Imagining the Future

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change”. In the pioneering novel Frankenstein (1818), widely acknowledged as one of the first works of science fiction, Mary Shelley perfectly captures the duality of humanity’s relationship to scientific innovation – at once inspired and afraid. For every child who found the 1960s Space Race captivating, there is an adult anxious at the prospect of the coming era of artificial intelligence and climate catastrophe. In the UK, 77% of people view climate change as a serious risk to our future, and 49% think this about AI. Vitra Design Museum’s Science Fiction Design: From Space Age to Metaverse explores the dialogue between modern science fiction, design and popular imaginings of the future. Here, we bring you a selection of creators who expertly bring to life the unique connection between science fiction and contemporary art.

Andrés Reisinger: The Shipping (2021)

In Andrés Reisinger’s (b.1990) work, the value of art is defined as much by its place in the virtual world as the physical one. The Shipping is a collection of ten pieces of furniture. Five come with a physical counterpart, but all of them can be implemented digitally. When it was launched in 2021, the collection was at the cutting edge of the new world of non-fungible tokens, a system which saw exclusive art exist solely in the digital space. Between 2021 and 2022, ownership of NFTs doubled from 4.6 to 9.3 million people. The fluffy pink Hortensia chair was so popular online that Reisinger eventually made a physical version. Reisinger’s hugely popular designs provide a blueprint for the aesthetic of the future.

ZYVA Studio & Charlotte Taylor: Neo-Chemosphere (2021)

Anthony Authié (ZYVA Studios) and Charlotte Taylor (Maison de Sable)’s collaboration pays homage to John Lautner’s Chemosphere. Once called the “most modern home built in the world”, Lautner’s house in Los Angeles embodied the hopeful 1960s visions of the future. More than half a century on, and made in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic and worsening climate crisis, Authié and Taylor’s Neo-chemosphere places the iconic house in a post-anthropocentric world. The octagonal building is found high above the sea on a concrete pillar, stuck between the pink rocks of a fantastised extraterrestrial archeological site. In an imagined world without humans, the artists carve out a sense of peace from isolation.

Francis Bitonti, Molecular Shoes (2015)

Francois Bitonti founded his eponymous studio in 2012. Since then, it has been at the cutting edge of artistic innovation for more than a decade, believing that “technology both designs and dictates the direction of cultural and human capabilities.” In Molecular Shoes, Bitoni used a mathematical model, created by John Conway, to “grow” a collection of footwear on a 3D printer. The shoes are a gradual blend of different colours, built up pixel by pixel to create a high heel reminiscent of stalagmites, and are inspired by Bitonti’s time as an architect. The artist explores the way that the advancement of technology shapes and changes fashion, and seeks to pave the way for new forms of design in the industry.

Mikey Woodbridge: Latent Couture: AI Fashion (2023)

What does it mean to make a garment in collaboration with computers? This is the question Mike Woodbridge poses in Latent Couture. 555 fashion looks have been generated from photographs of the artists’ years as a performer, painter and designer, creating a digital synthesis of lived experience. The world of digital fashion has risen to prominence in recent years, looking to make the industry more diverse and sustainable. In 2022, Gucci and Prada both sold fashion as NFTs. Woodbridge said: “I view generative AI fashion as the opposite of the deepfake – it reaches into the latent space to find the deepreal, the force of possibility that enables us to break the cycles of cultural reproduction.”

Science Fiction Design: From Space Age to Metaverse will run until 11 May 2025.

Words: Emma Jacob

Image Credits:

Complicated Sofa, The Shipping, 2021. Artwork by Andrés Reisinger © Reisinger Studio

Andrés Reisinger, The Shipping, Deep Space, 2021 © Reisinger Studio

ZYVA Studio & Charlotte Taylor, Neo-Chemosphere, 2021. © Zyva Studio X Charlotte Taylor

Mikey Woodbridge, »Latent Couture«, AI fashion, 2023. © Mikey Woodbridge