1 - 18 April 2015

Curated by Natalya Maller

Opening Night | Thursday 2 April 6-8pm

Artists Talk I Saturday 18 April 2.30pm

Troy Innocent, Benjamin Kolaitis,  Natalya Maller, Roberta Joy Rich + Marion Piper

Future Communication is a portal to the future to foretell Australian language and communication in 2065. Artists consider how Australians connected over the last fifty years and the role of environment, culture, and society in social cohesion, identity, and engagement. They imagine what language and discursive interactions will underpin relationships and behaviour. This vision of Australia is explored by sonic and performative installations, multi-media tableaux, a global hieroglyphic, and cookies.

IMAGES | Future Communication, 2015| Images courtesy of the artist. 


‘Behind every abstract expression there lie the boldest of metaphors, and every metaphor is a play upon words. Thus giving expression to life man creates a second, poetic world alongside the world of nature’ (Huizinga, 1955).

Future Communication is a portal to the future of Australian language and communication in 2065. Artists, Troy Innocent, Benjamin Kolaitis, Roberta Joy Rich, Marion Piper, and Natalya Maller consider how Australians connected over the last fifty years, and the role of the environment, culture and society in social cohesion, identity and engagement. They imagine what language and discursive interaction will underpin relationships and behaviour. This vision of Australia is explored by sonic and performative installations, multi-media tableaux, a global hieroglyphic, and cookies.

Future Communication is an exhibition about Australia with two theoretical components – a vision of the future, and communication as the transmission and exchange of information. Together, they are an exploration of how, based on past and present behaviour, Australians might connect, or what communication may look like in the future. At its core, Future Communication is about symbols (verbal, gestural, script, and sound) and how they affect meaning. Symbols of communication are everywhere. It is our body transmitting information through our veins on a cellular level, a scrunched-up brow of worry, a dimple of laughter, the sounds that burst from lips, letters and pictures we write and draw, dance moves, behaviours, mannerisms, rituals, an exchange of glances between two people who do not utter but a single word.

Human language and communication is vast and underpins our being as individuals, communities and nations – it promotes belonging, self-preservation and the chance success of future offspring. Our expression, connection, and interactions are expressed through every aspect and subject of being a person: psychology, biology, philosophy, physiology, culturally, socially, politically and mediated through science and technology, sport, and the arts. The artworks in Future Communication examine only a few different aspects of language and communication: physicality and non-verbal interactions; technology, media platforms and public interfaces; writing; and our inner dialogue of self-talk. By looking to our past, and how we connected and communicated, the artists project their vision of Australia.

Predicting the future is a common preoccupation of being human, to prepare or forewarn of what may lie ahead. We use calculations and theories to predict everything from the weather, economy, share market to population growth and global warming. Fortune telling, a more folkloric action of prediction, is ingrained in superstition, spirituality, and the occult; Divination is affiliated with a religious, ritualistic reading and interpretation of the signs from the supernatural. Fortune telling provides a sort of comfort that our fate is guided by a higher force—that we are not ‘alone’ in an existential vacuum because it grounds our consciousness. As aptly put by Deacon (1997), who explains that humans are indeed a symbolic species searching for meaning ‘the universe isn’t after all, the soulless, blindly spinning clockwork we fear we are a part of, but is, instead, nascent heart and mind’ (p.435). Future Communication explores possibilities in the evolution of human connection.

Our adaption to and dependence on technology for daily life continues. In 1965, television was a new addition to the family home and the telecommunications network-satellite, INTELSAT II, was launched to connect Australians to the rest of the world. TV provided an incredible amount of information about prominent western culture, and politics, beamed into the family home. Technological innovation is rapidly advancing. The latest handheld communication devices are quickly superseded by the next-generation gadgets within months; ‘Google glasses’ are already yesterday’s news and science is not far away from enabling electronic information and signals ‘uploaded and downloaded from our brain’ through a silicon implant (Vadala, 2013). Communicating by hologram is on the near horizon (Vadala, 2013) and children with advanced coding skills can now program computers before they can read. How will our relationships with technology affect the interactions we have with each other?

