On one hand, the internet never forgets that beer bong you did in college. On the other, the countless photos we take each week feel harder to protect and manage than ever. Without physical prints tucked away in a scrapbook, our photos end up on self-destructing apps like Snapchat, or bouncing around our social circles on Facebook, or stuck on the hard drive of a broken down computer. Where will these memories be in five, 10, or 50 years? It’s impossible to know.
A new art project called hash2hash–by the studio Pangenerator, and on display at the National Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw–articulates the newly ephemeral nature of recorded media perfectly. It’s a display that prompts you to take a selfie on your phone, which it renders in digital particles on its oversized screen. Then a moment later, your face collapses like a sand mandala in the wind, as dark dust leaks from the bottom of the display.
“Even with such compulsive overproduction of the images of ourselves, we might end with nothing [but] the blank memories of our past,” writes Pangenerator’s Krzysztof Golinski. “Even the data on ourselves will eventually fade away.”
Since the history of humankind, we’ve attempted to immortalize ourselves, from drawing on cave walls to our triumphs, to building tombs to memorize our loved ones that could take millennia to erode away. But as hash2hash reminds us, nothing is forever, especially when it starts as a quick selfie on your smartphone.