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Anachronicity

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Deep underground on the Finnish island of Olkiluoto, a corporation has been excavating the world’s largest nuclear waste repository. Once filled, the site will need to be sealed and left intact for 100,000 years to avoid contamination of the earth’s surface. The defences for this massive sarcophagus will need to survive and resist geological or meteorological interruptions, but also human curiosity or treasure hunting. This poses not only an engineering problem but a semiological one: how can a warning sign be written or depicted that will still be decodable for an almost unimaginably remote future? The problem is dramatized when one considers that it only took a generation for the human race to lose the ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphs, and for hieroglyphs to then remain a mystery for 1500 years until a fluke archaeological discovery of the code. Such a warning sign to stop the opening of radioactive tombs also suffers the likely indecipherability of those messages naively engraved on the plaques attached to Discovery spacecraft sent out of the solar system into deep space and deep time, with images of a naked Edenic couple etched into the metal, along with a recording of Bach’s third ‘Brandenburg Concerto’ (which is probably unplayable on even our own technology now). This article will address both the anomaly of these manufactured ‘future fossils’ and also the eclipse of meaning in pictograms or glyphs from a deep past.
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Keywords: anachronic image; code; fossil; nuclear waste; semiology; undead

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: 01 June 2016

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  • Ubiquity is an international peer reviewed journal for creative and transdisciplinary practitioners interested in technologies, practices and behaviours that have the potential to radically transform human perspectives on the world. "Ubiquity", the ability to be everywhere at the same time, a potential historically attributed to the occult is now a common feature of the average mobile phone. The title refers explicitly to the advent of ubiquitous computing that has been hastened through the consumption of networked digital devices. The journal anticipates the consequences for design and research in a culture where everyone and everything is connected, and will offer a context for visual artists, designers, scientists and writers to consider how Ubiquity is transforming our relationship with the world.
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