Matthew Buckingham

In The Six Grandfathers, Paha Sapa, in the Year 502,002 C.E., Matthew Buckingham uncovers the repressed history of Mount Rushmore and imagines its projected future, employing digital imagery to speed the monument’s inevitable disappearance and return to “nature.” The Six Grandfathers—now commonly referred to as Mount Rushmore—is a granite outcropping known to the Sioux as the Paha Sapa, and a longtime site of tumultuous relations between the U.S. government and Native Americans. Buckingham’s timeline charts the geological history of the mountain, the displacement of the Sioux, and the employment of Gutzon Borglum—one of America’s most famous sculptors at the time and a Ku Klux Klan member—who carved the presidents’ faces into the hillside as an eternal “Shrine to Democracy.” In contrast to the linear timeline, Buckingham’s photograph collapses past, present, and future. Though it resembles an analogue National Parks Service photograph of the 1940s, the image reveals itself to be a digital composite, showing what geologists believe the Six Grandfathers will look like in the year 502,002 C.E., a time when the anthropomorphized faces of the granite cliffs will have been eroded into obscurity.