A Sensible Future


By Jake Dunagan

6 May 2015

In Futures Work, our core research materials are images of the future. Metaphors of the future tend to be dominated by the eye and the sense of vision. In science fiction, futures tend toward ocularcentrism. We “envision” the future in terms of what we can see.

The reason why I chose the works in this set is because they engage senses other than sight. In essence, they make other futures “sensible.” How do we, as futurist Stuart Candy asks, bridge the experiential gulf between the lived present and the abstract future? If it is something abstract, how do you make it or how do you feel it in some way? I want to find out what it feels like to live in future worlds—with all my senses.

The works chosen here reflect this attention to non-visual senses. The sense of touch is represented in Susanna Hertrich’s Prostheses for Instinct, which is trying to create a new understanding of the relationship between our technologically augmented bodies and the world around us. Taste is represented by Plastic Century, which reports on the plastic pollution in our oceans and touches on biodiversity, climate change, over-fishing, over-farming, and over-consumption. Sound dominates in The Very Loud Chamber Orchestra of Endangered Species, while smell is encountered in Ghost Food. Here, both of these works deal with mass extinction and the aura of loss.

All of these pieces, in their own way,  are also dealing with an increasingly popularized concept —the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene refers to the human-dominated era that we are living in as a new geological epoch. We are a geological force on the planet and these works allow people to understand it and feel it viscerally.  These four works are invitations to people to close the distance between now and then, between here and somewhere else. They expand our understanding of what it’s going to be like to live and work and relate, in a time when humans have so much power to change the planet.

- Adapted from a conversation with Jake Dunegan