Future of the Future exhibition at Prague’s DOX seeks to go beyond established conceptions of past, present and future

30-07-2010

The future is not what is used to be. This popular statement was the inspiration for a fresh exhibition that opened at Prague’s DOX Center for Contemporary Art this week. It is titled The Future of the Future and explores not just our visions of the future, but also how our understanding of the actual concept has changed. On display are works by artists from Austria, England, Germany and the US. Sarah Borufka went and took a look at what the future holds.

Blue Frog Society is the name of an installation piece by Barbara Holub that is featured in the Future of the Future exhibition that opened in Prague’s DOX Centre for Contemporary Art on July 29th.

Barbara Holub explains why she chose the name Blue Frog Society for this project, on display for the first time here at DOX. She says it was inspired by a new urban development in Vienna.

“I think that was a very spontaneous concept, because the future urban development in Vienna, Aspern, is called the lake city, and when I went there, I was thinking of the Amazon immediately, even though it is in the middle of Central Europe. And frogs… I like frogs, because they have these very intimate and very challenging conversations, actually the tape was recorded at a swimming pond that my sister made just outside of Vienna and no artificial sounds were added, and when you listen closely, you can really understand how their dialogues function.”

The Future of the Future exhibition, photo: www.doxprague.orgThe Future of the Future exhibition, photo: www.doxprague.org This audio element is paired with a rather striking visual installation, meant to be explored by the visitor rather than looked at from a distance. I asked the artist to describe its elements.

“It’s an assembly or accumulation of mirror placards, the type you’d use for a demonstration, and they are situated on the floor as if the demonstration had just ended and people would have just left them or, at the same time, as if they were lying on the floor waiting to be picked up.”

Barbara HolubBarbara Holub The mirrors are covered in multi-layered writing, which is hard to read. Yet they feature a very direct manifesto, the society’s ideas on how to establish habits that could lead to a better future.

The ambivalence of this piece fits well with the overall theme of the exhibition, the motto of which is “Yesterday you dreamt about the future, today the future dreams about you”. I asked the exhibition’s curator, Jaroslav Anděl, about the meaning of this statement.

“I tried to make a distinction between two different understandings of the future. And one is represented by the period of the 60’s, when everything was about the future, and everything was about progress, and we believed in infinite growth and that everything will be better tomorrow.

“Well, today, everybody can see that we have a very different attitude. First of all, I think we don’t look into the future as much, so that’s one big difference.”

Barbara Holub: “The Blue Frog Society: Secret Operation #2”, photo: www.doxprague.orgBarbara Holub: “The Blue Frog Society: Secret Operation #2”, photo: www.doxprague.org The exhibition unites various pieces that all deal with a new concept of the future. Aside from Barbara Holub’s Blue Frog Society, it also features a number of other art works, among them a future vision of an art museum in fifty years, by London-based artists Marysia Lewandowska and Neil Cummings. Another item on display is a model of Brooklyn in a hundred years by the New York-based not-for-profit group Terreform One, which has won awards for its urban renewal projects aimed at creating a more environmentally friendly and sustainable New York.

Norman Klein: “The Imaginary 20th Century”, photo: www.doxprague.orgNorman Klein: “The Imaginary 20th Century”, photo: www.doxprague.org “The title of this work is Urbaneering Brooklyn 2110, that means Brooklyn in one hundred years, and of course, it looks very different from Brooklyn today. That’s probably why the authors provided a map, today’s map of Brooklyn, so we would be able to identify individual sections of Brooklyn. It’s all in white and the structures a very distinct, very specific.”

Barbara Holub’s piece, too, aims at providing an alternative vision of the future, though hers started out as a rather abstract one. She says she first had the idea for the Blue Frog Society when she saw a piece of land on the outskirts of Vienna that was to be redeveloped.

Mitchell Joachim: “SOFT Jetpack: Bee Blobs with Parachute and Air Pillow Crotch”, photo: www.doxprague.orgMitchell Joachim: “SOFT Jetpack: Bee Blobs with Parachute and Air Pillow Crotch”, photo: www.doxprague.org “There was a very special moment, when I started doing my research, I discovered a small, jungle-like wood area, a very small parcel in between an abandoned air field and the normal housing area, and it was very secretive and very special.

“And it immediately transferred me to a completely different realm, where I felt that something different had happened, or that something different could happen. And so I started to develop the idea that this could be a habitat of a future society that had survived the conditions of today and that can actually really take the risk to develop ideas that we badly need today.”

Holub is hoping that this fictional society will come into existence in the course of the exhibition, which runs until October, and that people who have better visions of the future and solutions for present problems will unite in the Blue Frog Society. I asked the artist what values she thinks are necessary for a better future.

Marysia Lewandowska, Neil Cummings: “Museum Futures”, photo: www.doxprague.orgMarysia Lewandowska, Neil Cummings: “Museum Futures”, photo: www.doxprague.org “On the one hand, you could say that they are very direct values, some of them are described in between the lines on the mirrors, but at the same time, we do make a plea for certain values like no boundaries, that all people can move around freely, that would be a very important issue.

“At the same time, I think what is very important is to leave space for the unplanned. We live in systems where we think we need to be control all the time. So I think what we really need is to take the risk to dare to leave space for things to evolve.”

And the exhibition’s curator Jaroslav Anděl also hopes that the exhibition will not just reveal how our understanding of the future has changed, but also help expose its flaws and point us in a more positive direction.

“We are much less optimistic about progress, we are much less optimistic about the notion that our children will live better than we do. I think we are worried about the future. But if we try to forget about it, I think that’s not the right attitude. We have to deal with it; we have to deal with issues. And we have to connect, the present, the past and the future. And that’s how our understanding of the future is or should be different from yesterday.”

The Future of the Future exhibition runs at Prague’s DOX until October 25th.

30-07-2010