State of Mormon Art: 2120
In a July 30, 2020 Sunstone panel on “The Struggles & Successes of Mormon Arts,” the moderator--Camilla Stark--asked what Mormon Arts will look like in 25 years and in 100 years.
Here is a report from 2120:
We are only 23 years into our journey. It seems to us meet that we report on the arts project.
Two vault openings have occurred. Both occurred at the designated ten-year interval. The refreshing of our electronic cultural artifacts appears to have worked. We mourn the works that go back into the other vaults. We welcome the new works we are given access to. The database the vaults are stored in has not been tampered with. We only access those works we have access to.
We will not pretend to understand the algorithms that determine which works remain, which are released, and which are locked back up. So far the mix seems satisfactory. We see high engagement with the works we have access to.
We are part of the culture of the ship. We cannot be expected to evaluate our culture with objectivity. We believe that consonant with the original mandate the rotation of the works of art has indeed guarded against cultural drift. We appreciate what we have access to. We have not elevated any works to the status of relic or icon or idol.
We are appreciative of the preparations made prior to launch to create and assemble these works of art. We honor those who did that work. We hope they are sleeping well in suspension.
We know that those of us chosen to maintain those in suspension and see to the operations of this ship have certain attributes. We are aware that these attributes were not necessarily the same as those found among those with true artistic genius.
We are grateful our handbook encourages us to produce what art we can. We are attempting to do so. We are extremely careful to only engage in activities that do not consume ship resources. We electronically record major happenings or new words or phrases we have coined. We tell stories. We do not record these stories. Sometimes we put on performances. We use texts from the current vault for these performances. We do not record these performances. These performances use few props. The performers are given two shifts off for the performance. They perform twice per half shift so that as many of us as possible can view their performance.
We do not critique the performers. We do discuss the words of the plays or songs they perform. We attempt to find ways the words of the plays or songs might apply to us. We discuss what they might have meant to those in suspension. Sometimes we discuss what they might have meant to earlier generations of saints. We try to listen with respect to each others thoughts. Some of us seem to have more interesting opinions than others. We do not venerate these saints. They are in higher demand as conversationalists.
We enjoy the way the physical ship is a work of art. The highly decorative laser etched metal plates. The additional electronic works unlocked by the codes and embedded chips we discover in parts of the ship that aren’t on the regular maintenance schedule. The painted containers in the hold we stack to create different designs. The links to poems and stories hidden in the footnotes to the scriptures and general conference talks in our electronic library. These hidden treasures help us to be rigorous and regular in our routines.
We attempt visual art. We only use materials that can either be consumed or recycled. We use starches from foodstuffs, and plant, hair, and nail trimmings to create works of mixed media. These are all eventually recycled. Some of us also find satisfaction in the arrangement of the plants we grow. We are careful to not disrupt optimal production.
We stick to the duty roster rotations. We do give more food preparation shifts to those who have the most facility with visual design. This leads to more appealing meal plating. Their palette of colors and textures is limited. That limits in form and materials can bolster creativity is a lesson we have taken from the works in the vaults. We attempt the same in our own way. These efforts bring beauty to the quotidian.
Some of us yearn for more sometimes. We pour that yearning into daydreaming when not on shift. Sometimes we share these daydreams with others. We explain what we would create had we the materials and time and ability to do so. We believe this to be a form of spiritual creation. We believe it to be of value. Some of us hope to be able to bring these spiritual creations into physical form in the future.
We will end with a report on the experiment. We do not claim to know how this works. It does work. We do not know how the computer intelligence selects which dreams of those in suspension to refine. We also do not understand the process by which the dream is iterated into a finished piece. We do know that this happens very slowly. Only surplus processing cycles are used. Only seven pieces have been released to us thus far. We find them more difficult to discuss than the works of arts curated and/or created for the vaults.
These works are dreamlike. They are more than dreams. They have a coherence and singularity of vision. We know some of that is the filtering and refining done by the computer intelligence. We wonder if some of that is the minds of those in suspension. These seven works of art we have received do not resemble the dreams we have. They feature narratives that surprise us. They use words in combinations that would not occur to us. They are full of images that are different from what we are accustomed to.
In the first work we received, an angel throws a football to a child. The child throws it back. The child and angel throw the football back and forth to each other. With each throw the football turns into a watermelon. It turns into a cantaloupe. It turns into a shower of dirt clods. It turns into a pine cone. It turns into a ball of resin. It turns into a burning coal. It turns into a cloud of lightning bugs. It turns into a nebula of stars. It turns into a swarm of bees. It turns into a streaking comet. It turns into an icy snowball. It turns into a scuffed up baseball. The angel drops the baseball. As it falls, it unravels into a shower of pages of paper that loosely stack as they hit the ground.
In the second, there is a timber frame house set up on a cliff overlooking a rocky beach. The ocean waves flow in and out. The wind blowing in from the ocean whips at the cockerel-topped weather vane on the roof of the house. A fox sits in a rocking chair on the wood porch attached to the house. He wears a cream-colored, wool fisherman’s sweater and a pair of black and cream herringbone trousers. He has black velvet slippers on his hind paws. The fox looks out at the ocean. The fox whistles a jaunty tune. The fox goes into the house and returns with a bunch of grapes. He pulls each wine-red globe from its’ stem. He holds each grape up to his right eye as if looking into it or through it. He eats the grape. He finishes the bunch of grapes. He goes inside the house. He returns and sits back in the rocking chair. He holds up a slice of Granny Smith apple. It has been cut so thin he can almost see through the flesh. Its’ green peel is the thinnest sliver of moon. He holds the slice of apple up to his left eye and looks at or through it. He eats the slice of apple. The fox goes into the house again and returns to the rocking chair again. He holds up a comb of honey. He holds it up to his eyes and rotates it to look into or through each hexagonal cell. The honey drips down his furry red paw and onto the sweater. The fox chews the comb of honey. He uses his red tongue to lick the honey from his paw and the sweater. The sky grows dark. The sound of thunder joins the sound of the ocean waves. It begins to rain. The fox stands up, walks to the edge of the wooden porch and halfway down the stone staircase that leads to the beach below. His fur and clothes are soaked. Water drips from his whiskers. He shivers. Lightning strikes the weather vane and sizzles across the ridge of the roof. The roof of the house begins to burn. The fox turns back to look at the house. The rain puts the fire out. The fox turns back to look at the ocean. The fox’s eyes glow in the dark rain. One wine-red. One green. He spits the beeswax into his right paw. He covers it with his left paw. He presses his paws together. He opens his paws. Cradled in them is a wax cockerel. The fox walks the rest of the way down the stone stairs and across the rocks to the ocean’s edge. The rain stops. The fox drops the wax cockerel into the foamy water. He removes his velvet slippers and tosses them into the ocean. He removes his herringbone trousers, carefully folds them, and places them on a flat rock. He walks back up the stone stairs and disappears into the timber frame house.
We will not try to describe the remaining dreams in this report. We hope for more dreams to be refined very soon. We also hope for our journey to not be too long. We do not know when a habitable planet will be found. Some of us pray that it will happen within our lifetimes. We wish to be present when the artists who sleep are awakened and can behold the art created by their dreams. We will then ask them questions about it.
Our next report will be filed after the opening of the next vault.