If you have something pressing to say to the Pittsburghers of 2120, here's your chance. Now through Sun., June 16, artist Toby Fraley will be accepting messages for Pittsburgh Time Capsule, a video booth stationed at Gateway Center Artist Market. The video messages can take on any subject and be as serious or silly as the submitter chooses, as long as it's under 60 seconds. Once they're all collected, one capsule will be stored at the Mayor's Office and the other at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, slated to open in the summer of 2120.
Thoughtful public art projects that toy with futurism and technology are nothing new for Fraley. He may be best known in Pittsburgh for Fraley's Robot Repair, an abandoned storefront at the airport packed with Jetsons-inspired tools and half completed projects.
Pittsburgh City Paper spoke with Fraley about his thinking behind the project and what it says about an uncertain future.
How did you decide to restrict the videos to one minute?
It felt like a good round number. I timed it a couple times for myself and I just felt like this was about it. Two [minutes] gets long. [With 60 seconds], you need to get it off your chest and you have time to get it done.
Are you going to submit something?
I’m probably going to do the first and last entries.
Do you know what you’ll say?
I’ve got a vague idea. There’s an option when you’re standing in line, there’s a little iPad for you to fill out, first and last name, and if you want it to be sealed for a century, or if you allow the video for a promotional reel after the event. I’m going to be one of the people that has it sealed forever. It’s going to be something personal that’s just between me and the time capsule.
How did you first come to this idea?
I’m really interested in history. I always thought that it’d be kind of interesting to have something that we opened up today — words of wisdom from a generation before us. Just to hear what was important to them at the time. I’m sure that whatever we’re telling people that we think is important now, it will have no meaning a hundred years from now.
A hundred years from now, they might hear about the Steelers and they’re like, “Football? How did it mean so much to these people?” Trying to relate to the past, some things will hold true and some things won't, and I think it’ll be interesting to hear how that pans out in a century.
How do people submit?
I built a booth. It’s about the size of a minivan. You walk into it and it’s a very simple operation … It’s sort of like a vintage photo booth. You push a button and some lights will turn on to light the area and there's a little stool there and you sit there. A countdown clock will tell you how many seconds you have left.
What would you be interested in if you opened a time capsule from 1919?
I’d like to hear what they think is next after you’re off this planet. What are their feelings? Because I’m sure that changes through millennia, like what you think the afterlife is.
What guidance do you give?
I’m purposely leaving this as open-ended as possible because I want what’s important to the average everyday person. In a hundred years, it’s going to be easy to find the quotes from sports stars of today and politicians of today, but we aren’t going to know what was important to the guy who worked at the pretzel store at the mall. I just want everyone’s little take on what’s meaningful to them right now.
This is a little morbid. Have you thought about what the world might look like a hundred years from now, and if there will be anyone to even open it?
I think that about that daily. I don’t think it’s dark at all. I think it’s incredibly important and I am actually a little worried about what the world is going to be like a hundred years from now. I’m hoping I get some messages left in the machine specifically about that. And I hope it doesn’t pan out the way I fear.
Pittsburgh Time Capsule. Gateway Center Artist Market, Downtown. 12-9 p.m. every day through Sun., June 16.