After the last two years, many of our ideas have been re-adjusted and priorities have shifted as the pandemic has swept across the globe. Climate, health, care and community have come to the fore and hopefully these aspects of life will remain at the top of our priority list as we move forward to a new normal.
Looking to the future and planning for tomorrow, there is an urgent need to become better custodians of the environment and so, it is heartening to see the latest exhibition at the NGV The Ian Potter Centre, Sampling the Future and to explore the premises this exhibition presents.
Through Sampling the Future, the worlds of design, philosophy and science meet technology and the result is a reassessment, reinterpretation and development of processes and ideas. On display are 3D-printed corals and modular underwater reef structures through to robotically printed and knitted architecture that are helping to shape the way technology and manufacturing are influencing our world.
“Right now – the world watches on as governments, corporations and NGOs grapple with the scale and immediacy of the climate challenge,” says Ewan McEoin, curator of the exhibition and The Hugh Williamson Senior Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture, NGV.
“It is easy to lose heart as we see the slow pace of change. In this context the intention of this exhibition is to create an accessible but thought-provoking moment to reveal the role of the designer as a vital actor in ‘designing the world we want’.
“The exhibition invites audiences to contemplate how design, coupled with new tools such as high-resolution digital fabrication offers valuable solutions to imminent challenges. I also wanted to explore the ethics and meaning of the human relationship to materials.
“Twenty-first century designers are increasingly driven by a desire to achieve greater efficiency, sustainability and ethical impact. The projects presented give us a glimpse of exciting possibilities ahead. Perhaps we can be optimistic after all?”
The exhibition is divided into two sections – the near future and the distant future and includes large-scale installations, small objects such as jewellery, mirrors as well as video and sound that speak of the future and capture the essence of the experiential nature of the exhibits.
Designers who explore the ‘near future’ present works that combat climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, while those exploring the ‘distant future’ draw on history, mythology and philosophy to explore our relationship to and reliance on natural resources, as well as the central role that materials have played in shaping the tools and artefacts of human civilisation.
Among the designers whose works are exhibited are Alice Springs-based Elliat Rich, Sydney-based Kyoko Hashimoto and Guy Keulemans, and Melbourne duo Georgia Nowak and Eugene Perepletchikov.
While many of the works on display come from the NGV collection there are newly-commissioned exhibits such as Unclear Cloud, 2021, a work of speculative architecture by Roland Snooks, Associate Professor at RMIT University with fellow RMIT academic and sound artist Philip Samartzis.
Unclear Cloud attempts to realise an architectural representation of the ‘virtual’ cloud in order to draw attention to the environmental impact of cloud computing and its massive energy requirements. The work is accompanied with sound by Samartzis, which comprises recordings of climatic research activity, weather and melting glaciers in the Bernese Alps.
Another impressive inclusion is Alex Goad and his Reef Design Lab’s room-sized commission that explores the effects of human activity on marine ecosystems. Through a 3D-printed modular system constructed to replicate reef habitats in tropical and temperate waters, the exhibit aims to provide protection for small fish and support coral species, such as oysters and mussels, and becomes a replacement for damaged maritime ecosystems.
Sampling the Future is a thought-provoking exhibition that will help provide hope for the future as it showcases design that is explorative, creative and ingenious, using technology to benefit all.
As McEoin reflects, “In Australia we tend to have ‘term of office thinking’ – three- or four-year spans. How would it shift our society if we learnt to imagine the future a bit more? These projects reveal some of the ways that designers can help us visualise or imagine what the future might be like, so that we might question and test ideas about tomorrow. It is only through imagining the future can we make it. Or change course. Foresight is after all one of the most valuable tools of design – may we use it wisely.”
Sampling the Future
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square,
5 November 2021 – 6 February 2022
Photography — Tom Ross