empathy

Is This Really The Future?

The latest exhibit at Haunch of Venison, “How To Tell The Future From Past Events,” is an ironic prophecy of a world in which human beings have failed to evolve alongside their natural and technological counterparts. The exhibit features work from several artists who bring their own creative interpretations of a fictionalized future of posthumans, their pets, and their accessories.

This topic lends itself to incredibly fascinating artwork because many of the pieces draw on rich, historical images or themes of cultural resonance. For instance, Yang Jiechang’s piece, “St-Arbre-Feu blanc,” is hugely reminiscent of Hokusai’s famous “Under A Wave Off Kanagawa” (pictured below). His modern take on the original 19th century panel wood painting updates the threat posed by nature by explicitly removing the natural element of water from the equation entirely (the Tsunami), and then reinserting the dangers of a new world (earth, wind, and fire; literally everything that Hokusai missed).

great_wave_off_kanagawa Hokusai’s “Under A Wave Off Kanagawa.”

Other paintings depict similar ideas of a failed future for humanity. A dark, barely intelligible painting that shows an atavistic family in the woods fades out in one corner into a disturbingly translucent grid. This subtle insert of technology indicates that this primitive scene is not from the past, but from the future. And what makes this painting even more terrifying for posterity is the content of the scene that’s depicted: with no light or electricity, this small family has taken shelter in the woods and is hang-drying their clothes over a fire. Now while this may seem like just another summer Boy Scouts’ retreat to some, imagine it in the context of the exhibit: this is the norm – this is the future.

The exhibit also displays a few 3D pieces that breach an entirely new subject concerning the future of man. Previously we had only seen man conquered by nature or technology (regressing in some cases), but Patricia Piccinini and Joana Vasconcelos, however, give us a glimpse of the other beings that will occupy this all-but-predictable future (or, perhaps, that we will transform into).

Will We Recognize Ourselves?

One of the most popular and striking pieces at the exhibit’s opening was a man kneeling down holding an amorphous blob in his hands, visibly sad and mourning its loss. Another jarring piece was an ugly, horribly offensive-looking creature hanging from the ceiling. It appeared to be half tire rubber and half human (or so I can only assume!), strewn haphazardly together with clumps of hair, unattractive folds, and near-detectable human features and extremities. If this thing was at one time human, it was impossible to tell which part of the human body it could even feasibly resemble. But I think that’s precisely the point: in the future we are to have transformed ourselves into such ugly, unrecognizable and hyperbolized caricatures of ourselves that we fail to see the sad reality and aberration of our own evolution, prophetic warning or not.

“How To Tell The Future From Past Events” is a wildly creative and memorable exhibit that’s definitely worth checking out. Its stunning visuals and thought-provoking pieces will force you to reconsider the trajectory of your own life and its relationship to nature and technology. You won’t leave the same, I promise. 

  •  Haunch of Venison – How To Tell The Future From Past Events” – January 17th-March 2nd, 2013 – Tues – Sat, 10am -6pm 

Article by Eric Rydin