In the spring and summer of 2017, M HKA will host an exhibition that intends to be ‘more than an exhibition’. ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ will attempt to turn the museum into a laboratory or studio, and to bring together two contexts that have certain things in common: art and futures studies (also known as foresight).
The initial impulse of the co-organisers, M HKA’s senior curator Anders Kreuger and Antwerp-based professional futurist Maya Van Leemput, was to compare their two speculative domains. Perhaps they are disciplines, perhaps not. How do art and futures studies relate to knowledge? In art, the concept and practice of knowing is always contested: sometimes under-rated, sometimes over-rated, often in conflict with thinking and feeling. In futures studies, the desired object of knowledge – the various futures that might be – is per definition always absent, because it doesn’t yet exist.
Since we want to challenge the museum presentation format, we thought it would be useful to invite both artists and professional futurists (with specialisations in Alternative Futures, Design Futures, Postnormal Futures and Technology Futures) to contribute to and participate in a common project for a few months. Therefore the title: ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’.
From a curatorial perspective it is interesting to work with futures as an exhibition theme and to consider the futures of exhibition-making itself. From a futurist perspective this is a valuable opportunity to see how artists can create and communicate images of futures and help question the meanings and methods of futures studies.
As a structuring device for the exhibition, we decided to use an approach originating at the Manoa School of Futures Studies at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu where professor em. James Dator developed an analytical and scenario modelling tool that he calls ‘four futures’.
All contributors in ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ are asked to address either continuation (or continued growth), collapse (in itself but also as a possible beginning of something new), discipline (whether top-down, as in authoritarian societies, or bottom-up, as in activist movements) and transformation (with special attention to possible future roles of Artificial Intelligence).
The intention is to ensure that each futures scenario is addressed by at least one artist and one non-artist, and to organise the exhibition as discrete units, enveloped by a purpose-built set commissioned from the artist Alexander Lee (1974, French Polynesia).
The other invited artists are: Nina Roos (1956,Finland) and Darius Žiūra (1968, Lithuania) for ‘continuation’; Michel Auder (1944, France/US), Simryn Gill (1959, Malaysia/Australia) for ‘collapse’; Miriam Bäckström (1967, Sweden) and Kasper Bosmans (1990, Belgium) for ‘discipline’; Guan Xiao (1983, China) and Jean Katambayi (1974, Democratic Republic of the Congo) for ‘transformation’.
Maya Van Leemput (1969, Belgium) is also contributing to the exhibition, for ‘continuation’. The professional futurists invited are: Mei-Mei Song (1966 Taiwan) for ‘collapse’; Centre for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies (London/Chicago), consisting of Ziauddin Sardar (1951, Pakistan/UK) and John Sweeney (1977, US) for ‘discipline’; Stuart Candy (1980, Australia/Canada) for ‘transformation’.
The museum’s mediation team has been involved from the beginning in devising the content and form of the project. Our aim is to attract audiences that are different (and hopefully broader) than M HKA’s usual followers. We are hoping to involve a variety of groups and organisations in creating activities inside and during the exhibition, encouraging visitors to come more than once.
The DDT unconference will be held on Friday June 16th and Saturday June 17th inside the exhibition.
‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ will open at the end of April 2017 and run until the end of September. The project is part of the series ‘The Uses of Art’, funded by the European Union through the L’Internationale museum confederacy, of which M HKA is a founding member. Other members of the confederacy include MACBA in Barcelona, Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana, Reina Sofía in Madrid, SALT in Istanbul and Ankara and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.