The exhibition marks the first time the influential institution has turned its attention to exploring the topic of the future.
The minds behind the exhibition are Rory Hyde, the V&A’s curator of contemporary architecture and urbanism, and Mariana Pestana, an independent curator, architect and co-founder of design studio The Decorators. The two readily admit the future is impossible to foresee with any precision, even for two people who have given it months of thought.
Instead, their exhibition focuses on objects that suggest future technological frontiers, ways of living and public debates, some of them contradictory. The curators found guidance in a quote by cultural theorist Paul Virilio: “The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.”
“It means with each new invention, with each technology, with each design idea, comes contained within it good futures and bad futures,” Hyde told Dezeen. “That’s why we have the title The Future Starts Here — we’re looking at beginnings.”
Alongside new forms of democratic government, The Future Starts Here will look at objects of protest. As an example, Pestana and Hyde single out the Pussyhat — an object made iconic by political demonstrators in 2017 and acquired by the V&A weeks later as part of its Rapid Response Collecting programme.
The curators chose the design for this list because of the protest movements it represents and because of the method by which it was disseminated. The Pussyhat Project made a simple knitting pattern available online for anyone to replicate.
“The hat is a kind of social technology,” said Pestana. “Each person knitted a hat and then they wore it, most famously at the Women’s March on Washington to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Each person individually made a hat, but collectively they became a crowd, they made a sea of pink. That’s a very powerful thing that design can do — to allow people to exist as a group.”
Facebook’s Aquila drone
Should the planet be a design project? The Future Starts Here suggests we are increasingly seeing it as such, particularly as we look to exploit previously inaccessible or unclaimed areas of it.
That’s where the biggest object in the exhibition comes in – Facebook’s Aquilainternet-providing drone. The real item, complete with 40-metre wingspan, will hang in a V&A gallery. The solar-powered, ultralight unmanned aircraft is able to bring connectivity to unconnected areas of the world.
“What’s interesting about this project is it inverts what we think of as infrastructure,” said Pestana. “Infrastructure’s no longer something that happens under the ground, where we cannot see it, but in the atmosphere, where we also cannot see it. The atmosphere is a new site of design.”[…]