What Will Art Look Like in 100 Years? We Asked 16 Contemporary Artists to Predict the Future
It’s an understatement to say that a lot can change in 100 years. A century ago, Europe was just limping out of World War I, and the anarchic seeds of Modernism were spreading throughout a traumatized world. A century from today is hard to envision.But that hasn’t stopped some artists from trying. In 2014, the Scottish artist Katie Peterson launched the Future Library, which commissions one writer each year to contribute a text that will remain unpublished until 2114. The writings will be printed on paper supplied by lumber from a forest she planted four years ago just outside Oslo.
More recently, LOUIS XIII Cognac partnered with pop star Pharrell Williams to write a song that would be released in 100 years. The musician and sometimes-curator created a solitary recording printed on water-soluble clay and stored in a state-of-the-art safe that is only destructible when submerged in water. The idea? Unless mankind reverses the depredations of climate change, the recording, titled “100 Years, The Song We’ll Only Hear If We Care,” might be destroyed before it is ever heard.
The future may be bright, it may be dire, but it remains to be shaped by ideas yet unthought. In the spirit of looking forward to the uncertain world 100 years hence, we asked a broad range of artists, from Michelle Grabner to Doug Aitken to Nick Cave, to predict what the world—and art—will look like in a century.
To imagine art in 100 years, I’ve taken a cue from Marge Piercy’s 1976 speculative fiction novel Woman on the Edge of Time (and yes, perhaps I’m hedging my bets too). Piercy’s protagonist Connie travels to two future 2137s, one where the environment has stabilized, racial and sexual equality have been achieved, and technology is “organically” interwoven into all life on the planet. The other future is far bleaker. Human dignity, clean air, and autonomous thought are commodities only available to the mega-mega-mega-rich. So here goes:
Humans and machines live in harmony in the year 2118. After decades of living underground due to the bio hazardous fall out of the GR8 W@R of 2089, the machines have recently stabilized the environment and humans have emerged from their subterranean bunkers, bursting with creative verve. Plein-Air VRainting is all the rage. Every human is an interdataplinary artist now, since machines have proven to operate the government and economy more efficiently. Most refer to the Earth as the Art World now, and robots are keenly invested in universal art care for all humans; buying, trading, and selling art via a DNA blockchain system. Interestingly, a radical group of bio-genetically “dehanced” individuals, calling themselves les Fauves deux points zéro, have begun to garner attention. Painting on cave walls, with berries, roots and leaves, they produce strange images of space aliens and unidentified flying objects.
I think art is moving in a direction where it will become increasingly de-material. Art in 100 years will be about complete connectivity and dialogue with the viewer with less and less of the detached formalism we see in art now. Art will take us to the edge of the horizon and question what is beyond. Art will seamlessly live both in the fast-flowing river of images and information and in the slow moving desire for true and unrepeatable personal experience.
We are only beginning to understand how technology is changing the human experience… we are scratching the surface. Creating images is perhaps an existential way of our society reminding us we are actually here on earth, and actually exist in living flesh and blood. It seems at times like life is the film… and we are all in it together, while at the same time each of us is directing our own live version.
In art, as we move forward, I think the viewer’s role will change and be less passive. There will be new forms of artworks that are living and continuously changing and artworks that will be more experiential. We will not see art as something that passively hangs on a wall.
Art will be a seamless part of our lives, not a decoration in our lives.
Because the media revolution of the internet serves economic and not cultural ends, as the sociologist Jürgen Habermas continues to remind us, it is likely that the literal object and subject of art will be subsumed into an evolving economy of digital networks. Whatever form art takes, we will not encounter it for long, as our attention will certainly be evermore commercialized.
In 100 years, our current global economic system will most likely have been exchanged with other formats of wealth distribution following the collapse of capitalism, and an art market as we know it today will no longer exist. However, that doesn’t mean that free and individual artistic expressions will have vanished, but that both artists’ practices and art institutions might have undergone radical changes in relation to their cultural functions within society. When it comes to the mediation of art, new generations will certainly have learned to filter the overload of information in more selective ways and will therefore have also become more immune to media-hyped cultural tendencies and mass hysteria.
Old-school media, such as painting or sculpture, have often been declared “dead”, only to show their renewed strength and relevance less than a decade later. With an increased digitization of our everyday realities, the need for artistic materiality will become even more urgent in order to remind ourselves that we are physical beings.
Hopefully art will reflect more truth. It will be more inclusive and reflect the truth of ALL of US and OUR HISTORIES.
Art that rises to the great ecological challenges of today will be crucial for our survival as a species. In a recent issue of the journal NATURE, scientists showed that there is a 96 percent chance of a whopping 5 degrees Celsius of temperature rise by the year 2100. That kind of rise in the earth’s temperature is catastrophic for virtually all life on earth, making climate change the moral imperative of our time. Artists have not only the unique ability, but I would argue the responsibility, to give us new languages and tools to be able to better understand the world around us, which can help us solve these great existential problems. This puts tremendous pressure on artists to help society reimagine the future. I believe art as a social practice, where artists are invested in the great problems of today, will thrive in the immediate and long term future.
At the same time, AI will leave many people jobless. Forced to accept life in all it’s meaninglessness, art for art sake will flourish as a way humans will fill the “void of time” machines create.
Architecture and Design probably will prevail as a fine art because of the urgency to survive Climate Change …. that is, if we are still here.