The words science fiction conjure up immediate images of interstellar travel and lightsabers. An exhibition at the Weltmuseum takes a different perspective, with visions of the future as commentary, criticism, and even with a new hope.
- Gives a platform to indigenous voices
- Full of contemporary art
- Thematic architectural environment
- Runs Mar 30, 2023 – Jan 9, 2024
- Book Weltmuseum tickets* online
- See also:
If there were a tomorrow
(Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE by Ekow Nimako / @ekownimako, 2019; LEGO®-Elemente © The Aga Khan Museum, 2020.1.1; photo: Samuel Engelking)
In the literary world, science fiction makes up a subset of the wider speculative fiction genre. And any predictions for the future feel all too speculative these days, given pandemics, the climate crisis, populist politics, war, and the great unknown that is AI.
Yes, I’m a cheerful chap.
The way we envisage that future tends to be dominated by the opinions of scientists, tech firms, and Hollywood, often with more than a hint of colonialist thought. Time then to get a different perspective, for example through Science Fiction(s): If There Were a Tomorrow.
The exhibition differs from the technocratic approach both in its context and sources.
For example, the focus is on contemporary art…using VR installations, video, paintings, models, outfits, and other media to tease out visions for the future.
But these are not visions in the “we’ll be flying hover vehicles by 2035” sense.
Instead, the artists use the mantle of science fiction to postulate futures that perhaps drift from the mainstream, to pass commentary on today’s issues, and to address the mistakes and damage of the past.
These artists represent voices rarely heard in such contexts. In particular, voices from peoples whose histories include exactly the kind of “extraterrestrial” invasions and apocalyptic scenarios beloved of science fiction authors and film directors.
So, for example, indigenous artists from North America requisition Star Wars to reflect on the conquest of their homeland by foreign invaders. Quite apart from the symbolism and activism involved, the aesthetic effect is quite stunning.
Or indigenous artists from Brazil consciously use science fiction to give a future to their fight against the ongoing destruction of their culture.
Other parts of the exhibition directly address current topics with long-term consequences. And, lest we fall into despair and dismay, a final room also suggests how we might twist the strands of fate to create a better future.
(UÝRA, Mil Quase Mortos, 2018; © Uýra Sodoma; photo by Matheus Belém)
A pervading concept is to see space not so much as a final frontier to be conquered but an opportunity to start afresh and build better systems and societies. And to make that future inclusive and promising for more than just humans.
It’s not necessarily an easy exhibition to grasp: the physical-visual approach leaves much of the interpretation to the viewer (though you can access artist statements via QR codes). Like much contemporary art, your attitude determines what you get from it.
In terms of personal highlights (other than the Star Wars elements because who doesn’t love a stormtrooper?), two installations stood out in particular:
- The quasi cybernetic setup by Fara Peluso and Hüma Utku in collaboration with María Antonia González Valerio.
This features connected tanks of algae and hydrophones to create a natural soundscape that will change as the algae grow and modify the sound-making properties of their environment. As the artists note:
With the current pace of industrialization around water ecosystems, living machines can tell stories of destruction, like the algal bloom that causes aquatic life forms to suffer.
- Ekow Nimako’s vision in black Lego for the metropolis of Kumbi Saleh in 3020 CE, as if it had enjoyed an unbroken history untainted by enslavement, colonialisation and similar.
Nimako’s installation also exposes the latent biases often present in the western view, given our tendency to place a negative interpretation on such dark cityscapes (cf. Isengard). He notes that his work:
…represents an uninterrupted, uncooped narrative of Black civilisations that seeks to reclaim histories, reconcile ancestral traumas, and imagine liberated futures for all African peoples.
All the above takes place in a suitable exhibition environment designed by the KAWA group of architects, who have worked with the likes of film directors Roland Emmerich and Leni Lauritsch on science fiction productions (Moonfall and Rubikon respectively).
Dates, tickets & tips
Take a peek into possible futures from March 30th, 2023 to January 9th, 2024. Any entrance ticket for/from the Weltmuseum includes the Science Fiction(s) exhibition.
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
The nearby Theseus Temple has a complementary installation to Science Fiction(s): Saks Afridi’s Space Mosque runs from April 21st to October 8th, 2023.
For a more technological look at science fiction, transport yourself over to the Technisches Museum (they have, for example, an exhibition area featuring new innovations).
How to get there
Simply follow the tips at the end of the Weltmuseum overview page.
Address: Heldenplatz, 1010 Vienna