Notions of perpetuity and longevity have long been crucial aspects for art and its makers. Precious art objects are understood to have longer lifespans than ourselves. The genre of portraiture, whether of antique sculptures or Tudor court painting, was built around the (somewhat egotistic) need and desire for patrons to be looked at and known long after their death. Even Northern Renaissance altar pieces (think Jan Van Eyck and Rogier van der Wyden), made for the Christian devotion of God, often included the painted portraits of the donors, to be remembered in the prayers of the Church goers. In her playing with timescale of an artwork, as in the case of ‘Future Library’, Paterson does something entirely different. Instead, the viewer (without anything to see just yet) is confronted by the brevity of his or her life, with an aim to encourage thoughts beyond the self, turning instead to the lifespan (and the survival) of the species, the earth, the solar system.
Read Rowland Manthorpe’s article for the Atlantic, The Value of Art No One Alive Will Ever Experience, for more thoughts on this subject: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/06/future-library-century-camera-art/395675/