Exhibition "The Year 2121: Futures In-Sight"


Directors Letter

In the 22nd century, a history textbook will describe that people had not yet used the internet in the pre-pandemic era. In point of fact, we began using the internet, which might not even be called "the internet" by then, at the close of the 20th century, but who live 100 years hence may consider society not fully equipped before the pandemic period. After all, we were still going to schools or offices in packed trains, gathering in hospitals full of viruses and microbes, and making decisions only among people who could physically turn up to a meeting.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "the future influences the present, just as much as the past." He meant that in the same way "the present" is the accumulation of the past, "present" society and consciousness are also influenced by the act of thinking about the future. In other words, the present is influenced by the way in which we envisage what lies ahead. That being so, what kind of thinking about the future now, in 2021, determines our present imagination and creativity? Searching for the answer to such a question is the mission of this exhibition, "The Year 2121: Futures In-Sight," to be held at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT.

The master cyberpunk writer William Gibson has once stated "The future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed." And in the pandemic period, Gibson asked us, in an interview with WIRED Japan, that "why can't we as humanity image the 22nd century?" The point is, I believe, that deep insight is to be gleaned from interrogating the 22nd century as "future, " and even more importantly, by looking at the very act of considering the future.

To those in the 20th century, it seemed a rather simple matter to imagine the 21st century. Future images were proposed at the levels of business, nation, and globe, and indeed, these were sometimes realized. As a result, we made remarkable progress. But on the other hand, the century was devastated by war and conflict stemming, in part, from incompatible images about the future. A side-effect was a whole class of people who were left out of any benefits from progress. One good example is our neglect of long-term external diseconomic influences, which have led to drastic climate change.

We are living in such a "future," which may be why we show increasing reticence about creating images of futures, the further ahead they get. This does not mean we should renounce the "act of thinking about the future." Rather, it means that we should resist unitary, over-determined futures. The best way is to prepare multiple prototype futures from as many sources as possible. This exhibition uses the plural noun "futures" to convey this.

Mankind has always wanted to imagine the future, and to make a reality out of it. That is why we now stand on the cusp of a continuum. Some 70,000 years ago, our Homo sapiens ancestors underwent a cognitive revolution. That initiated the start of cultural history, the birth of religion, art and architecture, and, significantly, the ability to communicate the products of their imaginations to others. If that marked the beginning of "the future," as a product of the imagination, then our exhibition interrogates this. We consider the act of thinking about the future, and query, once again, this act that makes us human. We hope you will come and contribute to our act of thinking about the future, and communicate what you find to others. If you do, we will all, eventually, get a grip on the year 2121.

Michiaki Matsushima

Michiaki Matsushima

As Editor-in-Chief of WIRED JAPAN, a media organization which prototypes futures, worked on: WIRED.jp / SZ MEMBERSHIP subscription service / quarterly MAGAZINE (the latest issue being VOL. 41 "NEW NEIGHBORHOOD") / WIRED CONFERENCES / WIRED Sci-Fi PROTOTYPING LAB / WIRED SPECULATIVE ZONE. Before joining WIRED JAPAN in 2018, was Editor-in-Chief of the Editorial Department of NHK Publishing. Moonshot Ambassador for Japan's Cabinet Office. Translator of "Novacene" (James Lovelock). Born in Tokyo and lives in Kamakura.