylinder on their lap, they would likely struggle to make sense of this unusual object unearthed by the obstinate forces of erosion. It would require an extraordinary amount of dedicated investigation to shed light on its origin — but if successful, it would take the accidental archaeologist from the 6th millennium to a southern corner of the ancient megalopolis of London, circa 2012. Around that time, the city was a base for Mariana Caló and Francisco Queimadela; the artist duo were pursuing their ongoing research project on time and temporalities, focusing then on time capsules, the Achaemenid emperor Cyrus the Great, and the chalk cliffs of Seven Sisters, East Sussex — cliffs which eventually crumbled into flat shores.
The investigation would have to be exceptionally thorough to reveal that the ceramic cylinder was the nexus of Caló and Queimadela’s multilayered piece Chart for the Coming Times, and that it had been buried by three people during a ceremonial action that culminated with the placement of decorative pebbles, now dispersed. The only remaining trace of this action is a video from the period, stored in an underground archive. The images also show the cliffs in all their bygone glory, close-ups of hands searching for fossils according to the archaic scientific methods of the time, and microfossils nestled within the chalk’s geological structure. The archive record mentions a heavy book of abstract paintings, although its whereabouts are marked as “unknown.” It also states that the artists had plans to retrieve the cylinder fifty years after it was interred, but there is no indication whether this was ever attempted.
Time capsules can be divided into two categories: the unintentional — archaeological artifacts and natural specimens — and the intentional, of the kind first popularized by Thornwell Jacobs’s Crypt of Civilization, which was sealed in 1940 at Oglethorpe University, Georgia. This famous example contained, among other things, microfilm versions of the great works of literature, dental floss, a beer, a typewriter, and a Donald Duck plastic toy. A fascism-free snapshot of the free world in the mid-20th century: intentional time capsules are particularly revealing of their initiators. More than just gathering the things considered worth preserving for the decades, centuries, or millennia to come, they show how the “senders” see themselves and, crucially, how they want to be perceived by their descendents. A time capsule is an attempt to communicate beyond death and carve a place for oneself in the future — almost to conjure up a form of immortality.
Caló and Queimadela’s clay cylinder is a cast of the graffiti they found on the chalk cliffs of Seven Sisters, which, owing to the stone’s excessively friable nature, recede between 30 and 40 cm every year. For their own time capsule, Caló and Queimadela have chosen to focus on human beings in all their mundanity with a palimpsest of love, pain, and anger. No matter how trivial, carving a word in stone (like sending a time capsule) signifies a will to leave a mark — to contribute to history even if it is only recorded on street walls and beach rocks. By preserving graffiti threatened with disappearance, Caló and Queimadela fulfill the existential craving for acknowledgement of Seven Sisters’ anonymous scribes.
The capsule’s overall shape echoes the Cyrus Cylinder, an archaeological artifact covered with Akkadian cuneiform script dating from the 6th century BC. Some scholars construe it as an early declaration of human rights, others as the recording of the Jewish people’s repatriation from Babylon. But they seem to agree that similar pieces are likely to have existed, and that they were sent to all the corners of Cyrus the Great’s vast empire to spread his voice of authority. Throughout the centuries, the Cyrus Cylinder has thus operated both as communication between the emperor and his subjects, and, when excavated by British archaeologists in the late 19th century, as a testimony from the past. Caló and Queimadela’s cylinder equally engages with both the present and the future. Chart for the Coming Times includes a transcription on the found graffiti on 2000 distributable printouts, assuring a lateral diffusion of the cylinder’s content complementing its dispatch into the forthcoming unknown.”
Timely Notes on Mariana Caló and Francisco Queimadela – Coline Milliard
Two paintings from the handpainted book displayed in the installation room
Exhibition view at Rowing Projects (2012), London
Images from a piece of chalk that was collected during the filmings, produced with a scanning electron microscope – Courtesy of Dr.Jeremy Young and James Davy from the UCL