The above found object (in addition to others)--along with artworks inspired by The Imaginary 20th Century, a DVD-ROM by Norman Klein, Margo Bistis, and Andreas Kratky are now on view at Oits' Ben Maltz Gallery. Like our own recent turn-of-the-millennium, there was a lot of imagining forward that took place a hundred years ago. Like our own unfunded mandate for NASA to put a man on Mars, to the more nebulous, "Yes We Can," the early 20th century was rife with potential that was soon to be smacked down by the War to End All Wars.To paraphrase Ralph Nader's father,
"The tree of capitalism will thrive because socialism will always jump in to fix its woes."
Ironically, Klein again latches on to the DVD-ROM--as he did in Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-1986, capitalizing on a technology that very soon will go the way of IBM punch cards: the most recent iteration of Mac notebooks no longer come with optical drives. In the current work we get a narrative of four suitors courting a fictional Carrie, with found images and music of "la belle époque" put in service of the story line.
Otis' Meg Linton--along with Tom Leeser, from CalArts Center for Integrated Media--have cobbled together a group of artists to riff on this imagined future. Much like past Linton efforts (I'm thinking of the Island of Misfit Toys and Live Green) there are buttons to push and knobs to turn. On top of this we have the gloss of civic (or national) boosterism that coats the history of biennials, triennials, world fairs, and pan-whatever exhibitions. Because the raw materials are so similar, in the end we wind up with objects that could have come from Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you're like me and lament the loss of Eames' Mathematica, or remember Tomorrowland's Monsanto House of the Future and Carousel of Progress, there's a great big beautiful tomorrow, and a historical version has been imagined at Otis.
The Future Imaginary runs through March 28 at Otis' Ben Maltz Gallery.