Perry Chen, Selection from Computers in Crisis, 2014. Photograph of book included as part of the artist’s archive: Jerome T. and Marilyn J. Murray, Computers in Crisis: How to Avert the Coming World Wide Computer Systems Collapse (Petrocelli Books: 1984). Courtesy the artist
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Copresented by the New Museum and Rhizome in conjunction with Creative Time Reports.
Fifteen years after the turn of the millennium, artist Perry Chen explores the phenomenon and legacy of the Y2K bug through an ongoing project that includes an online archive of books, an accompanying essay, and interviews with key players from that moment.
The Y2K bug was a computer design oversight that was anticipated to affect a wide range of systems on 1/1/2000, when computers were expected to mistakenly interpret the “00” in dates as the year 1900, not the year 2000. In 1996, Congressional hearings featured expert testimony warning of a coming crisis in which all infrastructures reliant on software and embedded chips—such as those utilized by banks, power plants, communications, and air traffic systems, etc.—could malfunction or shut down. In the following years, fueled by intense media speculation and the rapid growth of industries servicing Y2K issues, governments, corporations, small businesses, and individuals spent hundreds of billions of dollars in preparation and overhauls. January 1, 2000, came and went with no serious issues, and the Y2K bug is now largely forgotten.
This multifaceted project comprises several components. Through documentation of books that were produced in the run-up to Y2K, Chen’s archive will illuminate the cultural backdrop of the anticipated crisis, surfacing our collective anxieties in the face of this vast uncertainty. Chen will further elaborate on these themes in an accompanying essay and in Y2K+15, an event at the New Museum on December 12, 2014, that includes conversations with three key figures from the Y2K era. A recording of these interviews can be found below.
Edited video of the event “Y2K+15,” a screening and discussion presented by Rhizome at the New Museum, December 12, 2014. Courtesy Perry Chen
Perry Chen is a New York City–based artist whose work often explores the intersection of technology and uncertainty. He has exhibited in New York, Berlin, and Mexico City. Chen is also interested in the design and potential of new social systems, starting the websites Kickstarter and the nonprofit Dollar a Day. He cofounded the Southfirst gallery in Brooklyn, New York, in 2001; was a TED Fellow in 2010; and was a resident of Laboratorio para la Ciudad in Mexico City in 2014.
“Perry Chen: Computers in Crisis” is a First Look project copresented by the New Museum and Rhizome with Creative Time Reports.