The 1950/60s was until recently saw the largest influx of migrants to Australia and the people and communities of Australia grow more diverse every year. Presently, the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts 15 million migrants by 2075, bringing the country’s population to 46 million (Tong, 2013). According to the 2011 census, Australia has the most culturally and linguistically diverse population in the world, with 75% of Australians born identifying with ancestry other than Australian. Collectively, there are over 200 languages spoken, including 50 Aboriginal languages (250 Aboriginal languages are now extinct). With such linguistic and cultural diversity, how will Australians shape language fifty years from now? As Deacon argues, ‘if symbols ultimately derive their representational power, not from the individual, but from a particular society at a particular time, then a person’s symbolic experience of consciousness is to some extent society-dependent – it is borrowed’ (Deacon, 1997). Our communities are evolving. Despite our diverse populations, however, many media and information platforms still reflect an Anglo Saxon Australia. To change how we see each other, Gomez-Pena (1994) encourages a dialogue and realisation ‘…that all cultures are open systems in constant process of transformation, redefinition, and re-contextualisation [and] we must learn each other’s language, history, art, literature, and political ideas’ (p. 20). Through this exchange we will develop models of coexistence and cooperation (Gomez-Pena, 1994).

The future is also predicted through art, literature and film. Stanley Kubrick’s 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a film about technology, extraterrestrial life, artificial intelligence and human evolution, effectively motivated the birth of Apple’s iPad— ‘“tablets” that appeared aboard the spaceship Discovery’ (Potter, 2011). In 1964, the prolific science-fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, envisioned a World Fair in 2014, which included ‘communication becoming sight-sound, hearing and seeing the person you are talking to’, direct dialling anywhere on earth, screens used for studying documents and photographs and vehicles with robot brains (cited in Coleman, 2013). It is through imagination, reflection, and play that art (in it’s broadest sense) exists. In turn, art is a language and expression of the subconscious at play. The origins of communication and language and ‘the great archetypal activities of human society are all permeated with play from the start’ (Huizinga, 1955) – Future Communication continues that play and prediction.

Roberta Joy Rich same shit, different day (2015)
Comprised of excerpts and text across media and literary platforms, Rich examines language as both the problem and a solution in re-evaluating how we interact with one another. Same shit, different day (2015) is comprised of three components: The Corner Man (1889), a poem by iconic Australian writer Andrew ‘Banjo’ Patterson is presented alongside a late 20th Century business-political magazine The Bulletin 100th Anniversary issue (1980) displaying AMPOL advertisement and article Only Vigilance Can Save Our National Heritage that discusses land conservation juxtaposed with an image of Arnhem Land ‘cave paintings’; the third component is video footage of Attorney General George Brandis announcing the disclosure draft of amended Racial Discrimination Act (25 March, 2014). The selection of these texts and dialogue as nodes of communication along a historical path illustrate an unchanging use of language over more than 100 years. The collection and arrangement of this material allows us to revisit the past as a looking glass to the future. Rich proposes, that although technologies, platforms, and media from which we derive information, literature, and news in Australia in fifty years’ time may change, the means in which language is used to address issues, cultures, and marginalised people may not progress. The current Government’s initial proposal to alter 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, then its retraction, and subsequent coverage and discussion in mainstream and social media means that attitudes remain largely the same or even regress toward past intransigent prejudice. Rich presents a certain resignation, and within its colloquial title, the work proposes that the old questions remain.

Marion Piper D-is-course (2015)
In 1960s Australia, immigrants had access to free English language courses and we were becoming a very progressive nation. Fifty years from now, in 2065, Piper explores a future of a decimated planet, where select groups of humans will venture into space in search of new homes and better lives. What remains behind will be a desolate world of crumbling towers, dry riverbeds, and archaic remnants of a forgotten language: emoji.

