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Is This Tomorrow?

6 November 2019


Four installations from the Spring 2019 show of the same name at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. That was a response to the gallery’s landmark 1956 exhibition This Is Tomorrow, which featured collaborations between a variety of British architects, painters and sculptors who were paired up, given a budget of £40 each, and asked to produce exhibits about the future. Repeating the exercise resulted in a much-praised show earlier this year, with the optimistic certainty of the original title replaced by a less confident questioning tone to fit the tenor of the times. Four pairings from the Whitechapel show are featured in Dubai:  

Phoenix Will Rise (above) is by visual artist Rana Begum (winner of the $100,000 Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2017, the last time it was awarded) and architect Marina Tabassum (who was a winner of the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture). A central circular void that carries light down into the installation is lined with a textural artwork by Begum created in aluminium foil and vibrant spray paint; Tabassum describes the installation as “a place of refuge – a space for reflection – contemplation”.

I want to be the future is a prototype for a machine that dispenses objects and emotions. Designed by Chinese artist Cao Fei and the young architects of Beijing-based Mono Office, it’s a combination totem pole and booth delivering a set of toolkits for the technological age; it comments on the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds with the sleek grace of modernist sculpture.

Enclosure by 6a Architects and artist Amalia Pica (both from London) invites us to see the world from the perspective of animals; a series of pens and animal runs provide a maze-like environment that has been ‘enriched’ with entertainment for some kind of hybrid creature able to enjoy jumps for horses, scratching posts for cats, and high-level feeders for giraffes. This was regarded as one of the most successful (and fun) exhibits in London, using art and architecture to explore our relationships with animals and by extension with the wider environment.

Mind Garden, Heart Garden (below) by Mariana Castillo Deball (Mexico and New York) and Tatiana Bilbao Estudio (Mexico and Switzerland) is delightfully manic, a work of steel frames and coloured metal based on a ceremonial almanac used by the Aztecs called the tōnalpōhualli. It takes a bit of effort to get your head around the calendar – a week has 13 days, there are 20 ‘months’ and therefore 260 days in a year – but it works (as the Guardian put it) “as a delicate suggestion that you might live by less frantic measures of space and time”.

Is This Tomorrow? will be in and around Concrete in Alserkal Avenue from 6 to 23 November.


6 November 2019
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