Prehistoric prognostic instruments were crude, and the individuals dedicated to foretelling the future were revered as the holy mediators between mere mortals and the divine figures who determined their fate. The ancient practice of augury—a method for predicting the future from signs such as the flight of birds or the entrails of animals—is just one example of the human need to discover patterns within nature’s formless flux. Almost anything can be used by the spiritually receptive to discern what the gods have in store for us: clouds, coffee, fig leaves, bones, ash, the boiled heads of donkeys, the movement of beetles—the inventory of raw material for divination is endless.
As the conception of the divine changed with the emergence of religions that promised cyclical regeneration or life after death, the scale of such predictions became increasingly grandiose. With the rise of eschatology, it became possible to conceive of the end of the world itself. Secular versions of these totalizing narratives of destruction—caused by fatal meteor trajectories, for example, or by alien invasions—gradually emerged as well. Some of these at least afforded the minor satisfaction that, though doomed, humans would nevertheless go out as the pinnacle of earthly evolution. Today, even this small consolation has been withdrawn, as we have come to understand that we have precipitated a global environmental disaster that might well put an end to our collective calendar once and for all.
The Last Calendar project compiles a portion of these doomsday events and images of divination methods in an oversize wall calendar that ends abruptly on December 21, 2012—the date when the Mayan Long Count calendar ends. In 2011, this imminent apocalyptic date sparked many imaginative scenarios; when the date finally occurred, people gathered around the world for the final countdown. But, as with the other dates predicted to be the last, this day passed uneventfully.
"Last Calendar" is an art project by Bigert & Bergström for Cabinet Books. Photography: Charlie Drevstam (January–May, July–December); Bigert & Bergström (June). Björn Keller - individual photographs of potatoes (April). Design: Richard Massey. Research: Samuel Shuman. Editors: Jeffrey Kastner & Sina Najafi. Thanks to Joshua Bauchner, Sara Clugage, Claire Lehmann, Naomi Mishkin, Dale Pendell, and Alexandros Stavrakos.