Santa Fe

View of “Future Shock,” 2017. Andrea Zittel, “Panel Dress Series,” 1995–98. Photo: Eric Swanson.

View of “Future Shock,” 2017. Andrea Zittel, “Panel Dress Series,” 1995–98. Photo: Eric Swanson.

“Future Shock”

SITE Santa Fe

View of “Future Shock,” 2017. Andrea Zittel, “Panel Dress Series,” 1995–98. Photo: Eric Swanson.

For the inaugural exhibition in SITE Santa Fe’s revamped and expanded space, director and chief curator Irene Hofmann took her inspiration from Alvin Toffler’s best-selling book Future Shock (1970), borrowing its title for her exhibition. The book casts the rapid change induced by technological development in the first world’s postindustrial age as a disease—a deadly malady with which we as humans must come to grips. As with conceptions of history, epistemological change is at the heart of any futurity; changes in knowledge supersede the invention of new devices and herald shifts in the way humans relate to one another and to their environment.

The exhibition reinforces a teleological conception of the future and posits futurity as a placeholder for generalized ideas about the extinction of species (including Homo sapiens), scientific advancements, changes in human relationality, and the impending completion of economic globalization. Some of these points are made with works that feel rather dated, such as Andreas Gursky’s large-scale photographs of prerecession stock markets: Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 1997, and Kuwait Stock Exchange, 2007. Alternately, Andrea Zittel’s “Panel Dress Series,” 1995–98, a modest installation of apron-like smocks and simple sheath dresses, stands apart from much of the other work in the exhibition in its quiet assurance that when the future does come, it will likely be everyday concerns such as clothing ourselves that will determine larger choices we make as we move through this new, presumably postapocalyptic world.

Like much artwork that engages with science and technology, some of the works in “Future Shock” highlight the gulf between the disciplines of art and science instead of bridging it. Lynn Hershman Leeson’s The Infinity Engine, 2013–17, which explores the implications of genetic engineering for medicine and agriculture, is steeped in science to the point where a deft handling of media and aspirations toward aesthetic pleasure get sacrificed for didactic messaging. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Wodiczko’s immersive installation Zoom Pavilion, 2015, utilizes an early version of facial-recognition technology that attempts to detect interpersonal relationships among people in crowds. The work is a tour de force commentary on the surveillance state and relies on the pleasures of self-recognition for its payoff.

There is an old adage often attributed to iconic baseball catcher Yogi Berra: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Much of the most successful work in the show inspires a kind of affective attraction to ideas about futurity by poignantly invoking the past. For instance, a selection of set pieces from Tom Sachs’s “Space Program” series, 2007–, revel in a childlike engagement with moon-landing and cosmic-travel fantasies, looking not so much to the future but to a bygone image of the United States as a world power. The installation gives the appearance of a garage in which a dad-genius has been tinkering with spare car parts and other bric-a-brac. Dario Robleto’s Setlists for a Setting Sun (The Crystal Palace) and Setlists for a Setting Sun (Dark Was the Night), both 2014, take as their subject the wonders of sound-recording technologies. Collections of precious ephemera and mementos represent the fascination attached to events such as the launching of the Golden Record into space in 1977 aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft. And Alexis Rockman’s New Mexico Field Drawings, 2017, created specifically for this exhibition, depict some of the titular state’s indigenous species, such as the extinct Edaphosaurus and the rare White Sands pupfish, and incorporate locally sourced organic materials. Perhaps without intending to, “Future Shock” shows us how much the future used to mean to us in the past, and how those past conceptions of the future have in turn shaped our present.

Chelsea Weathers