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Mapping the Future

“A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do.” President Woodrow Wilson, 1911

“You have been handed a heritage but you will leave a legacy.” Anonymous

Have you ever had the chance to stop and reflect on how the past affects the present, and how combined the two affect the future? Do the three ever correlate? Where do you draw the line between the past and the present, reality and fiction, the seen and unseen, real emotions and those of an invented character?

These were not questions I had given much thought to until a bunch of us from the ChristChurch London Transform: Creative Industries group, mostly ladies, decided to explore the topology of the future. We visited Future Map 11, an annual art exhibition that is held at the Zabludowicz Collection in North London. The annual event provided a stage for some quirky, clever and really impressive works from a group of the finest emerging talents. They were selected from thousands of art students to represent the next generation of artists and designers who are seen as no less than those who ‘will define our visual landscape’. No pressure. This exhibition was especially appealing as our own Martha Lewis was selected from among the whole array of talented student artists.

As we approached the imposing and beautiful architecture of the Zabludowitcz building, the art novice in me felt a bit intimidated. But when we walked through the glass and… plain doors, the modern foyer gave me a false sense of security and almost familiarity. After a brief chat we stepped into the ‘future’, and that feeling of security dissipated. There before me stood a wide variety of art and material in all possible shapes and forms. Some exhibits were incredibly witty, bold, original and very much ‘outside the box’, and some, unfortunately, lacked life experience and maturity, or stuck to conventions and expectations, which gave a déjà-vu effect.

It was fascinating to see the desire and zeal of the young artists to explore their ideas. We were greeted with a set of portraits that, on the one hand, looked so artificial and posed (postures, lighting, entourage) and, on the other hand, so real and ‘usual’ (people, day-to-day elements, places familiar to the average Brit); a video with a soundtrack that rhythmically measured the daily objects, activities and situations that were presented from a new perspective; a pair of eccentric leather umbrellas with studs and long, horse-like tails the artistic merit of which lost me as I heard that they were available for purchase starting from £4,800(!).

There was also an antique style mirror decorated with traces of beautiful lace that created an effect of fake parchment paper, or rather of a photo booth covered from top to bottom with one-dollar notes. Ok, so my comparison was only a joke, but the piece was a great example of the vanity and superficiality of the human heart as well as frustration from unfulfilled dreams, aspirations and desires.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was a pair of incredibly precise and detailed drawings from Martha, who thankfully was there and happy to field a wave of questions from me. She drew inspiration from old Hollywood films and various characters in them, and combined them with some imaginary elements, like seahorses or little birds, that are juxtaposed against the frailty and tension of the scene. This very bold and, in a sense, unique manner of drawing requires a high level of skill, concentration, eye for detail and, no doubt, true talent.

I have always dreaded talking about art, partly because I have never done any myself and partly because it can be so elusive and personal. However, I realised that the more you know of it, the more you understand the human thought process and its deviations. I don’t know what everyone expected, but the more I stared at some pieces of art, trying to understand where the artist was coming from, the more it was becoming obvious to me how much the previous generations’ achievements, aspirations and lives affected the way we perceive our future.

As I was walking past the works I was trying to speak out my understanding, or desire of such, thanking Lee Ufan, a Korean sculptor and artist exhibited in the Guggenheim in New York, and the useful audio guide that brought home every single piece and dot on the canvas when we were there last September.

The last item I saw at Future Map was an interesting 5-metre scroll exhibit with an ambiguous title: ‘Swiss Roll’. As I was analyzing the ever-growing size of the pictures of Swiss watches, and the rhythmic perforations of the pianola and their relationship on paper, I was reminded of the tension between human futility and finiteness and the fact that we would never be able to measure time, or the effect it will have on us, but we can be reassured of the power, might and wisdom of the One who holds it all together.

Let me just conclude with a verse from the Bible that well sums up all of the above, “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4


Future Map 11 runs until 5 February 2012. You can see examples of the work and read more information about the artists on the official website.

The Zabludowicz Collection
176 Prince of Wales Road

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Image: The Chariot Race, by Tom, used under CC

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