Gary Zhexi Zhang & Agnes Cameron: The First 10,000 Years

Image: still from The First 10,000 Years courtesy Gary Zhexi Zhang
Image: still from The First 10,000 Years courtesy Gary Zhexi Zhang
Image: still from The First 10,000 Years courtesy Gary Zhexi Zhang
> feels like deja vu…
> huh?
> like we’ve seen this storm before
> we kind of literally have, they’re perturbations of the same effect
> in that case shouldn’t all possible versions be priced in already?
> if all the storms were priced in there’d be no market
> and you’d have to move back into the basement
> lmao no
> this is one future path, but the price movements tell you if there’s another one in the works
> sounds like deja vu to me
> so what happens if the market doesn’t buy in?
> then the risk stays in the ground
> then there’s no insurance
> right. but that never happens, the market finds a way
> anyone for shares in titanic? sailing tomorrow…
> if the price is right :-)
The First 10,000 Years is a digital simulation narrative by Gary Zhexi Zhang and Agnes Cameron comprising a live catastrophe insurance marketplace. Based on statistical climate simulations used by the insurance industry to calculate future catastrophic losses (typically by simulating 10,000 years of speculative global weather activity), The First 10,000 Years is a hurricane observatory, financial exchange and chatroom in which human and non-human players place their wagers in a marketplace for systemic uncertainties.

The work can be accessed at until October 2021.

The First 10,000 Years forms part of fud, a new body of work by Gary Zhexi Zhang - commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Bloc Projects - drawn from the artist's research into the role of insurance in shaping the times and spaces we inhabit. Over the past year, Zhang has been researching the "catastrophe industry", the billion-dollar market for insurance against hurricanes, earthquakes and droughts, priced through climate simulations and financial modelling. Over three episodes, fud explores the catastrophe industry as an elaborate work of science fiction, in which the business of underwriting the earth begins to resemble the shaping of possible worlds.
This 18-month project comprises a digital commission (launching online 16 October 2020), an exhibition at Bloc Projects in Sheffield (April 2021), a residency at Medialab Prado in Madrid (2021) and a publication. A public programme (online and in person) accompanies the project throughout its development, engaging audiences through study groups, workshops and talks.
For more information about the project, click here.
fud forms part of the programme for Ungovernable Machines, Arts Catalyst’s ongoing strand of research investigating the social, political, economic and ecological implications of the intangible networks and systems that govern our daily lives, and the structures of power which underlie them.


fud is supported by the Elephant Trust, The Henry Moore Foundation and Arts Council England.


Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist interested in concepts that interface between concrete and abstract worlds, such as ecology, finance and information. Recent group exhibitions and screenings include Participation Mystique at Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai; the Swamp School at the Venice Architecture Biennale; Cross-feed at Glasgow International 2018, (online) and All Channels Open at Wysing Arts Centre. Recent residencies include Delfina Foundation, Schloss Web (with Agnes Cameron), SPACE Art & Technology, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Praksis Oslo, CCA Glasgow and Wysing Arts Centre. He is a Transformations of the Human Researcher at the Berggruen Institute, where he studies non-human networks and markets.
Agnes Cameron is an artist and technologist interested in experimental simulation and modelling. She works as a registry co-ordinator for the Knowledge Futures Group, developing tools for open data curation, and sometimes makes technology for artists. She is a co-founder of New York-based design studio Foreign Objects, and has taught at Parsons School of Design and Hunter College. In 2019 she was a fellow at Sakiya: Art Science Agriculture, a Toolmaker-in-Residence at Signal Culture and a web resident at Akademie Schloss Solitude/ZKM.


In-Conversation - Risk, Simulation and the Catastrophe Industry with Gary Zhexi Zhang, Agnes Cameron, Bahar Noorizadeh, Ian Gray, Liz Lund and Acre Qiu

6.00pm - 8.00pm, Fri 13 November 2020
Join us for a conversation between artists Gary Zhexi Zhang, Agnes Cameron, Bahar Noorizadeh as well as researcher Ian Gray, environmental/civil engineer Liz Lund and real estate developer, professional engineer, and founding member of Biosphere(x) Acre Qiu..
Accompanied by a BSL interpretation.
The conversation is inspired by The First 10,000 Years, a new digital work by Gary Zhexi Zhang and Agnes Cameron - commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Bloc Projects as part of the larger body of work fud. Taking the work as a starting point, the speakers will disentangle existing links between the climate crises, the financialisation of risk prediction and the speculative fictions underlying finance and the wider ‘catastrophe industry’.   
Ian Gray is finishing a PhD in the Department of Sociology at University of California - Los Angeles and is a Visiting Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. His research focuses on institutional responses to coping with climate change and the social consequences of these responses. He also holds a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BA in European intellectual history from Brown University.
Bahar Noorizadeh is a filmmaker, writer, and platform designer. Her current research examines the notion of “Weird Economies” to precipitate a transdisciplinary approach to economic futurism and post-financialization imaginaries. Her work has appeared in the Tate Modern Artists’ Cinema Program, DIS Art platform, Transmediale Festival, Berlinale Forum Expanded, and Geneva Biennale of Moving Images among others. Upcoming engagements include participation at the German Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennial 2020 and solo exhibition at Museum Folkwang, Essen. She is pursuing her work as a PhD candidate in Art at Goldsmiths, University of London where she holds a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship.
Liz Lund is an environmental/civil engineer working as a construction consultant in the insurance industry. Her work has brought her to the forefront of catastrophe, witnessing the effects of climate change, natural disasters, and poor construction on the built environment. Currently spearheading a new environmental department in her firm, her work, which necessitates long periods of "boots on the ground," has made the impact risk and climate have on our current societal paradigm no longer an abstraction. She is one of the founding members of Biosphere(x), and leads the reproductive sovereignty and mushroom efforts within the group.
Acre Qiu is a real estate developer, professional engineer, and founding member of Biosphere(x). Their primary focus is developing physical and cultural infrastructure to both incubate ideas and execute projects that create value for the collective. Operating at the intersection between deep history, permaculture, and cyberpunk, Acre collaborates with the b(x) cadre and other affinity groups to future proof their investments.