While planning for the 10,000 year clock, the challenge of durable art takes on new meaning.
Photographer Edward Burtynsky made a formal proposal for a permanent art gallery in the chamber that encloses the 10,000-year Clock in its Nevada mountain. The gallery would consist of art in materials as durable as the alloy steel and jade of the Clock itself, and it would be curated slowly over the centuries to reflect changing interests in the rolling present and the accumulating past.
Photographs in particular should be in the 10,000-year Gallery, Burtynsky said, “because they tell us more than any previous medium. When we think of our own past, we tend to think in terms of family photos.”But photographic prints, especially color prints, degrade badly over time. Burtynsky went on a quest for a technical solution. He thought that automobile paint, which holds up to harsh sunlight, might work if it could be run through an inkjet printer, but that didn’t work out. Then he came across a process first discovered in 1855, called “carbon transfer print.” It uses magenta, cyan, and yellow inks made of ground stone—the magenta stone can only be found in one mine in Germany—and the black ink is carbon.