Monday, 28 January 2013


Section 1: Archaeologists of the future: prophets, messages, and the labor of reconstruction

Fernando Bryce, Walter Benjamin, 2002

Simon Starling, Nachbau, 2007

Carol Bove, Viva, 2011

Mathias Goeritz, Mensaje xv, Levíticos xx: 18, 1959 

Kenneth Armitage, Small Prophet Version II, 1962 and Mathias Goeritz, Mensaje xv, Levíticos xx: 18, 1959 

Section 2: Memories of the future

Gerard Byrne, 1984 and Beyond, 2007 

Section 3: Cold War Anxieties: from Splitnik to Sputnik.
Simon Starling, Project for a Temporary Public Sculpture (Hiroshima), (mobile), 2009 

Roberto Matta, Justified Sinner, 1952
Henry Moore, Large Slow Form, 1962 
Henry Moore, Figures with Smoke Background, 1976  

Adolph Gottlieb , Burst, 1972 
Barbara Hepworth, Square Form with Circles, 1963

Johan Grimonprez, Double Take, 2008 

Julieta Aranda, If you tell the story well, it will not have been a comedy, 2009 

Section 4: The last frontier: space is the place

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Icarus 13, 2006 

Jane y Louise Wilson, Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard, 2000 

The Otolith Group (Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun), Otolith I, 2003 

Steve McQueen, Once Upon a Time, 2002 

Period room, works by 
Martha Boto, Julio Le Parc, Giò Pomodoro, Earl Reiback, Francisco Sobrino, Victor Vasarely

Carol Bove (Ginebra, 1971) Dawn, 2010 

Section 5: This was tomorrow. Ruin value, and obsolescence: must planned cities always end in the graveyard of failed utopias?
Sergio de Camargo, Estructura 460, 1978 
Ben Nicholson, Project, 1966 
Jesús Rafael Soto, Doble relación, 1969 

Copies of Signals Newsletter dedicated to Camargo, Soto and with material regarding Nicholson

David Maljkovic, Retired Form, 2008

Matthias Müller, Vacancy (Brasilia), 1998 

Pedro Reyes, Parque vertical, 2002 - 2006

Victor Pasmore, Blue Development (Jade), 1967 
Jane y Louise Wilson, Monument, 2003
Toby Paterson, Apollo Reprise (Imaginary Landsca- pe with Pavilion and Pool), 2012

Rita McBride Settlements (Chandigarh), 2009 and Color Test (Superman), 2009 

and the museums not so fortunate new addition to the 1981 building, done in 2012 by Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon, who together with Abraham Zabludovsky was one of the original authors of the 1981 project

curator's text:
Tomorrow Was Already Here
curated by Julieta Gonzalez
Museo Rufino Tamayo

with Julieta Aranda, Fernando Bryce, Gerard Byrne, Johan Grimonprez, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Július Koller, David Maljkovic, Dorit Margreiter, Rita McBride, Steve McQueen, Matthias Müller, The Otolith Group, Jane and Louise Wilson; and works from the Museo Tamayo collection by Kenneth Armitage, Marta Boto, Enrico Castellani, Barbara Hepworth, Mathias Goeritz, Adolph Gottlieb, Julio Le Parc, Roberto Matta, Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore, Giò Pomodoro and Simon Starling, among others.

The past two decades have witnessed major shifts in contemporary art practices towards what some critics and art historians have identified alternatively as the “archival impulse” and the “historiographic turn;” History itself has become an important subject-matter as well as a medium for contemporary artists who favour the representational apparatuses of archival formats such as film, video and photography as prime vehicles for their historiographic endeavours.

