'Of course, we all know eternity cannot be reached', said almost as a disclaimer by agent Zai, a founding member of the award-winning art group Etoy. Dressed entirely in the black corporate suit and orange sneakers that compose the Etoy uniform, the agent offered an introductory lecture to Etoy and their project, Mission Eternity, on Thursday night at the Mediamatic Bank.
The project, he said, is a digital cult of the dead. As human beings leave behind a massive body of information in a variety of forms, Etoy takes a step into a place no other artist dares or can afford: the digital afterlife.
The way the project works is not simple. A human being, or Pilot, that wishes to have his or her remains floating around the info-sphere after their death must create an Arcanum Capsule that will contain their digital information, whether it is a password to access an e-mail account, pictures, playlists, sound recordings with no particular narration or even an electrocardiogram. This is not a journalistic piece that tells your life story or a photographic sequence as documentation. Rather, Mission Eternity collects at random all bits of information that once belonged to that human being.
All information in the capsules, he explained, will be stored in Angels: computers of users who wish to give a few megabytes of their computer space through a specific type of software. The capsule is then given a 16-character-code that can be used to trace it through a search engine like Google.
A sarcophagus has been created inside the industrial container that Etoy travels in. There, the mortal remains of those who do not wish to be buried in a definite site will be carried in the form of small concrete blocks, with the code engraved on the one side and a terminal to access the digital capsule on the other.
'We acknowledge', agent Zai said, 'that for this system to continue endlessly, it must be designed to be self-renewable and continue to exist even when technology changes dramatically. But this is secondary to the experience of Mission Eternity. It is not the eternal existence of a person in the global memory that fully constitutes this work of art'.
It is the act of reflection so close to death that may cause this project to appear daunting: a wish list in life turned digital material in death, the mental and emotional exercise of facing this new type of afterlife, or the possibility of a new ritual made around one's death.
The possibility of being a Pilot forever cruising in the global memory... An afterlife so open it overwhelms... Giving a new meaning to transcendence... A new knowledge of finitude... The remains of our digital self, now ready to roam the earth for years after we die.