What if the past could speak to you so you could make good on the future?
If I told you something about the past that directly connected to your here and now, and it’s likely you’d not experienced this before, would you like to see it yourself?
We pulled our chairs a little closer, nervously. Two strangers cleaved by electronic paraphernalia about to be plunged into a synthetic relationship. We made a last fleeting glance at the clock as the seconds atrophied and reciprocated reassuring looks at each other. 180891.
From behind the glass they watched with folded arms. Our entire lived experience was about to be tested. We knew the magnitude.
Here’s one way at looking at this.
Humanities experience has been an unconditional exercise in trading on the value of multiplicities, variants, and differences. From antiquity, for example, the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks exchanged ideas (reluctantly) many times. In modernity the Richard Hakluyts of this world would trade humanities’ differences into stories for profit, crude entertainment, and division. Take, never ask. Speak, but do not listen.
Over these contested times scores of drivers, catalysers and influencers before us knew this trade had taken place rent free. Others told our stories, not us. Like scores before us, we wanted rent, though I confess it was not rationalised through a historical protracted lens. Diversity, you could say carries a very specific utility now, as if it were new as Ikea’s entry into the furniture trade. It never was, never has been.
The most extreme example of the absurdity that diversity is a concept for the marginalised could be witnessed in the living experiment of self-harm that is Brexit. Imagined to its logical extreme, Brexiteers would be asked to abandon anything considered “other” — that is food, clothing, ideas, relationships, knowledge. The sea-locked island would be made to trade within only.
It’s said you can’t fully understand the future without a regard for the past. And that only the foolish, ignorant, and mendacious wilfully dispose of it. 180891. Some events are deemed more worthy than others; their past salts the present. What we were doing that day inside a glass cabin was quite salty.
We had a voice, 57 minutes in a sea of 780 minutes travelling as waves outside from our surroundings. Each time we spoke a piece of something important was logged. Images unseen, writ large.
Unis like Oxford opening up to the less privileged, actor Norman Beaton treading the boards at the Nationals. Toussaint Louverture’ s voice come alive through a curator. Royals in Ghana.
Then the savage beating of Rodney King, racial sexual predators, Police brutality, educational substandard schooling, Herman Ouesely (Now Lord Ouesely) tackling racism in his new role.
Influencers in Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Eartha Kitt, Prince, Spike Lee. Sporting figures and fights gone wrong. The entrepreneur with an idea to package coconut juice.
New authors paving a way for others. Politicians revealing what we now see clearly today. Riots, and celebrations. It goes on. Each striking piece of dialogue was a window of the past looking into to the future. Some portal! 180991 was gate.
Fifty seven minutes multiplied by 150 times we shared. Many hours logged would be uncaringly destroyed. 180991. But now, we can open that portal again. Rare voices from yesterday, proving how time easily collapses and that memories morph to forecasts.
How might we show you 180991? Imagine you’re walking through one giant landscape of sound and sound envelopes that trigger startling images. Would this be something worth seeing? Would this be something worth imagining or reworking back into collective memories?
Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is a journalist, artist, presenter, academic, writer and filmmaker. He combines tech, art, diversity and storytelling in his work. He’s an editorial advisor for the British Library’s “500 years of News Exhibition” showing until September 2022 at the British Library, and a writer for its exhibition book on Language, News and BLM . He’s a reviewer for Google’s DNI fund. He’s looking for creative partners for his AI-driven Past-Future Capsule 180991 alongside producer Jose.