A lecture I attended on Thursday by contemporary artist Matthew Ritchie was thick with theories of physics, quantum mechanics, histories of the formation of the universe, and our perception of the future. Ritchie noted that in the war-era of the 20th century, leaders of nation-states and the great thinkers of that time had big ideas for monuments, ideal cities, and what the future will hold. One example he gave was the proposed monument Tatlin’s Tower - a grand monumental building envisioned and blueprinted by the Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, but never built. It was supposed to be erected in Petrograd after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917;
Matthew Ritchie went on to say that after the destruction of two world wars, the proposed trajectory of ideal societies was lost and he quoted Samuel Beckett as saying, "To find a form that accomodates the mess that is the task of the artist now." At this point, Ritchie said Jackson Pollock captured the sythesis of creation and destruction through his so-called 'action paintings' of the late 40s/early 50s:
Ritchie asserts that the idealism that was lost at mid-century then led to the sarcastic, recontextualized and appropriated works of the later part of the 20th century that often recycled art of previous eras - pop art, and the work of Sherrie Levine being good examples:
Marcel DuChamp, "Fountain", 1917 and " Fountain (after Marcel Duchamp: A.P.)", by Sherrie Levine, 1991, bronze
Levine said, "I try to make art which celebrates doubt and uncertainty."
The 'doubt and uncertainty' that Levine ascribes to her work is especially evident in the barrage of doomsday global warming scenarios we currently see in the news every day:
and in popular media/film like Independence Day, Deep Impact, and The Day After Tomorrow.
Ritchie then assigned the role of art and artists is to show what is not yet known.
For more information and interesting/humorous predictions about the future check out an engaging blog called Paleo-Future; A Look into the Future that Never Was in which many of the visions of the future have been documented and well organized by decade.