Tomorrow Was Already Here is an exhibition that attempts to trace a particular thread of the current historiographic turn in contemporary art by showcasing the work of artists who cast a retrospective gaze towards past visions of the future. The title of the show refers to the device of the predestination paradox, characteristic of time-travel related science fiction, whereby a traveller from the future travels to the past and, more often than not, effects irreversible changes in the future, which result in the traveller’s erasure from it. Thus, tomorrow returns as a spectral presence from the past; it is no longer within our reach. Though not included in the exhibition, Chris Marker’s La Jetée is an overarching presence in the exhibition and the time-loop paradox that lies at the heart of the exhibition pays tribute to his work.

The spectres of modernity and its utopian visions of the future haunt this exhibition, constructed upon some of the predictive cultural imaginaries at the height of the Cold War, many of which intersect the realm of science fiction and are set against three backdrops: anxiety in the face of nuclear annihilation; space travel and colonization as a powerful trope in the culture of the time; and architecture as the visible realm in which many utopian undertakings of the past took concrete form.

Works from the collection of the Museo Tamayo serve to contextualize the three realms explored by the exhibition in small period displays, which function as time-capsules, with art works of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s that engage in a reflection on similar themes, but also present different iterations of the modern.

The notion of potentiality, of the of the future that could have been but never happened, pervades this exhibition. The works convey, at times, a nostalgic sense of loss in coming to terms with the unrealized potential of the twentieth century’s visions of the future. But more importantly, these artists, through their works, engage history as a way of understanding the present and constructing a vision of the future by invoking, yet again, the specter of utopia.

Archaeologists of the future: prophets, messages, and the labor of reconstruction
The exhibition’s structure mirrors, in great part, the aesthetic strategies deployed by the participating artists in their works. It also relies on the works as conceptual platforms that contribute new readings and establish dialogues with nearby works or thematic groups. This small room functions as a preamble to the exhibition and the works in it play an articulating role for what follows, in terms of conceptual operations, and thematic content. The operations of reconstruction, historical inquiry, and reflection, as well as the reading of modernity’s visions of the future through predictive imaginaries that function as messages from the past are conveyed by the different works in this room. Carol Bove and Simon Starling engage in distinct and diverse processes of historical reconstruction, Fernando Bryce’s drawings of Walter Benjamin point to the continued meditation on history that takes place in this exhibition. The historical works from the collection by Kenneth Armitage and Mathias Goeritz respectively allude to the act of prediction and its communication by way of messages; furthermore, they introduce but also make more complex the structure of the period room that repeats itself throughout the rest of the exhibition.

Memories of the future
Gerard Byrne’s 1984 and Beyond (2007) takes on an articulating role in the exhibition. The work is an installation comprised of three videos and a group of black and white photographs that address the idea of future visions that now belong to the past. The three videos alternate footage of Byrne’s staging of a conversation that took place in the pages of Playboy Magazine in the summer of 1963, between science fiction writers who were invited to talk about the future, setting the Orwellian date of 1984 as the time frame for their predictions.

The predictive imaginaries conceived of by the science fiction writers in this video-installation describe the three major thematic axes in the exhibition. The spatial configuration of the room also suggests two different paths through the exhibition which continues towards the section that addresses the climate of apprehension, anxiety, and paranoia characteristic of the early stages of the Cold War, or conversely, the one that touches upon the utopian visions of the future that inspired modern architecture and urban planning.

Cold War Anxieties: from Splitnik to Sputnik.
Aside from the threat of preemptive nuclear strikes and annihilation, The Cold War period was a complex one that witnessed a realignment of the political, economical and ideological forces that shaped the world in the second half of the twentieth century. After World War II and the development and implementation of atomic weapons, the optimism surrounding technological progress was dampened by questions posed around the ethical use of technology and scientific research. Nevertheless, technological progress also meant the exploration of new frontiers in all spheres of life; from the emancipatory power of home appliances that freed women from domestic labor to the conquest of space afforded by the missile technologies that had previously enabled victories on the war front. The technological race thus provided yet another arena where Cold War politics could be staged.

