Still image from the documentary Transcendent Man (2009), featuring Ray Kurzweil.
Bills, letters, clothes, books, records, photos, DNA samples—these are some of Fredric Kurzweil's personal effects, collected and stored by his son Ray, who will one day use this material to bring his father (who died when Ray was 22) back to life. Cataloged in a temperature-controlled room in Kurzweil's own home, this material betrays a personal basis for the noted futurist's most famous fixation: triumph over death.
Kurzweil's home could be an off-site extension of A Museum of Immortality, which opened at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut last Wednesday. Organized by Anton Vidokle and based on a curatorial concept by Boris Groys, the exhibition takes its inspiration from Kurzweil's now obscure predecessor in the field, Russian cosmist and theologian, Nikolai Fedorov. In the mid-1800s, Fedorov beseeched humanity to join together in "The Common Task": resurrecting every human being who has ever walked the Earth. Both a devout Christian and proto-transhumanist, Fedorov believed that controlling the forces of nature and exploring the far reaches of space carried out God's will. For Federov (as for Kurzweil) death is an obstacle which technology must overcome.
Thursday, 2:30 am, four drinks deep, at the old Night Gallery Space, some schmoe is coming around the crowd with a lockbox and deck of cards, telling us to hand over our cell phones. "None of this can be recorded, you guys." I get a pat down, give up nothing, phone tucked safely in my coat. Most get snagged with a grunt or a whine. The process is endless. My traveling companion is on his third cigarette. (If there is one redeeming quality of this VIP-themed performance series / curatorial-themed party called Top 40 that has smeared across my last few weeks, it's that you can smoke inside.)
We're recovering or repressing. We just watched Vishwam Velandy leave a series of messages for women he claimed to have slept with, informing them, between "uhhs.." and chuckles, that he had seen a doctor and they'd better too, because he'd just been diagnosed with HIV. Then, after endless minutes, I'm getting squashed with elbows and shoulders, alternately averting my eyes and craning for a view of the floor in front of the DJ booth, where, with frat party fanfare, Eugene Kotlyarenko's girlfriend is inserting a zucchini into his ass, and a curious, deeply unpleasant combination of boredom and offense is flowering in my insides like Giardia.
The following image-essay accompanies a performance given by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal at This is the ENDD, a forum on the e-cigarette held on February 22. Video of Rosenthal's presentation can be found here.