Dark Age North America (2026-2280)– Hide Description
This traveling exhibition contains over 40 individual works for display, including didactic text with the potential for performance and video components. An accompanying catalog is in the works.
The exhibition has been shown thus far at:
2016 DEMO Project, Springfield, IL
2014 Mercer College Art Gallery, MCCC, Trenton, NJ
2012 SiTE:LAB @ the Grand Rapids Public Museum, MI
2010 The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, Las Vegas, NV
As it is understood now, the electromagnetic phase disruption emanated from our own Sun, projecting exotic high frequency particles never previously recorded. The power disruptions caused by the Sun started as far back as 2024, the first signs manifesting as the sequential erasure of all magnetic tape archives and then gradually intensified to frequencies strong enough to disable anything electrical. With electronic or electrical ignition automobiles inoperable, the quick shipment of goods and convenient long distance travel ceased.
The disruption these events caused was catastrophic. The global economy collapsed. Billions died, starved without adequate access to food and suffered disease through unclean drinking water. During the nearly two centuries of the quiet earth, lost history became myth, and without recourse, a new respect and connection with the environment returned. Large numbers of people went back to the land, acquiring farmland previously owned by corporations now incapable of organizing at post-industrial scales. Most industrial technology and productivity was forced to emulate pre-electrical modes of manufacture utilizing steam, and physical mechanisms controlled by wind, water, and cattle. Out of this Dark Age an agrarian survivalist organization formed known as the Land and Water Authority, it harnessed and politicized the collective energy of a nation family seeking to rebuild itself.
Eventually small group of covert scientists, dubbed "The Orange Workers" discovered that magnetic and charged surfaces could maintain stability and be relied upon for power. The discovery was kept secret for decades because of the political upheaval it would let loose. Some scientific communities had already covertly restarted computers for communications and development among themselves and their distant compounds with the intent of bringing old nuclear generators online again. The conflict between the secretive Orange Workers and the Authority metering exterior resources, were made no less contentious by the inclusion of various regional warlords attempting to cut their resources from both.
Accumulated road marker and toll wall hanging reproduction of Nation Family collection (2165)
"Hewn of the road” is an idiom that exemplifies both the best and the worst of our human nature.
“First I would hear their footsteps in the distance. I knew they were coming. The warlords were near. I remember the sound of them unfolding their toll banners. Like thunder, it was as much fear as it was anticipation. Its ritual was somehow familiar, and yet distant. In my family's eyes, I watched an unknown dread as they showed a routine normalcy of hospitality, while us children were entertained by the Boogey Man and the Trickster. They were gentle to the innocents. To the others, I try not to imagine."
- Bethany Travelled, 92
North American Flag (2058)
This flag is a reproduction of anti-Authority propaganda generated by Warlord sympathies.
This was most likely positioned behind the large desk chair of a local warlord to project a sense of ironic historical propriety while instilling fear in the midst of their dealings. With the last vestige of the States’ and its world torn down, all that was left were personal memories and symbols held over from the last days waiting to be reapportioned. This dark re-imagining of the United States American Flag (1776-2028) is hewn of the road. After industrial production stopped, fabric and textiles of every kind were sought, hoarded and carefully stored. The original was most likely a commission sewn with a treadles power modified sewing machine.
Man Outside the Field / Burlap Man / Man on the Road (Burlap cloth)
Old Military Ghost (Green)
Trickster / Chaos & Plenty (Orange/ Blue / Stripes)
As the warlords dissolved with the formation of the Authority, costumes representing the most fearsome of these unsettling archetypes made their way into community plays. At one time used by the warlords to entertain coercion from weary travelers, they also were used to hide the identities of the criminals. In time, these characters were used by the Authority to inform children of inherent dangers outside the protection of the community zones. Eventually these figures became an accepted and essential presence in birthing rituals, funerals, and field blessings, each with their own unique ritualized task integral to the narrative of the event.
Two Ceremonial Oracles: Hoover Tank Emitter (2110-2265)
(Not Pictured) El Oráculo en el camino a Los Álamos (2115-2270)
The Dawn Workers split from the Orange Workers after the Reemergence. One group sought to complete lost technical engineering knowledge, the other chose a path that had become an accepted mystical society. Oracles were devices created by those who were believed to have the ability to see the past and the future. Utilizing highly dangerous materials, the properties of these vapors were inhaled by the user. The psychotropic effects produced were believed to create a connection between other Oracles at distant locations.
A pilgrimage emerged from their legion of believers traveling along the network of Oracles seeking higher or more distant communications. Most of these devices have been destroyed but we are fortunate to have actual examples of these units, a small glimpse into the strange world of the Dawn Oracles.
The 26th Mayor of Chicago (2056-2210)
This “Mayor of Chicago” is a scepter of power handed down from the first warlords.