Parallel developments in the domain of art also reflected this realignment of forces, which are made patent in the works included in the “period room,” by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Roberto Matta and Adolph Gottlieb, which convey anxiety in the face of atomic annihilation, as well as oppressive visions of humanity taken over by machines. In close dialogue, the installation by Simon Starling revisits similar themes and aesthetic approaches, focusing on the idea of the monument and its commemorative function. The works by Johan Grimonprez and Julieta Aranda add another dimension to the to the theme of Cold War anxieties, in the guise of temporal loops and the metaphors of time travel, addressing from individual perspectives the complexities of this period of modern history and its long-lasting effects in the cultural imaginaries of today.

The last frontier: space is the place
The themes of space travel and colonization, privileged sites of sci-fi speculation, are addressed by the works of Steve McQueen, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Jane and Louise Wilson, and The Otolith Group. The photographic contents of the Golden Record, a time-capsule sent to space in 1977 on board the Voyager 1 and 2 space vessels, that included sounds and images that portrayed the diversity of life and culture on Earth is set against the sound of a disconcerting cacophony of voices in the work of Steve McQueen. The spectre of colonialism and the aftermath of decolonization in third world countries during the Cold War are revisited in several works: Kiluanji Kia Hend’s fiction of an Angolan space program, triggered by the cold war gift of a Soviet Monument to Space to the Angolan government in the 1960s; the Otolith Group’s merging of the history of women’s political and labour movements in postcolonial India with the account of a real encounter of one of these women with Valentina Tereshkova, the Soviet cosmonaut, and first woman in space; Jane and Louise Wilson’s portrayal of the Soviet Space Program in the ex Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, which highlights the uneasy coexistence of space-race technological deployment with the millenary ethnic traditions of the Kazakh peoples. Július Koller appears to interrogate the future with his question marks aimed at outer space, which form part of his series of “Universal-cultural Futurological Operations” (UFO); these are part of his approach to social and collective dynamics in conditions of oppression in the East-Bloc during that period. Carol Bove’s work approximates the visual vocabulary of the works in the period display, and is included among that group of works. The period works here revisit the optimistic take on technological progress, and the space-age imaginaries that permeated art, architecture and industrial design during the 1960s. A selection of op-kinetic inflected paintings and sculptures from the collection reflect the spirit of these art manifestations of the mid to late sixties, and their relation to specific technological conceptions of the period.

This was tomorrow. Ruin value, and obsolescence: must planned cities always end in the graveyard of failed utopias?
This section of the exhibition addresses the utopian and futuristic undertakings of modernist architecture and urban planning. The present-day ambivalence towards these architectures and planned cities is made evident in several of the works in this section of the exhibition; Dorit Margreiter aims her inquiry at the forward-looking post-war reconstruction of Berlin’s Hansaviertel district and the perception of its present-day inhabitants about what was conceived of as a model city of the future; the Otolith Group raise questions regarding the long-term sustainability of modernity’s planned cities. The notion of obsolescence, of both modernity’s forms and projects, is introduced in David Maljkovic’s works, which take the image of a public monument built during the Soviet occupation of Yugoslavia as an emblem of both the obsolescence and persistence of modernity’s forms. In other works, the ruin inhabits very different social, economic and historical contexts: the utopias of modernisation of the Third-World in the references to Chandigarh featured in the works of Rita McBride and the Otolith Group, Pedro Reyes’ reconsideration of Mario Pani’s Tlatelolco urban development, and Matthias Müller’s portrait of a decaying Brasilia; and the housing schemes for working class of post-industrial England embodied in Victor Pasmore’s design of the Peterlee urban complex and its now dilapidated Apollo Pavillion, featured in Jane and Louise Wilson’s video-installation and Toby Paterson’s wall painting. The period works included in this section of the exhibition do not address architecture per se but rather seek to identify a heightened awareness of spatial issues in the art of the time, as well as a concern for the integration of different mediums such as painting, sculpture and architecture.

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