Friday is the official beginning of winter. It might also be the last day of existence.

The long-range calendar of the ancient Mayans ends on Dec. 21, and some believe that marks the end of time.

For those keeping score, many people believed the world would end in a divine rapture in May 2011. So far, the apocalypse is batting .000.

Pop culture has attempted to destroy the world many times, via nuclear annihilation, alien invaders, extreme weather, an asteroid collision, and the rise of intelligent apes.

The end of everything has been on Barry Vacker's mind. The professor of media studies at Temple University has put together three days of art, film, lectures, and music revolving around the idea of apocalypse at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (Philly MOCA), a small alternative art gallery at 12th and Spring Garden.

Vacker has tracked how visions of end-times have evolved from earliest myths to the latest social media-driven memes.

"Technology is evolving rapidly and I think many people are fearful of what it signifies," said Vacker. "A sense of loss, a sense of an end, an end to a certain vision of America. Underneath the dialogue of the left and right are very fearful views of an America that is in a state of entropy, and a new kind of emerging that many are unprepared to deal with."

Vacker, with curator Genevieve Gillespie, put out a call to artists for their visions of apocalypse expressed through various categories, including technological, personal, economic, and environmental. Much of the work shows a wide range of invention, however nihilistic.

The ancient Mayans never predicted the world would end when their calendar does. Their very complicated calendar system is explained in detail at the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, with its extensive exhibition of Mayan art and artifacts.

Not missing a beat, the Penn Museum is throwing its own party Friday night, with Mayan-inspired cocktails toasting the end of the world as we know it.


Video by Kimberly Paynter