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PREDICTING THE FUTURE:

VISUAL ARTS IN 2050

Have you ever wondered what art will look like in 30 years? Will it even remotely resemble the art world we know today? What sort of trends and tendencies will dominate the scene? How about the influence of innovative technology or the evolution of art galleries and museums? Will artificial intelligence assist curators and artists on a daily basis? Will traditional art forms, such as painting or sculpture, be consigned to obscurity? This not-too-distant (or at least, so it seems) future becomes an even greater “Unknown” when we cast our minds back to the world of only 30 years ago:  The internet revolution was just around the corner, no-one was even imagining the possible impact of the mobile phone, and Video-Art was widely accepted as the most tech-heavy format that Art could take on. 

Re-enlightenment: trends and technology of today

Thanks to new technologies, creativity and art-making are no longer reserved for the lucky and the wealthy. Advancing technology and the internet have enabled us all to access intuitive tools and computer programmes, which previously had been reserved exclusively for professionals. Social media enables artists to reach a wider audience even in the most distant corners of the world. Nowadays, the viewer is one click away from purchasing artworks on any one of the online auctions hosted Artsy, Saatchi Online and Sedition. Thanks to a variety of mobile apps and VR technology, you don’t have to leave your house to visit the alternative art galleries of Brooklyn or Reykjavik.

Contemporary artists display an increasingly ingenious approach to state-of-the-art technology, which they fuse into their practice, experimenting eagerly with artificial intelligence (AI) as well as virtual and augmented reality (VR, AR), biology, science, and ecology even. Art transcends into the territory of generative art, bio art, game art, app art, three-dimensional mapping, AI or mind-controlled installation and sound generative sculpture. Nevertheless, conventional mediums such as painting, drawing, sculpture and graphics, still enjoy a fairly remarkable popularity among audiences that yearn for an interaction with a material work of art, providing them with a multisensory experience as opposed to the overbearing tedium of staring constantly at glaring phone and computer screens.

What sort of unprecedented art forms will emerge in the latter half of the century? What will artists actually do? In order to answer these questions, we must rise up to the challenge and try to foretell the future.

How to predict the future? 

Can you predict the future, though? Sure,- why don’t we take a stab at forecasting. Art is thoroughly rooted in reality, after all. Its form and subject matter are influenced by the evolution of technology and political, economic or social climate. In the face of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of life’s future conditions, an ability to make predictions about the future is in exponentially high demand. Assumptions are usually based on forecasting methods, including qualitative and quantitative research that determines the course of development in the fields of technology, society, economy, environment and communication. The trends pinpointed by experts and futurologists are divided into the so called new normal, which have already entered the mainstream, innovative zone (short- or medium-term trends) which will enter the mainstream in-between five and twenty years, and foresight zone (long-term trends), which will penetrate our daily life in over the next twenty years. These days, the most accurate predictions about the future are made by Ray Kurzweil, an inventor, futurologist and a prolific writer.

The art world in thirty years? Our predictions

Looking ahead, and using such predictive tools as the Gartner Hype Cycle, we can start to see the emerging technologies and trends that could enter mainstream society over the next decade or two. Naturally, these trends and technologies will affect the field of Art: These are our estimations for our time, running on up to 2049.

Dematerialization

We are already bearing witness a rising trend that emphasises experience, and an epitomised lifestyle above ‘products’. Multi-sensory art installations provide a variety of sensory stimuli to audiences. Bearing in mind this particular trend, the visual arts of the future might well abandon it’s fascination with the immaterial, or the digital art object, in favour of a collecting and presenting experiences and impulses, making full use of present and future, augmented and virtual, reality technologies. The process of dematerialisation will coalesce into an emphasis on sensory responses, aimed at creating a 360°, vivid everlasting experience, or a tactile, oral and olfactory sensation. Away from a gallery or a museum, one could put on a light jumpsuit alongside a VR or BCI headset to touch, smell, taste and hear whatever marvels the artists has conjured up for them.

