Future Knowledge at Modern Art Oxford: a mini review

Art Art & Lit

This weekend I popped into Modern Art Oxford to have a little run around their latest exhibition – Future Knowledge. The exhibition is part of the UK-wide Season for Change programme, which, through a range of cultural events, talks and exhibitions, has been designed to provoke discussion about the future of our planet and offer innovative solutions to a range of environmental problems. This exhibition is hugely varied and features many types of work, responses coming from artists, architects, dancers, academics and more. It is an intriguing and reflective exhibition that shares new knowledge on the environment with an audience that likely won’t have considered some of the topics on show before. 

In the Upper Gallery, we see a range of work from artists, dancers, scientists and designers. Eve Mutso’s performance loop (2018) is the beginning piece. Through aerial dance and a pile of graphite powder she creates a large abstract performance drawing using her pointe shoes. Though the piece made a statement upon entering, I did feel it was a little irrelevant to the rest of the show, only being loosely connected to the theme of the environment.

Alongside this was a sprawling visual timeline stretching back 750 million years by Rachel Sussman, this featured photographs of some of the oldest living organisms in the world. It showed the gradual and not so gradual extinction of various species making it an enlightening representation on the timespan of the earth. One of my favourite pieces was that of Tania Kovats, whose work; Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, (2015); All the Islands of All the Seas, (2016) and Two hundred and eighty two, (2009) focused on the islands and oceans of the world, it made for a poetic representation of the interconnecting nature of the seas. 

Combining work from various mediums shows the value of artistic and creative contributions to the scientific community and the importance of different disciplines working together…

The Piper Gallery, the concluding room of the exhibition, functions as a public studio and contains an array of works relating to biomimicry in architecture, showing designs and prototypes by Michael Pawlyn that are modelled on biological entities and processes. Modern Art Oxford’s group project How Nature Builds have created a workshop here, where participants can mould bricks and other shapes from ‘mycelium’, a living material formed from fungus. This was an informative work showing an alternative solution to the depletion of resources in construction. The exhibit offers new insight into the sustainability of architecture in the future.

Combining work from various mediums shows the value of artistic and creative contributions to the scientific community and the importance of different disciplines working together. Some of the pieces are distinctly more engaging than others, but, overall, it is a thought-provoking exhibition that is worth a visit. My only criticism is that, considering the subject matter, the works on show were perhaps too light and not hard-hitting enough. Some work came across as softer than its subject matter and somewhat over-aestheticized. For me, the exhibition didn’t focus enough on the destructive nature of climate change and it felt like it skimmed over some of the deeper issues in favour of ‘prettier’ work, but I did enjoy the overall feeling of optimism about the future that Future Knowledge gave off.

Future Knowledge is free to enter and open at Modern Art Oxford until October 28th 2018.

Image credit: N Chadwick