Christensen, Julia. Upgrade Available, edited by Karen Kelly and Barbara Schroeder. Brooklyn, NY: Dancing Foxes Press, 2020.
Dancing Foxes Press
This volume documents an ongoing investigation by artist Julia Christensen into how our relentless “upgrade culture”—the perceived notion that we need to constantly upgrade our electronics to remain relevant—fundamentally impacts our experience of time. In a personal narrative interspersed with related interdisciplinary artwork and conversations with experts from different fields (other artists, archivists, and academics), Christensen takes readers along a path from the international e-waste industry to institutional archives, eventually leading her to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). At JPL, Christensen began a dialogue with a group of exo-planetary scientists, engineers, and machine learning experts to develop long-lived space mission concepts that include an update of the Voyager spacecrafts’ 1977 “Golden Record,” to be embedded on a hypothetical future interstellar spacecraft. In taking on this challenge, Christensen—a female pioneer redefining the intersection of art, technology, and outer space—must envision an artwork for an evolving, autonomously upgrading spaceship headed toward a potentially habitable planet in another star system. Her years-long investigation into upgrade culture leads to design concepts that potentially transcend technological obsolescence altogether.