Works on the subject of “the future” commissioned by Unit/Pitt from: Susanna Browne, Kevin Murphy, PJS Artist Collective (John Walkus-Greene, Skylar Stock, and Paul Lang), and Kelly Roulette.

What Future is a sequel to UNIT/PITT’s 2011-12 commissioning project Ill Repute. In 2011 we asked five emerging artists to create works drawing on the “wrong side of history”, including the various radical and pseudo-radical tendencies that intersected with the Pitt as an institution, resulting in the diverse array of performances, publications, installations and web-based projects that made up Ill Repute. In What Future, we are asking another group of artists to undertake similar commissions, but to look forward to the future, possibly the deep future, of the practices and communities.

The destructive power of capitalism, environmental devastation, millennial religious beliefs, and the generational and stylistic schisms that occur within contemporary culture all conspire to reduce the span of our collective and individual view of the future to five-year plans rather than generations, centuries and millennia. The evolution of the art object from an enduring treasure into an instrument of trade over the past five hundred years, followed by its dematerialization in the contemporary era, can provoke speculation about what cultural legacies we are leaving behind, and how those legacies will be conveyed and preserved.

However, solidity and endurance of objects is not the main issue that we hope artists will address. There are many ways to address a message to the future, or to plan and speculate about what that future should be or might be. The point is to create work that begins from a consideration of the future as something that is in fact all around us now; the future that will be contains a series of moments distinct from the present that we find ourselves in, but which are made from elements of the now. It is therefore not separate from us, but something that we are part of.

In the face of external forces that seem determined to reduce the future to unavoidable catastrophes or to the inevitable progress of powerful machinery, consideration of the deep future from alternative cultural positions is an entirely symbolic, but potentially radical, step toward shaping that future.

Four emerging artists or artist teams will be selected to create and present new work. The work is not constrained by the limits of an exhibition space; although UNIT/PITT is able to support web-based projects, film and video screenings, small exhibitions, publications, and low-power radio, it is possible that artist projects may require different presentation infrastructure, or may take the form of a process rather than a product. We do, however, encourage artists to accompany their projects by publishing books that will stand as works on their own, and can be distributed long after the formal end of the commissioning project.

Commissioned works will be presented in winter and early spring of 2013.  The commissions are jointly curated by Cease Wyss and Keith Higgins.

What Future is made possible by support from the Vancouver Foundation, and the ongoing support of our funders, donors, and volunteers.


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