Upgrade Available
Dancing Foxes Press, 2020

By Julia Christensen
Edited by Karen Kelly, Barbara Schroeder
Conversations with Ravi Agarwal, Cory Arcangel, Lori Emerson, Jessica Gambling, Rick Prelinger, Bobbye Tigerman, Laura Welcher

This volume documents an ongoing investigation by artist Julia Christensen (born 1976) into how our relentless “upgrade culture”—the perceived notion that we need to constantly upgrade our electronics to remain relevant—fundamentally impacts our experience of time. In a personal narrative interspersed with related interdisciplinary artwork and conversations with experts from different fields (other artists, archivists, academics), Christensen takes readers along a path from the international “e-waste” industry to institutional archives, eventually leading her to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

At JPL, Christensen began a dialog with a group of exo-planetary scientists, engineers and machine learning experts to develop long-lived space mission concepts that include an update of the Voyager spacecrafts’ 1977 “Golden Record,” to be embedded on a hypothetical future interstellar spacecraft. She and the scientists are designing an artwork generated by an extraterrestrial system that tells a distinctly new story of life on Earth. In taking on this challenge, Christensen—a female pioneer redefining the intersection of art, technology, and outer space—must envision an artwork for an evolving, autonomously-upgrading spaceship headed toward a potentially habitable planet in another star system. Her years-long investigation into upgrade culture leads to design concepts that potentially transcend technological obsolescence altogether.

“Upgrade Available is an extraordinary exploration of technology, time, and nature. Julia Christensen offers a terrifying and enlightening exposition of our relationship to material. She shows how we can transcend our culture of obsolescence and reach out to wrap other species in a matured sense of time. The book sparkles with insight and unexpected connections.”
— David George Haskell, professor of biology and author of The Songs of Trees and The Forest Unseen

“Julia Christensen’s book and body of work exemplify why we should look to artists for novel perspectives and responses to complex social phenomena: for the discipline-transcending, research-based, delightfully nonlinear, and ultimately transformative interventions and solutions.”
— Jae Rhim Lee, TED Senior Fellow and Founder and CEO of Coeio, Inc

“Christensen’s writing and conversations illustrate the complex, fascinating, and often fraught relationship of technology to different time scales, where outdated artifacts both contain our personal memories and litter outer space. Her attitude toward time is as humane as it is useful, allowing us to imagine planning for something other than our own obsolescence.”
— Jenny Odell, artist, educator, and author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

“Julia Christensen’s work shows us how the strange refuse of past futures characterizes out landscapes, societies, and even our own imaginations.”
— Trevor Paglen, Artist

“A brilliant, beautiful, terrifying, timely, surprising, delightful book. It illuminates our e-world (living and dead), waking us to our place on this ever-burdened planet. If only all of us were as inquisitive and mindful as Julia Christensen regarding our daily relationship to technology. Christensen explores profound questions about space and time alongside our material visions for the future, our detritus left behind. Upgrade Available is deeply impressive.”
— Paige Williams, New Yorker staff writer and author of The Dinosaur Artist

“We are in a moment of reckoning: now or never, we must face the mountains of trash we produce each year, the persistent myth of its recyclability, and what to do about it. In an account that is both personal and sweeping, Julia Christensen turns her artistic and academic focus upon the global traffic of “e-waste,” the outmoded electronic consumer goods that we are compelled to continually discard then upgrade to stay connected. Part travelogue and part media archaeology, Upgrade Available meditates on the ways in which the logic of the upgrade has reshaped our relationships to time and to the planet. Bringing together artists, technologists, curators, and activists in a series of conversations and essays, Christensen begins an urgent investigation of the future of preservation on a grand scale: in an era of disposability, how can might we save anything, including humanity and the earth itself?”
— Kris Paulsen, Associate Professor, History of Art, The Ohio State University, and author of Here/There: Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface

For press and bookings, contact:
Alix Dana & Hyatt Mannix, DANA_MANNIX
646 283-9754

To request information about the book, e-mail Barbara Schroeder, at mail@dfpress.org

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