Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future

Alserkal Avenue, Dubai / United Arab Emirates

November 7–21, 2018
November 6, 2018

Public programme: November 6–15, panel talks and workshops

Alserkal Avenue, Street 17
United Arab Emirates
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Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future brings together artworks by seven international artists who imagine how our world might look and feel in the future. Engaging with the idea that adaptation is necessary for survival, the artists present films, sculpture and text-based works that explore ideas of change and hybrid forms of architecture, biology, technology, and language. 

Taking its title from the phrase adopted recently by the business sector, the exhibition explores the idea that Darwin’s theory of evolution can serve as a metaphor for a future-facing strategy for survival and growth. In recent years, the phrase "adapt to survive" has been adopted by entrepreneurial start-ups and professional "change-makers," suggesting a fast-paced form of agency that is antithetical to Darwin’s concept of natural selection. 

In recent decades, futurology has become established as an area of research combining game theory, statistics, and speculation. Responding to these cultural shifts, the artists in Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future make educated guesses about our society’s evolution and progression, but equally convey uncertainty and scepticism about our accelerating patterns of growth and consumption. 

The glitchy monologue spoken by Ann Lislegaard’s computer-animated fox consists of quotes from HG Wells’s Time Machine (1895). This novel—one of the first works of science fiction—is also the first to explore the idea of a vehicle capable of transporting the user through time and space. In Lislegaard’s Time Machine (2011), the fox’s voice and the narrative it attempts to tell appear to be on the edge of breaking down or falling apart, while the creature’s crazed expression suggests that the future is just as flawed as the present.

In his sculptural work, Julian Charrière often draws attention to the geological impact of our increasingly digital society. His series Future Fossil Spaces (2017) explores our relationship to the planet’s natural resources—in particular to lithium, which is used in batteries and other electronic components. Here, columns are constructed from layers of salt bricks, giving sculptural form to the spaces left behind after the extraction of lithium from the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

Set in the year 2045, Rainer Ganahl’s short film I Hate Karl Marx (2010) presents a young German woman struggling to accept a world in which China is the dominant political and economic power, most countries are communist, and everyone speaks Chinese. Ganahl’s deliberately provocative film seeks to address western xenophobia and forms part of the artist’s ongoing engagement with non-western cultures.

Marguerite Humeau’s work explores contemporary manifestations of ancient myths, including the figure of the sphinx—the half-beast, half-human gatekeeper of ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. Sleek and sinister, Humeau’s sculpture HARRY II is an exploration of modern sphinxes: online security, border control, and surveillance. In this sculpture, anti-climb "raptor" fencing is cast in artificial human skin; plastic vessels hold artificial blood; and a three-faced winged beast—part predator, part crest—emits a low hum reminiscent of a heartbeat, or remote aerial warfare.

In Tyrrau Mawr, Bedwyr Williams presents a vision of an imaginary mega-city in rural North Wales. The work takes the form of a high-definition digital matte painting, a technique used in filmmaking to create vast and complex scenic backdrops. In his narrative voice-over, Williams offers a series of vignettes that provide glimpses into ordinary lives led within this new metropolis. Each one captures a sense of post-modern listlessness or malaise.

Andreas Angelidakis’ The Walking Building is a proposal for the contemporary art museum of the future. Responding to the needs of today’s mobile, digitally-connected artists, this "hybrid hyper-building" is a shape-shifting structure that adapts to different environments and needs. In this video, the museum comes alive, crawling like an animal through the streets of Athens. The work is inspired by Archigram, an avant-garde architectural collective who championed radical, adaptable urban structures such as The Walking City (1964), and three of whose founding members were involved in the design of the Hayward Gallery.

The Butterfly Already Exists in the Caterpillar is part of artist and writer Youmna Chlala’s ongoing project The Museum of Future Memories. Through a combination of text and image, Chlala evokes a city in flux: a place of rising sea levels, where seasons have ceased to exist and the remaining inhabitants have forged new ways to live. 

Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future is curated by Dr Cliff Lauson, Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery. Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future was on show at the HENI Project Space, Hayward Gallery, London from April 18–June 11, 2018. 

Public programme in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

Tuesday, November 6, 8pm
Talk: "Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future"
Curator Dr Cliff Lauson in conversation with artist Youmna Chlala

Friday, November 9, 4pm
Workshop: Speculative Encounters: Writing the City Space with Youmna Chlala
Write your way into the future in this workshop led by artist Youmna Chlala. Through a series of writing exercises, participants will engage in the ideas put forth in "The Museum of Future Memories," the artist's ongoing series that imagines a shape-shifting space of prescience. 

Thursday, November 15, 6:30pm
Performance: The Dream
Bedwyr Williams will daisy-chain the dreams of the inhabitants of the imaginary city from his video work Tyrrau Mawr, shunting the night-time visions of a place with little history together to create an absurd saga which takes place in the city—but isn't necessarily of it. 

Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future is an exhibition curated by the Hayward Gallery, London, in collaboration with Concrete, Dubai.