Latitudes / Carl Newland

Sequelism Part 3: Possible, Probable, or Preferable Futures

Arnolfini, Bristol, United Kingdom, 18 July–20 September 2009

Exhibition with works by: Mariana Castillo Deball (1975, Mexico City. Lives in Berlin/Amsterdam), Heman Chong (1977, Malaysia. Lives in Berlin/Singapore), Graham Gussin (1960, London. Lives in London), Victor Man (1974, Cluj–Napoca. Lives in Cluj–Napoca), Francesc Ruiz (in residency) (1971 Barcelona. Lives in Barcelona), Jordan Wolfson (1980, New York. Lives New York/Berlin) and Haegue Yang (1971 Seoul. Lives in Berlin/Seoul). Curated with Nav Haq (Exhibitions Curator, Arnolfini).

'Sequelism: Possible, Probable, or Preferable Futures' looked into the future and at that which is yet to happen. It considered how art and the inexact arena of futurology might be utilised as a means to better comprehend, rethink, obscure, or even colonise the present.

The future is commonly manifested in popular cultural forms, including science fiction, yet how might we look beyond the present without recourse to established genres? To what extent does strategic foresight affect our understanding of the now, the ‘then’ or the ‘when’? Is the future a culturally specific phenomenon, that is inherently Western in its gaze and orientation? And just how accurate can we be when imagining the future? Disputing illustrative organisation around a predetermined thesis, the project itself invited doubt, speculation and to-be-determined outcomes.

Taking the style of a magical realist tale or children's story, Mariana Castillo Deball's 'Nobody Was Tomorrow' (2007) consisted of three interconnected stories based on the fictional connections between three real ‘characters’ – ‘Nobody’ a defunct accelerating aging machine, a sprawling fig tree and the remains of a Roman bath in Čačak, Serbia. Castillo Deball makes us mindful of culture’s fortunes through a swirling fable about the sedimentation of time, encapsulated by an image of a damaged book.

'Index (Down)' (2009) was part of Heman Chong's ongoing series ‘Surfacing’, which require the action of putting up 3000 stickers on a wall within a given set of instructions. The red triangular stickers were intended to resemble the downward pointing arrows used to denote a fall in value of stock exchanges. Considering the paranoia around the scenario of economic free fall, Index (Down) used this motif to create an abstract pattern evoking a waterfall.

Graham Gussin's 'Hypnotic/Dystopic/Optic' (2009) presented a ‘horizon line’ of rotating record covers for soundtracks to renowned dystopian science fiction films. The covers were set to rotate at the speed at which their images ‘vaporise’ at the limit of visual comprehension. 'In The Not Too Distant Future (Self Portrait with Sleeping Masks)' (2009) was a self-portrait of the artist inspired by a scene from the film La Jetée (1962) concerning an experiment in time travel following a nuclear war.

Francesc Ruiz's stair-barrier installation 'Untitled (Bristol)' (2009) took the shop windows of the high streets in the south of Bristol – East Street and North Street – as sequential units akin to comic-book vignettes. Ruiz created a narrative around a dystopian future in which destruction, revolt and anger have invaded the city after an economic downturn.

Jordan Wolfson 'Untitled' (2007) centred on a 1984 Macintosh 128k, the first affordable home computer to use a mouse-driven graphical user interface. The computer was seen stranded by the side of a road in Connecticut which was built in the late 1930s following the Great Depression. The soundtrack comprised a triumphalist monologue concerning the emergence of American abstract painting in the 1950s. Wolfson was interested in obsolescence, and in these elements as generational touchstones.

Victor Man's three pieces could be read in terms of premonition and symbolic rites which relate to the uncertainty of the future in a similar way that memory relates to the past. A taxidermy fox head was wedged within a metal structure as if a votive or magical offering. Vinyl text on a wall was negated by a neon ‘X’. A ceramic funerary plate bore the image of stars, whose arrangement has often been interpreted by man in terms of fate and fortune.

Haegue Yang's 'Holiday for Tomorrow'  (2007) considered our perception of time, and the emotional anticipation of holidays, those socially-agreed days in which labour is suspended and we attempt to rest our bodies and minds. At its centre was a video essay showing Seoul during the Korean harvest holiday Chuseok over which a female voice reflected on the postponement of desire and the dysfunctional hopes triggered by enforced leisure.

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