Conn College professor Nadav Assor discusses 'Future Perfect' show at Hygienic
As humans, we tend to worry, speculate and question our futures — not just the futures of our own lives but also those of humanity and the universe. “Future Perfect,” a juried exhibition currently on display in New London’s Hygienic Art Galleries, explores such thoughts and ideas by combining art with technology.
Besides reimagining how our world might look decades or centuries from now, “Future Perfect” also seeks to address how our present technologies could pave way to new ideas to help humanity in the future — among other themes. Curated by Connecticut College Assistant Art Professor Nadav Assor, “Future Perfect” is the third collaboration between Hygienic and the Conn College Biennial Symposium on Arts & Technology. The symposium ended earlier this month, but the Hygienic exhibition runs through March 3.
Showcasing a dozen pieces from artists around the world, the show invites viewers to engage and experiment with the video games, virtual realities, projections and robots on display.
Assor, who was born in the U.S. but who grew up and went to university in Israel, has focused his career on technologically-inspired art forms and currently teaches classes at Conn College in those areas.
The Day spoke with him about the ideas behind the exhibit and how the artists in the show are thinking about the future themselves.
His answers have been edited for clarity and space.
What is the show trying to address overall?
The many alternate ways that the future can be envisioned. The works explored in this show are a step away from how we typically think of the future. Either we think of the future as this old-school, happy, sci-fi way of thinking of the future, or we think of a dystopian sci-fi future. Those old ideas, especially the optimistic ones, often reflect ways of thinking that were more typical in the ‘50s — everything being bright and shiny, flying cars, everyone is white, and men are the innovators. What was interesting to me, when I was selecting works for the exhibition, was that I was seeing work that was trying to do something else, that was different from both of those standard approaches.
How would you describe the show’s futuristic landscapes and worlds?
There are totally dystopian elements playing through the art. There are dark elements, but there are also funny elements mixed in. This art isn’t depicting a brave, happy world. The art isn’t choosing those pure options. The art is going for something more complicated, which is something that we are starting to understand in the futures that we are hopefully heading towards. It’s not total darkness and depression and apocalypse, either, and it’s also not the brave new world that was prophesized. It’s something more complicated than that.
Some examples include a completely abstract depiction of future wars, border conflicts and migrations — a big visualization of the future. Another, for example, is a future society that doesn’t even need to work anymore because everything is managed by an artificial intelligence.
Is the title for the exhibition a little ironic? Obviously, perfect futures are not being depicted.
Of course. It’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s certainly not trying to represent a perfect future. You can’t do that. That’s immediately depressing and dystopian if anybody talks about a perfect future. The whole idea behind the term “Future Perfect” is a future that’s already been completed. This show, in a sense, goes against all that. The work goes against the future we thought we were going towards in the past.
Do you think this reflects something about the generation of artists who made these works?
The artists who contributed to this show range in age from their late 20s to their early 60s. I believe that thinking criticality about the future has more to do with how much you think about the future rather than your age.
It’s interesting that many of these artists are not seeing the future in a positive way. There are a lot war themes and a sense of discomfort. that’s explored. There doesn’t seem to be much hope.
It’s interesting because, in actuality, it seems like the youngest artists in the show are critical but, at the same time, are the ones who seemed to have fun with their work.
For example, Luis Mejico is using social media to convey something very human and genuine and fragile through his piece.
In a piece by Mina Rafiee, Jason Bragon and Magnus Pind, their world imagines a society that has solved the issues of capitalism. That age group seems to be playing with those ideas and I think that’s a really great approach to thinking about the future.
A piece by Veronica Mockler also has a genuine, honest aspect about it while also being data driven through the research that went behind the study. That work explores how engaging someone in conversation can make one more sympathetic to another’s situation. Her study focuses on how various ethical and political views can shift after having a meaningful conversation with someone else.
Any advice to potential show-goers?
The main thing is take your time. Since a lot of the pieces are time based and quite a few of them are interactive, I just say take your time and don’t be afraid to fully engage with any of them. And once you engage with the pieces and think about it for a bit, you can go back and pick up the brochure to read about it and gain further insights into those specific experiences. The more you put into it the show, the more you will get out of it.
If you go
What: "Future Perfect," in conjunction with Connecticut College's 16th Biennial Symposium on Arts & Technology
Where: Hygieninc Art Galleries, 79 Bank Street, New London
Hours: 2-7 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat., 12-4 p.m. Sun.
For more information: (860) 443-8001
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