This Summer I was fortunate to travel with my family to Europe. With this undertaking and adventure my husband's and my hope was to retrace the friendships and family that defined our upbringing abroad and expose our two teenage children to a world beyond the one they inhabit back home within United States. While visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, a particular exhibit caught my attention, that of The Future Starts Here. With an emphasis on art and design, I was willingly lured in.
The dimly lit space was punctuated with clusters of illuminated items such as mechanical furry animals to comfort the elderly, super streamlined body suits to aid swimmers in shaving seconds off their competitive times. There was art in the form of photography that captured both the intimacy and alienation of a man and woman viewing online entertainment both together and separately, their body language screaming both ends of this spectrum. Surprisingly, among the mix was an example of ancient wearable technology, a Roman ring that was actually a key. This link to the past was a reminder of how innovation is relative to the times in which they emerge. Both old and new wearable technologies are about access and ease, a constant that we seek today with our Apple watches and fitbits.
What made this exhibit unexpectedly positive was that each technological item on display benefited the world in some way or another, as each bridged the gap with humanity. There was a cluster of unmanned compact submarines to explore regions unknown, an easy to assemble prefabricated solar powered shelter, as well as a solar powered unmanned drone to provide internet access to isolated communities lacking infrastructure across the globe. There was a 3D printed articulated prosthetic hand made for a child who had endured a devastating, maming accident. It’s comic themed design belied the tragedy of such a life changing event yet, surely, would boost the aspirations of a youngster's adoration of might and right!
Most interestingly, there was an art infused installation that was based upon the real time living habits of an uber driver with chronic insomnia based in the United States. When this individual was viewing certain apps specific curtains would open. The reverse was also true. While standing in front these curtains, I was surprised to see one of them actually open and another close giving me the strange realization that I was somehow connected, in small part, to this individual’s world a continent away. Through these tangeables this individual’s isolating restlessness was connected to a wider audience in a visually relatable way. Interestingly, the artist who created this installation met her subject while in his cab, another example where a simple human serendipitous exchange morphed into a STEAM project for wider audience to bare witness to and inculcate into their realm of experience. One individual’s isolation became another’s connection. Herein lies the bridge to humanity - art and technology are the foundations for both progress and the imagination.
For more on this exhibit visit https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/the-future-starts-here