Exhibition: Future Perfect
Future Perfect is a fictional, future city. A think tank of scientists, technologists, designers, artists and science fiction authors have collectively developed this imaginary place, the landscapes that surround it and the stories it contains. The exhibition is a stage set for a collection of fictions, emerging infrastructures and design experiments that can be inhabited as large-scale districts of the future city.
It is a speculative urbanism, an exaggerated present, where we can explore the wonders and possibilities of emerging biological and technological research and envision the possible worlds we may want to build for ourselves. For the future is not something that washes over us like water, it is a place we must actively shape and define. Through fictions we share ideas and we chronicle our hopes and fears, our deepest anxieties and our wildest fantasies. Some of us will be swept up in what the city could be, others will be reserved and look on with caution. We have not walked these streets before, what things may come, in a Future Perfect.
The Future Perfect Think Tank
Emerging in the shadows of the decaying towers of a post oil Dubai, geo engineered by climatologists and influenced by the imminent economic boom of the Indian subcontinent it is a terraformed urban island. A city that is grown rather than built, a creature, living, breathing and computing, a seething ecology that has become a new metropolitan megaform. Bots drift across this inhabited geology, a dense accumulation of crevice rooms, and public valleys, slowly printing and reprinting, endlessly as demand requires. Through the strata are threaded the tendrils of a complex circulatory system that feeds the moist surfaces of a vibrant endemic ecology where nature and technology intertwine and biology becomes a new economy. Supercomputers whistle and whir; there is a virtual city, a parallel city overlaid directly onto the physical that turns everything into interface, everything into program. It is an imaginary landscape extrapolated from the wonders and possibilities of emerging biological and technological research. The city watches on, breathing, blinking.
Marshamallow Laser Feast (UK)
Laid across the physical city is a virtual doppelganger, a ghost landscape of hyperlinks, geo tags, digital maps and satellite scans. The air is thick, charged with bits, bytes, electrons and energy fields. A network of tracking cameras follows us as we wander across this data city, our gestures and movements, translated and then beamed as dynamic forms of light that animate around us. Like flamboyant conductors, the audience interacts with an array of high powered projectors that give life to a luminous terrain of mountains, clouds and particles. By employing directional audio technology, a synthetic soundscape feels almost real, conjuring a visceral experience of a world currently hidden in screens, circuits and hardware. Follow paths of sound, listen for the edge of a surface, see it shimmer, and drift right through, like a rock falling in the sea. It is a new model for interfacing with technology and the invisible world that completely envelopes us- an inhabitable visualisation of the digital that glows in the haze and then flickers into darkness.
Bart Hess (NL)
Our bodies are endlessly photographed, monitored and laser scanned with millimetre precision. From this context of surveillance, facial recognition, avatars and virtual ghosts, we imagine a near future where digital static, distortions and glitches become a new form of ornament. For the youth tribes of Future Perfect the body is a site for adaption, augmentation and experimentation. They celebrate the corruption of the body data by moulding within their costumery all the imperfections of a decaying scan file. Shimmering in the exhibition landscape is a network of geometric reflective pools of molten wax. Their mirrored surface is broken by a body, suspended from a robotic harness, plunging into the liquid. A crust of wax crystallises around its curves and folds, growing architectural forms, layer by layer, like a 3d printer drawing directly onto the skin. Slowly the body emerges, encased in a dripping wet readymade prosthetic. It is a physical glitch, a manifestation of corrupt data in motion, a digital artefact. They hang from hooks like a collection of strange beasts and frozen avatars. Body prints, imperfect and distorted and always utterly unique
And Nowhere a Shadow
Cohen Van Balen (UK)
There is no nature anymore. We are wandering a new kind of wilderness, where the line between biology and technology is becoming increasingly indistinguishable. Through genetic modification, engineered meat, cosmetic surgery and geo-engineering we are remaking our world from the scale of cells to the scale of continents. The woods, wild and mysterious from afar, appear as a stage on which every element is considered. Genetically engineered plants, artificially sustained, are hanging from the trees, embedded in the ecology yet detached from it. Their scaffolding systems of gleaming steel and neon light sway in the wind, waiting. Grey wolves approach the structures during the night to scratch their body on the steel branches. In an intricate arrangement of devised symbiosis, the contraption takes on the role of host organism. The wolf’s movements generate electricity for the system, while the blueberries are engineered to contain rabies vaccine in its fruit to protect the animal from self-destruction. Cameras transmit footage of the wolf’s presence around the globe, adorned in invisible garlands of electric display, to be enjoyed by those whose passion for the spectacle of wilderness sustains its survival.
Bots of Babel
Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab (US)
The biblical story of the Tower of Babel involved a deliberate plan hatched by mankind to construct a platform from which man could fight God. The tower represented the first documented attempt at constructing a vertical city. The divine response to the master plan was to sever communication by instilling a different language in each builder. Tragically the building’s ultimate destruction came about through the breakdown of communications between its fabricators. In this part of the city we redeem the Tower of Babel by creating its antithesis. Above our heads, in a canopy of wires, a virtuous, decentralized yet highly communicative building environment of cable-suspended fabrication bots build together structures bigger than themselves. Inspired by multicellular reef-building coral polyps the bots grow a complex skeletal frame, additively manufactured, extruding material in asynchronous motion. They feverously zip and buzz back and forth, forms emerge; they build everywhere, all the time.
Factory Fifteen (UK)
From a clearing in the mist we scan across the city in luminous detail. A film is projected from the lookout that follows a group of children as they play a game of "hide and seek" in Future Perfect. Shot on location in India we see through their eyes a near future heavily influenced by the imminent boom of the Indian subcontinent, an emerging technology and economic superpower. The control systems that now run traffic systems, power grids and financial networks sit in the shadows, out of sight but silently organising our lives. Deep in the substrate of Future Perfect is a supercomputer that regulates the city and everyone within it. Reminiscent of an exaggerated silent film, everyone interacts with their digital city through intricate signs and gesture control. As the children play they learn to hack the augmented streets evading their friends but getting lost in the hidden spaces they have unlocked. They must escape from a sentient city that no longer recognises them.