Margaret Atwood and Katie Paterson. Photo © Giorgia Polizzi

Margaret Atwood and Katie Paterson. Photo © Giorgia Polizzi

The first writer to contribute to Katie Paterson’s “Future Library” – a new public artwork that will unfold in the city of Oslo, Norway over the next 100 years – is prizewinning author, poet, essayist and environmentalist Margaret Atwood.

Atwood is the first of 100 writers who will each contribute a text to Future Library over the next 100 years. The Canadian author has begun to write her text, which she will gift to Future Library in May 2015, whereupon it will be held unread for 100 years, until the final publication of the anthology of texts in 2114. A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo. In 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the anthology of books. Visitors to the forest can experience the slow growth of the trees, inch-by-inch, year-by-year. Margaret Atwood says of the project:

“I am very honoured, and also happy to be part of this endeavour. This project, at least, believes the human race will still be around in a hundred years! Future Library is bound to attract a lot of attention over the decades, as people follow the progress of the trees, note what takes up residence in and around them, and try to guess what the writers have put into their sealed boxes.”

Exploring some of the project’s core ideas, Situations Director, Claire Doherty, comments:

“Future Library challenges our preconceptions about where and when public art takes place. In contrast to permanent public sculpture, it will grow and change with the world around it. In 2014, Future Library is just a beginning – a quiet, understated invitation to imagine a future: perhaps, in 2065, a future visitor will look out from the library’s fifth floor room (where 50 texts are held) across a city now submerged under the Fjord due to climate change, the trees will have grown only to half the height of those surrounding them in the Nordmarka forest; or, in 2114, a young reader might hold within their hands a volume of the texts printed somewhat anachronistically on paper produced from those now fully grown trees, each text a direct link back to its time of making, the changing character of writing and reading unfolding before that reader’s eyes.”

The manuscripts will be held in trust in a specially designed room in the new Deichmanske Public Library opening in 2018 in Bjørvika, Oslo. Intended to be a space of contemplation, this room – designed by the artist Katie Paterson – will be lined with wood from the forest. The authors’ names and titles of their works will be on display, but none of the manuscripts will be available for reading – until their publication in one century’s time.  Katie Paterson says of Margaret Atwood’s contribution,

“I imagine her words growing through the trees, an unseen energy, activated and materialized, the tree rings becoming chapters in a book.”

Read Alison Flood’s Guardian feature here

Watch Margaret Atwood in conversation with Katie Paterson

Conceived by Katie Paterson, Future Library is produced by Situations as part of Slow Space, a public art programme for Bjørvika, commissioned by Bjørvika Utvikling and managed by the Future Library Trust. Supported by the City of Oslo, Agency for Cultural Affairs and Agency for Urban Environment. logos1bjorvika

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