In the time since the chaos of the Fall, this symbolic cane has changed from its presence as an actual shotgun, to a more ceremonial but, just as deadly version of the shotgun design. Likewise, succession in the rule of City State Chicago has evolved from warlords vying for office through hand-to-hand combat in octagonal pits. In recent decades, a citizen democracy and small senate negotiate succession based on a more organized system of political regime.
This artifact has been loaned by the current and 35th Mayor of Chicago, Ms.“Steady” Treset.
The Mace of Olivia Manhattan (2102-2199)
The Mace of Manhattan exemplifies the beauty and the terror associated with power. Olivia of Manhattan wielded physical pain and judgment in the palm of her elegant, young hands, and delighted in serving process by her terms. This scepter was used without mercy against those who challenged her reign; it's aesthetic qualities conveying awe and fear. In this time, stories and myth blurred into a hyper-real intensity still not clearly defined. Whether the propaganda of her tyranny was more myth than reality, we have still not determined. Warlord Olivia Manhattan was the longest living matriarch of New York City.
Battle Flag / Warlord era
The people who became warlords were on top of the world just as it ended for completely random reasons. You might have been one if you were in their
shoes at that moment. It was as though the world was one big musical chair game with only a few chairs left, the music stopped and a handful of the
luckiest and toughest ruled the land for a short intense moment. Urban centers were a different matter altogether, where the influence of the warlords
never left. Warlords were often those who had direct access to supplies, weapons, or had hoarded resources for trade. They directed underlings to
search the land and cityscapes for what simple armed thieves or the starving near-cannibals had not yet consumed. The warlords built armies that took
control of the roads for tolls, stripping small towns and their population of everything useful. As the world’s last electric gasps allowed them, they ran
high-octane super-charged engines on open stretches of road in bizarre nihilistic jousting matches to the death. This battle flag might have been flown
from the antenna of such a car, now rusted relics such as the Pontiac GTO, the Lincoln Continental and the Chevelle.
The Game Offline
The board game Offline was adapted from classic Chess and Go grids. It is differentiated most significantly by having four participants play against one another from remote locations. The element of engaging unseen participants over a long period of time was a factor in the early rules of the game. The objective of this turn based game has always been to manage, trade, and ultimately dominate resources. Control, an impartial referee and fifth participant, throws a series of scheduled randomized dice across their own smaller blank game surface. Each player's moves are communicated through land mail and actuated in their copy of the game board. Many Offline boards during this time were crafted from found or salvaged craft wood surfaces.
Many will recognize that these game boards represent the famous Offline match "Dead Set Five" (2210-2211) between players in City State Chicago, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Cleveland, with control in Toledo. After 125 turns, 41 weeks, and two substitute players, Augustina Williams was declared the champion having articulated the defining strategic maneuver now known as ‘Portage’. Surviving correspondences deemed Williams the North American grand master of Offline which she defended for over a decade in a series of landmark matches. Upon retirement in 2225, Williams continued as a Control, and proceeded to write the well known bound volumes of Offline strategy and philosophy baring her name.
"When benevolence wanes, you best bet on intelligence. The alternative lies crushed in the road." - Augustina Williams (2186-2242)
Our local Williams Nation Family has proudly loaned their complete collection of Augustina's Offline surfaces and her game pieces.
Storyteller’s Drops (2035-2250)
Before the chaos, most of the world’s libraries and archives had been converted into digital formats. Paper books became antiquated and though cherished by many, the production and distribution of book editions had diminished to a trickle and completely ceased more than a decade before the disruption. It is obvious to us now during the event of 2026, we lost nearly the entirety of human historical record. It was no small tragedy that most print paper had already become uncommon, but compounding this problem the electricity used to run all other informational archives both public and personal disappeared almost overnight. Unaware of the scope of the unfolding events anything that could be burned for warmth or cooking was used for survival, including most of the remaining books and paper. For as many who wandered looking simply for food and clean water there were as many in shock that their lives, location, and history had been erased. Individuals and then groups became recognized for their ability to remember and re-record the history of collective memory among the survivors. Traveling storytellers became an instrumental part of community life. The arrival of those reciting their personal and handed down memories was met with excitement and anticipation. Many storytellers would travel with lightweight banners often painted with a list of authors or stories they were keen to perform. Sometimes these selections were an assortment of fragmentary works, with others the oeuvre of specific authors might be the focus, or single works of literature that would be recited over many nights. Central meeting places became a social hub of storytelling, music, shared communal knowledge, and history.
Devil's Doorstop aka Brick (Contemporaneous)
The “game” started as ubiquitous legacy garbage of 21st century plastic and metal refuse, commonly found in fields or mounds. Many people find these objects are perfect for simply propping a door or window open. Devil's Doorstop has since also become an aggressive game where the young run in packs, pilfering and forcefully throwing these filthy bricks at one another, sponsoring injury and inciting general mayhem. Most responsible adults confiscate these nuisances when found and hand them over to authorities. Be on the look out for discarded bricks, your local town hall should have a collection point, usually a library basement, they'll be stacked on the floor of the West wall.