Amy Rogers Nazarov, a social media strategist in Washington, D.C., and a regular Torch contributor, shares her first impressions of the new exhibition at the Arts and Industries Building.
Since it opened in 1881, the iconic Arts + Industries building—incubator of museums, of history and culture, of ideas—has hosted President Garfield’s inaugural ball, the Spirit of St Louis, performances by John Phillip Sousa conducting the Marine Band, the ghosts of Secretaries Joseph Henry and Spencer Baird, and—for a short while—my office when I was a writer at what was then known as the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. I remember leaving for the last time in 2004, lamenting with a colleague that this leaky, spooky, falling-down-around-us grande dame of the Mall was going into an extended mothballing, and wondering what would become of her.
The other day, I got my answer. I was invited to a sneak peek at the brand-new FUTURES exhibition that spans 32,000 square feet inside the Arts + Industries Building. Now on view until July 6, 2022, the exhibition is your guide to a vast array of interactives, artworks, technologies and ideas that are glimpses into humanity’s next chapter.
Smell a molecule. Clean your clothes in a wetland. Meditate with an AI robot. Travel through space and time. Watch water being harvested from air. Become an emoji. FUTURES invites visitors to dream big, and imagine many possible futures on the horizon—playful, sustainable, inclusive. In moments of great change, we dare to be hopeful.
Another writer and I listened over and over to a genderless voice assistant prototype. As we compared the voice at different frequencies, we wondered out our compulsion to classify the voice as male or female. What would a non-binary voice mean in terms of helping people across the spectrum of gender savor a different kind of representation?
FUTURES invites visitors to dream big, and imagine many possible futures on the horizon—playful, sustainable, inclusive. In moments of great change, we dare to be hopeful.
The building itself—described at the launch event by FUTURES architect David Rockwell as “a glorious unicorn”— is worth the trip to the Mall, even without a crazy cool exhibit to explore. Until next summer, FUTURES will be housed inside AIB, where you can spot ancient fossils embedded in the floor tiles and absorb the collective memories of America’s social and industrial past as seen through the eyes of many generations of curators and visitors. A&I, you beautiful creature, it is so good to see you again.
Check out the latest edition of TorchLight for more and follow FUTURES Remixed to learn about upcoming events.
Posted: 23 November 2021