Predicting the Future

Predicting the Future

ALA 350
Cameron Gibelyou (Lecturer in Applied Liberal Arts)

On view: Winter 2023

Buky Schwartz, Line A-C, 1971, mixed media, wool | canvas, Gift in honor of Dr. E. Bryce and Harriet Alpern, by their children

“Predicting the Future” considers topics ranging from representations of the future in literature to the science of predicting complex systems, such as climate. The art on display helps viewers consider how our predictions about the future are shaped by ideologies of progress and our assumptions about the relationship between humans and technology.

You may notice that many of the images we selected for this display are composed around a diagonal line that extends from the lower left of the image to the upper right. This is not a coincidence. Images of subjects that represent technological change, such as cities, railroads, and factories, repeatedly use this diagonal to visually represent stories of progress.

How does attending to the way that artists use this diagonal to suggest progress narratives help us read predictions about the future in their work and see what insights or critiques they offer about modernity, society, or technology?

When students in “Predicting the Future” come to UMMA for a class session, the first thing we ask them to do is draw a line that represents progress on a notecard. Nearly all of them make a line that extends from the lower left to the upper right. Why is this the most fundamental visual representation of progress in our minds? We’ve speculated about x and y graphs and their prominence in visualization of things like the stock market; metaphorical meanings of up and down; and the left-to-right direction of reading in many world languages. Our idea of the line of progress may also be shaped by the representations of the modern world on display in this collection.

Works included in this collection

Exhibition Support

Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Erica Gervais Pappendick and Ted Pappendick, the Eleanor Noyes Crumpacker Endowment Fund, and the Oakriver Foundation.

Curriculum / Collection

Explore the infinite value of art in shaping our understanding of...well, everything.

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