Archive for May 9, 2012

A Better Future: “Emerge” at the ASU Art Museum

From March 1-3, ASU hosted Emerge: Artists and Scientists Redesign the Future. This spectacular campus-wide event combined the disciplines of art and science to explore the impact of technological evolution on the potential futures we are creating. The advancement of humanity and the advancement of technology have become inextricably intertwined. Participants in Emerge investigated the effect of this symbiotic evolution, addressing the transformations in our lifestyles, the landscapes we inhabit, and even how we define ourselves as humans resulting from the increasing prevalence of technologies in our lives. For more information about the event, read about it from these people in some of the great blog posts I’ve linked below.

We Alone on Earth

http://wealoneonearth.blogspot.com/2012/03/emerge-impressions-day-3.html#.T42xEWHr7lw.email

Julian Does Stuff

http://julian.tumblr.com/post/18661289878/emerge-asu-2012-design-fiction-workshop-a-set-on

An interview with keynote speaker Bruce Sterling as he explains the concept of design fiction

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/03/02/bruce_sterling_on_design_fictions_.html?tid=sm_tw_button_toolbar

Now if after reading all this you’re hooked, but you’re sad that you missed it, don’t be too sad. For anybody interested in experiencing this event, some of its fascinating projects are now housed in the Top Gallery of the ASU Art Museum.

I’ve experienced a significant number of the exhibitions featured at the museum, but nothing ever like this before.

Simultaneously eerie and poignant, the interactive exhibition is a beautiful, visually striking hybrid between a science center and an art gallery. The gallery is washed a sterile white onto which florescence glows. Texts in an assortment of bold, vivid colors are stamped throughout the exhibition space, glaringly obvious, almost lurid against the florescent white. The ambience is fascinating and somewhat unearthly. Entering the gallery feels like stepping into a world far removed from the one you inhabit daily. It sounds a little intimidating, but any first impressions of unease are quickly removed by all the gadgets to play with. These cool inventions and imaginings all present answers to the question of what our future might hold.

At one end of the gallery, a collection of View-Masters sits on display (I’ve included a picture below in case you’re not familiar with the View-Master). Clicking through the slides presents different views of the future as it pertains to Arizona. Having grown up in the 1990s I personally love this part of the exhibition. I remember these toys from my childhood, and really appreciate the irony of using them to ‘view’ the future.

An adjoining room showcases the vibrant headdresses created for Immerge a ‘unique interactive performance’ that occurred at the end of the event on the plaza behind the Museum.  Scenes from the performance with the actors in full costume are projected onto the gallery wall. Truly elaborate works of art, these headdresses are a sophisticated combination of feathers, wire and lights. Each seems so fragile a single breath could destroy it. Quirky descriptions of the characters represented by each headdress accompany the display, conveying impish, childlike personalities despite the artistic and technical intricacy.

While the exhibition is undeniably visually and technically just cool, it’s the interactive features that make it touching and memorable. The exhibition recognizes the importance of everyone’s input. We all have a stake in the future. It involves us beyond allowing us to just see ‘the experts’ (Emerge participants) ideas of the future by encouraging personal contributions. A table containing labeled glass tubes and marbles lets visitors vote on the topic they consider most important for a sustainable future. Clay for molding future inventions is supplied at a table in the center of the gallery. Alcoves along one wall house the imaginings of previous visitors. Colorful Post-its provided at one end of the gallery invite visitors to share their thoughts. The response is overwhelming; hundreds of these colorful paper squares adorn the walls around the gallery’s entrance.

While upon first glance the exhibition may seem cold and intimidating, closer inspection reveals how truly emotive and human it actually is. While some parts of the exhibition are undeniably rather dystopic (synthetic panda jerky anyone?) the contributions left behind speak of hope.

Some are funny:

Some are heartfelt:

Some are calls to action:

No matter their content, each and every one represents something someone was prompted to think and then cared enough to share. The quality and sheer volume of responses illustrates a prevailing mentality of ‘our future’ rather than ‘my future.’ Whatever future may unfold, this exhibition makes it evident that it will be one we create, share and face together.

Karen Enters, Intern

May 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment


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