Future Sensations of Dirt

Future Sensations Pavilion

On Friday, We diverged from our regular monthly rounds of First Friday offerings in Philadelphia galleries to head up to the ‘Future Sensations’ exhibit at the Oval. This exhibit promised to talk about possibilities in art and science, and ‘offer glimpses into future innovations that will transform the world.’ We had seen the 5 pavilions of the exhibition being constructed a few weeks back and being fairly dedicated futurists, we had to have a peek for ourselves.

Of course the whole thing was basically an elaborate commercial for the materials company, Saint-Gobain. Each of the pavilions featured materials and designs from the company. There were also a number of slogans plastered around that promised ‘the stuff of dreams’ and the ‘art of matter.’ It had the feel of a world expo, or Epcot center, a kind of amusement park pointing to the future.


Future Sensations Pavilion

As circus and festival-like as everything looked from the outside, one had to wonder though if this was anything at all like the future we would want? Waiting in lines, small boxes, fingerprint covered plastics, super-hot lasers, flashing lights everywhere, and ridiculously loud music.There were warnings as well to be careful of all those lights. In the future it seems, we all must be vigilant about avoiding possible epileptic seizures.

Ah, the future! Or not.

We made our way through the five boxes and then split for greener gallery shores as fast as we could.

But the conversation was peaked.

What would our own Future Sensations exhibit have looked like? We both agreed that plastics were fine, but not all plastic, cement, and glass. We’re more than fine with modern, but the future? Shouldn’t that belong to an architect like

Terunobu Fujimori?

Terunobu Fujimori Mud BoatMy experience with Fujimori and the work of the Rojo society has always opened my mind to the possibilities of materials. Even materials I once thought familiar seemed unfamiliar. Dirt and mud, burnt wood, and rope seemed somehow different and new. And infinitely more touchable. I’ve had the chance to touch and see various components of Fujimori’s work, and it was as delightfully tactile as it is visual – surprising textures, cracks, bumps, and the sense of being produced by humans. More full of sensation one might say – then what was on display at Future Sensations.

This was the exact opposite of how the plastics and lasers in Future Sensations made me feel. Those materials seem so much a part of the past, so familiar, so unchanged, and unchanging. And in Future Sensations, they felt no newer or different, instead they just seemed somehow tired and boring.

And of course, there’s a quietness to Fujimori’s work as well, a still calm and contemplative openess. One can’t imagine pounding rock music will be around in the future, and certainly it wouldn’t fit in a Fujimori home.

Terunobu Fujimori Tea House

I much rather a future city be filled with things like Fujimori’s flying mud boat or tree-topping tea houses than to be filled with cramped boxes of plastic and metal. Unless someone starts transforming those materials into something a little less routine unusual.

Again, I wouldn’t say that I am opposed to plastics and metals, I in fact rather love plastics these days considering that all my paintings are made with acrylics. I think what I most like is variation, oddness eccentricity in buildings or homes. Why should everything be familiar? In that sense I don’t think I would want even a city filled with Fujimori’s buildings, but a real mix of possibilities and more personal sensations.