Smithsonian acquires artwork based on Stewart Brand epigram

Alicia Eggert next to her artwork, This Present Moment (02019-20). Via The University of North Texas.

The Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery has acquired a light sculpture based on quote from Long Now co-founder Stewart Brand’s book on long-term thinking, The Clock of the Long Now (01999).

The epigram comes from the book’s final chapter, and has its origins in an exchange between Brand and his friend, the Beat poet Gary Snyder:

While I was completing this book, the poet Gary Snyder sent me an epigram that had come to him:

This present moment

That lives on to become

Long ago.

I felt it was The Clock of the Long Now that responded to him:

This present moment

Used to be

The unimaginable future.

Stewart Brand, The Clock of the Long Now (01999), 163-4.

In 02019, Alicia Eggert, an artist and professor of sculpture at The University of North Texas, created a light sculpture based on Brand’s epigram titled This Present Moment. The artwork cycles through two neon statements: “This present moment used to be the unimaginable future” and “This present moment used to be the future.”

The Present Moment (02019-20).

“My goal is always to say something that feels really meaningful but is always relevant — something that will be true today and 1,000 years from now,” Eggert said in a statement. “These statements from Brand are always true, but they mean different things at different times, and their meanings can vary from person to person.”

This is Eggert’s first acquisition. The artwork will debut at the museum as part of the Renwick Gallery’s 50th anniversary exhibition in 02022.

“Having my work in a museum was unimaginable to me for a long time,” Eggert said. “The idea that it’s going to be cared for and be viewed by people for generations to come is such an incredible thing.”

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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