‘Designs for Different Futures’ Opens at Walker Art Center

The stuff of science fiction, except real

The Walker Art Center officially reopened on July 16, but it didn’t unveil its big fall show until this weekend. “Designs for Different Futures,” organized by the Walker, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Art Institute of Chicago, premiered in Philadelphia last fall. It’ll be on display in Minneapolis through January 3, 2021, before moving to Chicago for its final run.

The show examines 80 multidisciplinary design projects across 11 themes, including Cities, Bodies, and Foods. Each piece addresses the “challenges and opportunities” that humans may encounter in the future — be it in five days or 500 years.

It’s an innovative and brain-twisting mix — the kind of stuff you read about in science fiction novels, except it’s real (or could be soon). There’s lab-grown meat, space boots, and robotics-controlled exoskeletons designed to help people with spinal cord injuries walk. Among the standouts:

Another Generosity
Filled with water and air, this larger-than-life installation by Eero Lundén, Ron Aasholm, and Carmen Lee meditates on the effect human beings have on “the greater planetary atmosphere.” Enormous sensor-equipped orbs detect fluctuations in carbon dioxide emitted by gallery-goers, audibly sighing in response. The light within the cells also changes color based on their surrounding temperature. As climate change ravages the West Coast, the work feels especially poignant right now.

Raising Robotic Natives
Stephan Bogner, Philipp Schmitt, and Jonas Voigt designed a robotic arm that can bottle feed a baby. (The optional dragon costume softens the look.) FYI: There’s a kill switch in case of an emergency.

The Performers: Act VII (Uncanny Valley)
This three-minute film, shot at a Shinto temple by filmmaker Barbara Anastacio, stars Erica, a photorealistic android developed by professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. Erica is so eerily “human,” she’s set to star in a major film soon, making her Hollywood’s first fully autonomous AI actor.

Kombukamui Dress
Julia Lohmann founded the Department of Seaweed project, which works with chemists and biologists to explore new uses for seaweed. Here, its dried form serves as a textile for fashion.

Circumventive Organs
Designer Agi Haines specializes in “speculative organs” and bio-printing, a form of 3D printing using cells and other biological material to produce living tissue.

Stranger Visions
Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg scoured the streets of NYC for chewing gum and other items with traces of saliva on them. A lab helped her extract the DNA; that genetic info, in turn, was used to make “phenotype” portraits. They’re not exact replicas, but each bears a familial resemblance to its original source.

If you go >> The Walker is open Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks are required and capacity is capped at 25 percent. Everyone — members included — must reserved a timed entrance ticket.

Walker Art Center
725 Vineland Pl., Minneapolis, MN; 612-375-7600.