Copresented with the New Museum and Creative Time Reports. For more of Chen's work on the topic of Y2K, see the online exhibition "Computers in Crisis" and the upcoming event Y2K+15, Friday, December 12 at the New Museum in New York.
Russian military officers collaborate with their American counterparts at a U.S. military facility in Colorado, Jan. 1, 2000. Screenshot of AP newsreel footage courtesy the artist.
On December 30, 1999, 20 Russian military officers began a unique mission in a strange land. For the next several weeks they would be stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, a U.S. military facility in Colorado, monitoring incoming data from satellites and radar systems around the world.
With their U.S. counterparts, and with interpreters, the Russian officers worked nonstop in eight-hour shifts in Building 1840—the ad hoc Center for Year 2000 Strategic Stability—to ensure the best possible flow of information between the United States and Russia while keeping a close eye on ballistic missile activity.
Decades of mistrust were set aside to reckon with the potential crisis of Y2K, a moment in time when computers might fail or behave unpredictably if they read the digits "00" as the year 1900, not 2000, on midnight of the new millennium.