“Vita brevis, ars longa.” Hippocrates’ famous aphorism — “Life is short; art endures” — is often taken as a reminder of art’s ability to outlive those who create it. We are contained and constricted by time, but our sculptures, our novels, our films even, have the ability to remain. If you are John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez, though, you don’t look at Hippocrates’ line as a promise, but as a premise.
Their new film, aptly titled 100 Years, has just been stowed away in a special time-locked safe that won’t open again until November 18, 2115. It may very well be the first film created with full knowledge that it won’t see the light of day during the lifetime of any of those involved. The entire enterprise has been funded by Louis XIII Cognac, a brand of liquor that is aged over 100 years. In the words of Global Executive Director Ludovic du Plessis, the brand “sought to create a proactive piece of art that explores the dynamic relationship of the past, present and future.”
The 100 Years project forces us to ask questions about who and what decides what art is and how and if it will endure. In fact, the rhetoric of the project revolves around a false equivalence: “The movie was inspired,” we are told, “by the legacy of craftsmanship and time it takes to create Louis XIII Cognac, which is one of the most luxurious spirits in the world.” And yet, the logical fallacy is self-evident here; the film will not indeed take 100 years to be create; it will only take 100 years to be screened.
Compare this to another high-profile time capsule project that began last year: the Future Library Project where “a forest has been planted in Norway, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in 100 years' time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114.” Margaret Atwood, known for her dystopian novels, was the first author to contribute to the project.
Novelist David Mitchell, selected this year to submit a work to the Library, put it in words that echo Hippocrates: “Contributing and belonging to a narrative arc longer than your own lifespan is good for your soul.”
The Norwegian project understands itself as constantly changing and is in itself an ongoing curating process, one that will only come to fruition by the collaborative work ahead of those living in the future. In contrast, Malkovich’s film will be screened for a select few who will have inherited their tickets (1,000 “influential individuals” were given out invitations for the 2115 premiere). Perhaps it is in that way the 100 Years project best encapsulates our present: it is, if nothing else, a perfectly executed marketing strategy for a luxury brand — what passes now, it seems, for art for the ages.
[PHOTO: John Sciulli/Getty Images]
Manuel is an NYC-based writer interested in all things media and pop culture. He's a regular contributor to The Film Experience and Remezcla. His work has been featured in Mic News, Film Comment, and Model View Culture. He also has a PhD but hates bragging about it. www.mbetancourt.com