Deep game storytelling 

According to Ray Kurzweil who has been mentioned above, we’ll soon be able to experience stories and narratives from the points of view of their characters. Clearly, these technologies open up a wealth of new opportunities for artists who are currently exploring the use of advanced technology and interactive interfaces in their works, with the intention of offering their audience an immersive and participatory experience. In the future, viewers may be transported into an elusive, carefully crafted or hyperrealistic – and yet highly suggestive and interactive – artistic realm. The experience may be augmented using 3D holograms, VR, BCI, or a group of Westworld-like androids. The spectator / participant might even stumble on some difficulties in differentiating between what’s real or not.

Neo Hybrids

After body art, bio art and performance, we will witness the ascendency of a neo hybrid art movement that relies on 3D printing – in organic and non-organic materials – to modify the structure of the human body. Those who practice neo hybrid art pose questions pertaining to transhumanism and the limits of humanity while employing the very latest innovations in technology and medicine. Their inspiration may stem from the worlds of nature and computer games, which are both associated with altering one’s sensory input, due to some miraculous potion, or embedded bionic contact lenses. As a result, the artist’s heightened vision could be streamed directly to virtual reality, or transmitted directly into the viewer’s own brain via biochips, such as Neuralink, which is currently being developed by Elon Musk’s team. Additionally, the neo hybrid trend can be linked closely with the growing tendency to use AI technology to design one’s digital identity.

Object art and upcycling

Contrary to popular belief, a future world ruled by technology will call for an even greater interaction with material works of art. However, the rather elitist art forms such as painting, sculpture and graphics will be targeted at a narrow crowd of experts or connoisseurs, mainly due to their price: Some artists will inevitably abandon conventional mediums and embrace digital experimentation, while others will branch out into ‘upcycling’, to create more-or-less decorative collages or assemblage pieces, inspired by the rapid accumulation of waste by a global population that would be reaching over 10 billion people, that address the issue of a collateral damage incurred by the world’s unimpeded ‘material advancement’.

Critical eco-veganism 

On the verge of the mid 21st century, one of the most prominent artistic tendencies will be underscored by what has come to be called critical eco-veganism that holds humanity accountable for its carnivorous past, explores the theme of the sixth extinction and the impact of the final stage of the Anthropocene on the natural environment, followed by another agricultural revolution. The most polluted cities in the world will host a variety of art installations recreating wilderness’ captured on ancient film and celluloid, in a manner reminiscent of Olafur Eliasson’s piece from 2003 or Marina Abramović’s performances. The artists’ meditations will revolve around people’s relation not only with animals and nature, but also androids, which will be treated as viable substitutes for partners, caretakers and pets.

Post-future

The future is not necessarily what is seems, not necessarily sterile, synthetic and perfectly aligned. You can surely recall the biological and material quality of technology portrayed in David Cronenberg’s film “Existenz.” The actual condition of art might deviate from our predictions. There are as many different visions of the future, as there are futurologists, inventors, artists and writers. In his book “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,” Yuval Noah Harari (among others) argues that the future should be shaped collectively to ensure the sustainable growth of the entire planet instead of leaving the decision-making process to the selected powers that be. By its definition, any vision constitutes an inspiring shot in the dark. Amid dynamic technological developments, one must bear in mind the fact that the future is governed by human beings, not the apparatus. We, the people, can decide how and if we wish to upgrade a given life sphere with technology. Both artists and audiences will have to face ethical dilemmas related to the newly emerging technology, which will steer the evolution, form and content of art itself.

PS: If you want to travel even further into the future, here you can read the predictions of sixteen artists on what art will look like in 100 years.

Author: Sylwia Żółkiewska

Consultant/collaborator: Joanna Skorupska, www.radicalzz.studio, founder of Radicalzz, all-in-one studio that implements technologies to serve humans needs. She has made it her mission to accelerate the sustainability and innovation practices in the field of product, service design and development.

Written by Sylwia Żółkiewska

Translated by Karolina Jasińska

Edited by Aleksander Cellmer

Empathy Swarm, Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan, photo Wojtek Chrubasik

Empathy Swarm, Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan, photo Wojtek Chrubasik

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