By PAUL LASTER, Nov. 2018
A group show about a networked future, “Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future” examined work by seven international artists exploring various aspects of the future through narratives, episodes and fragmented accounts. Originating at London Hayward Gallery in the spring and recently on view at Concrete, Alserkal Avenue’s Rem Koolhaas/OMA-designed adventurous exhibition space in Dubai, the show presented artists from different geographical locations around the world whose work referenced even more geographical places.
Curated by Hayward Gallery senior curator Dr. Cliff Lauson, the exhibition explored forms of architecture, biology, technology and language while the show’s title, Adapt to Survive, was meant to reference an entrepreneurial or start-up mentality responding to market forces and consumer demand. According to Lauson, he views the theory as a part of society that is propelling us into the future and making us future obsessed.
Danish-Norwegian artist Ann Lislegaard’s 2011 video sculpture, Time Machine, presented an animated fox-like creature reading garbled passages from H.G. Well’s eponymous book in an unfolded mirror-box. Greek artist and architect Andreas Angelidakis’ 2004-06 video animation, The Walking Building, offered a look at a futuristic contemporary art museum that changes form based on the needs of artists who no longer have traditional studio practices.
Also using video, Austrian artist Rainer Ganahl’s 2010 short, I Hate Karl Marx, envisioned a future where Chinese is the dominant language and communist China the leading political and economic power, with a young German woman railing against a statue of Marx, whom she ironically blames for her social situation. Nearby, the French-Swiss artist Julian Charrière’s 2017 sculptural installation, Future Fossil Spaces, noted the geological impact of digital society through his construction of columns of salt, made with salt bricks from the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia, where lithium is extracted for the making of batteries.
Lebanese artist and writer Youmna Chlala’s 2018 installation of vinyl wall drawings and video projection, The Museum of Future Memories: The Butterfly Already Exists in the Caterpillar, used text and imagery to tell the story of a Norwegian city in flux, where climate change has had a devastating impact and people have to find a new way to exist. Welch artist Bedwyr Williams’ 2016 video Tyrrau Mawr (The Big Towers) also presented a vision of an imaginary city—this time in North Wales, where a remix of famous architectural buildings go through a day to night cycle as the artist’s voiceover gives insight into the lives of the inhabitants.
Meanwhile, French artist Marguerite Humeau’s 2018 sculptural display HARRY II (BODY) dealt with myth through the construction of a symbolic, sphinxlike figure that could be viewed as a kind of contemporary, hybrid gatekeeper with artificial human blood and skin and an artificial blood-sucking organ, which emitted a devouring sound.
What better place to present a show about the future than Dubai—a city of tomorrow! WM
Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, artist and lecturer. He’s a contributing editor at ArtAsiaPacific and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and writer for Time Out New York, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Galerie Magazine, Sculpture, Art & Object, Cultured, Architectural Digest, Garage, Surface, Ocula, Observer, ArtPulse, Conceptual Fine Arts and Glasstire. He was the founding editor of Artkrush, started The Daily Beast’s art section, and was art editor of Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine, as well as a curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.
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