Design exhibition: The Future Starts Here

‘The future is up for grabs,’ according to Rory Hyde, co-curator of The Future Starts Here, an upcoming exhibition at London’s V&A which sets out to explore the power of design to shape the world of tomorrow. ‘This is not a speculative show,’ he warns me at the preview this morning. Rather this exhibition, which has taken two years to research – working with architects, designers, scientists, inventors around the world – is more about gathering evidence of the future to see what social and cultural impact objects can have on our lives. ‘These objects point to where we are going.’

On show this morning were only a few examples of the sort of objects and ideas to expect when the exhibition opens here in May 2018. All the 100 or so selected pieces are currently in development in studios and laboratories around the world. From smart appliances to satellites, artificial intelligence to internet culture, this will be the first opportunity to not only see projects by the likes of Google and Apple, but in the context of alternative futures presented by smaller institutions and independent thinkers.

For instance, Bento Biowork’s Bento Lab is a portable DNA lab that makes it relatively easy to take biological samples and conduct simple genetic analysis. As the name suggests it is compact and designed to be portable and affordable to appeal to universities but also ‘hobbyists’ – bee keepers, brewers, say the inventors. Radical Love is Heather Dewey Hagborg’s DNA portraits of Chelsea Manning – the life size, three-dimensional printed portraits were generated using her DNA, which was extracted while in prison from cheek swabs and hair clippings and posted to the artist.

Netherlands-based artist Jalila Essaidi’s Living Network project imagines a future of the internet as a worldwide web of trees, allowing communication over great distances.While, Luchtsingel is a 400-meter pedestrian bridge connecting Rotterdam’s declining Central District to north of the city with its own park and rooftop garden. A community initiative crowdfunded by citizens, each of the bridge’s timber panels is inscribed with the name of every donor. Elsewhere, Facebook’s Aquila aircraft is part of a solar-powered high-altitude platform station system which is in early development as part of the company’s efforts to bring affordable connectivity to unconnected regions around the world.

The Future Starts Here will explore not just these objects and ideas, but crucially what impact they may have on us, our daily lives, our work, cities, larger politics and the planet. Hyde likens it to the smartphone, an object that has merged our work, home, personal and leisure lives, unknowingly completely altered how we live. The exhibition highlights the reality that the future isn’t some abstract concept that we don’t have control of – we can monitor, direct, select the objects and ideas that define our future in a positive way.

The Future Starts Here is supported by Volkswagen Group
The exhibition will be on from 12 May to 4 November 2018 in The Sainsbury Gallery, V&A, London


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