Ascot J. Smith’s Forever People is an ongoing and evolving narrative account of a reproductive-aged couple living in the post-Great Collapse era of 2200. Its public and interactive incarnation took place over a thirty-eight week period between March and November of 2010, nine months in which the billboard donning an image of a distantly spaced man and woman, along with a phone number, appeared in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The public was asked to engage as listeners in a series of recorded messages that were sent back in time by the furturistic couple in order to warn those from the past of the distopic future they were creating. The message was up-dated every other week and ran in nineteen installations. It was funded by the Art in the Loop Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to commissioning public art for downtown Kansas City. The AILF has supported artists’ projects via its ARTwall billboard since 2006.
The post-Great Collapse world of “Female Mate” and “BF" (Biological Fecundator) is one of atomic dust and a burnt red sky- the result of a shattered ozone and tanked global economy. Our hero and heroine are of optimal genetic compatibility, and are strongly encouraged by government support programs (and regulations that complicate legal separation) to contribute to its repopulation mission. Bodily manipulations such as genetic upgrades, enhanced pheromone glands, cybernetic reflexes, and improved symmetry assist potential couples in finding the ideal mate and pro-creating. Forever People addresses this age-old connection between love and beauty. For centuries, poets have intertwined the two, and today’s scientists explore the chemical components of love and attraction.
Story telling is one of the oldest art forms, and in this case has been re-mediated through the use of interactive and public digital art. In the words of the late Willa Cather, “There are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” It is not the contemporary platform that makes Forever People and the works presented earlier this week enduring works of art, but rather their ability to connect to the oldest and most innate aspects of our humanity.
Ascot J. Smith received a National Arts Award for Forever People. He currently studies Interactive Media Design at the University of California School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles.