Setting a new precedent in
hospitality, Hotel des Arts
in downtown San Francisco has commissioned
conceptual artist Jonathon Keats to fit a 4th floor hotel room with a custom-
built low-light camera. Other amenities include a king-size bed, a mini-
fridge, and a clock-radio.The camera, which Mr. Keats has engineered in solid brass, and for which
he has designed a special film, is set to take a single exposure of 100 years
duration, beginning on August 3, 2005 and ending on August 3, 2105. During
that period, an estimated 12,000 couples will pass through the room, but Mr.
Keats isn’t interested in any of them. “People are incidental,” he says.
“Eventually they all die. And I don’t have any interest in taking portraits.
What I’m trying to document is history, in order to get a picture of time
Mr. Keats calls his camera a continuous time capsule, and has chosen a
hundred-year span in order to capture time in abundance—in greater
quantity, as it happens, than has ever before been photographed. “If time is
all around us, why don’t we ordinarily see it on film?” he asks. “Why do we
see only its secondary effects? I suspect it’s a signal-to-noise issue. It
might be that short periods of time are too miniscule to be visible.”
Asked why he chose to run this experiment in a double-occupancy San
Francisco hotel room, Mr. Keats explains that Hotel des Arts just happened to
be the first place that gave him an enclosed working space for his project,
and 100 years in which to pursue it. Curator John Doffing, who has
commissioned original artwork for many rooms in Hotel des Arts, confirms Mr.
Keats’s claim. “I said he could do whatever he wanted,” Mr. Doffing says. “And
Represented by Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, Mr. Keats has never
before shown his photography anywhere. He has however attempted to genetically
engineer God in a laboratory, and petitioned Berkeley to pass a basic law of
logic—A=A—a work commissioned by the city’s annual Arts Festival.