If you’ve ever read any of the works of HP Lovecraft (and if you haven’t, you owe it yourself), you’ll know that one of the common tropes is the idea that humanity is merely the plaything of numerous elder beings and Gods, some of whom make their home in the deep dark places of the planet’s oceans. We’re talking the Deep Ones, and even mighty Cthulhu himself, who sleeps in his great cyclopean city somewhere in the Pacific, between Australia and New Zealand.
One of the other tropes is the idea that humanity is constantly messing with these beings, from cults who worship them for transitory power, to poor lost souls too curious to know better, or even the particularly damned who are just in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
So why talk about dark, fictional (and yet still oddly, chillingly present) gods and monsters? Well, it seems that a strange project that melds artistic vision, future-proofing the human race, and deep-sea exploration is about to once and for all find out whether Lovecraft really was somehow channelling a heretofore unexplored reality, or just a very troubled SF nerd before his time.
It’s called the Hornsleth Deep Storage Project, and it is genuinely, terrifyingly, strange and odd.
So here’s the plan in a nutshell – take the DNA from 5000 people from all over the world, stuff it onto a bizarrely geometric sculpture-cum-ark, and then drop the thing into the deepest part of the ocean, the Marianas Trench.
That's human DNA, inside something awfully close to being terminally non-Euclidian, ELEVEN KILOMETERS down in the deep dark, where only eyeless things who can only dream of bones reside.
What could possibly go wrong... Oh, right. Cthulhu. We’re doomed.
The project’s official site is only slightly less barmy than the plan itself. The name of the project, Hornsleth, is depicted in a horror-style font that looks like it should be written in blood-splatter. A tame art historian talks about Nietzsche and his Ubermensch philosophy. An entire page is dedicated to explaining the thinking behind the project to kids. There are photos of the Danish artist who designed the sculpture, and if he’s not a cultist-madman hellbent on sacrificing humanity to Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, I don’t know who is.
Portrait of a madman
Yet there is an odd reasoning through the whole thing if you do remove the hellish sculpture and sun-blind depths from the equation. There are DNA preservation projects all over the world, hoping to store the data for plants, animals and, yes, even us. But few seem to have such a bizarre vision.
“Kristian von Hornsleth suggests a monumental sculpture at the deepest ground of the seas and puts a DNA archive into it to store the DNA of 5000 people for the future. 5000 people who deliberately believe in the idea of the artwork today and believe in a future option of being rediscovered.”
Rediscovered... yep, one of the aims of the project is effectively time travel – the idea that in future epochs someone will recover the sculpture, and resurrect the travellers within.
Seriously – you just cannot make this stuff up. So let’s end with a snatch of poem celebrating this descent into possible madness...
Technological Christus Victor
A sacrifice to our own destruction of Nature
An atonement with an angry mother god – this time –
The blood of man
A descent to the icy hell
Waiting 500 years for ascension.
Yeah. I feel much better now...