“Y2K,” an installation that sits at the bottom of the Henry Miller Library’s entry ramp, certainly generates a lot of questions from visitors—as it should!
It depicts Christ, composed of tangled wires, crucified on a cross of computer screens.
The piece was created by John Random, a Monterey artist. (John is also the person who made the beautiful bird sculpture hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the HMML.)
For yours truly, the symbolism is unmistakable: Christ died for our sins, but more specifically, the sin that is our obsession with technology.
This isn’t a new concept.
I’d argue it’s a twist on what Nathanial Hawthorne called “the unpardonable sin.” As previously noted, Nathaniel Hawthorne called “the unpardonable sin,” loosely defined as “separation of the intellect from the heart,” also phrased as the “deliberate destruction of the Spirit of God in Man.”
Hawthorne’s angst is understandable. While not overtly religious, he descended from Puritans, and religious imagery played a major role in his fiction. He was especially interested in the capacity of humans for evil. He also wrote at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution.
All of which brings me back to “Y2K.”
I was working in the Library one day and woman came in and, having seen the installation, thought the Library was a church (!), to which I wanted to reply, “yes, it is, but probably not the kind of church you’re familiar with.”
It just goes to show you how, to paraphrase James McNew of Yo La Tengo, we “believe what we want to believe.”
The Y2K was made and installed in December of 1999 in response to pre-Y2K hysteria that gripped the world on the eve of 2000.
Ahhh 2000. Those were the days.
As if we need to be reminded, was long before iPhones, social media, tyrannical algorithms, artificial intelligence, and all the other wonders of modern life—sarcasm implied—that are making Random’s piece even more chillingly relevant by the day.
This fear of technology and, more specifically, its ability to separate us from our fellow man and “separate the intellect from the heart” (sic) now seems quaint in comparison!
To paraphrase Jello Biafra, we’ve got far bigger problems now….