Piper playfully imagines that in 2023, the Oxford Dictionary inducts an emoji keyboard into what was about to become a ‘global language’. Plastered on walls, buildings, and even tattooed onto bodies, emojis are and will be contemporary hieroglyphs.

D-is-course (2015) is a piece of ‘speculative graffiti’: instead of writing inane or nonsensical phrases on walls, the kids of 2065 quote Wittgenstein on the fall of all rational language systems and the rise of symbolic vomit. Its two hieroglyphs read, ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my worldfrom Ludwig Wittgenstein, and ‘Language is a social art’ from Willard Van Orman Quine.

Piper says, “What I hope to achieve is to hold a mirror up to the viewer to make them question their current use of language and the beauty it may or may not possess. D-is-course (2015) both celebrates and deconstructs our current obsession with the aestheticisation of language”.

Troy Innocent and Benjamin Kolaitis Play parameters in tria (2015)
Play parameters in tria (2015) is a playful engagement with space; an experimental sonic and performative excursion into the art of gameplay. Innocent and Kolaitis have designed an interactive installation that meshes visual and compositional gameplay elements with the structural elements of musical instrumentation. In this iteration, three players engage in a musical conversation using free-standing instruments to activate the space and objects within.

Play parameters in tria (2015) highlights intuitive play and ritual as communication through games, and distinct from the structure and order we are usually subjected to in the everyday. In the centre of the room the instruments face one another. Each instrument has four strings that react to touch by emitting a sound, switching on a light, and projecting a symbol onto the floor. In the centre, covered by sand are a number of small sculptures in the shape of ideograms. Players take turns creating simple sequences on their instrument, and when they match symbols the sculptures are illuminated but when all four symbols are activated, the installation emits a sequence of loud noises and stroboscopic lights. The three instruments, silent until activated, excite curiosity and anticipation, the circle invites dionysian visions of ritual and play. Play parameters in tria (2015) promotes ‘an important characteristic of play as a spatial separation from ordinary life (Huizinga, 1955, p113).

Play parameters in tria (2015) was inspired by Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space Modulator, Gysin and Burrough’s Dreamachine, 1970s’ analog generative art systems, and an expansion of sonic components from the early work of Reed Ghazala and David Tudor. Sonic Arts Union, with references to artists Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, Jon Rose and Alan Lamb. Building on this rich history of experimental hybrid sonic and visual arts practice,

Play parameters in tria (2015) tests the boundaries with new performative possibilities afforded by DIY electronics and the increased literacy of audiences in gameplay. In this iteration, the play parameter is used to create a future nonverbal communication ritual raising the question as to what future vision of Australia would generate this ritual.

Natalya Maller Future cookie (2015)
People across cultures and histories have had a preoccupation with fortune telling for a very long time. A prognostication of future events instils a sense of comfort, validation, hope and life direction. It is a belief in a divine, greater power that ultimately directs our fate. In this sense, it diminishes individual responsibility of our actions. The fortune cookie, contrary to popular thought, is not a Chinese tradition, but an adaptation by Americans of a Japanese style fortune cookie from the early 19th century in Kyoto, Japan. Future cookie (2015) brings back the sense of ownership to the consequences of our actions and thoughts.

Future cookie (2015) is a small installation reflective of a 1960s lounge room and afternoon tea with fortune cookies. On closer examination, however, it becomes apparent that Maller has removed the fortunes, and it is this emptiness that seemingly renders the cookies meaningless. The cookies, however, are again activated by the writing and embedding of a self-imposed fortune. Deacon (1997) says, ‘…a lot of thinking gets done in the form of talking to oneself, editing and re-editing imaginary future or reconsidered past conversations’. Instead of looking at external sources to appease our fears, Maller asks us to write our own fortunes, creating an inner dialogue, ‘digesting’ our hopes and dreams to instil self-belief in the present. It is embracing a will and openness to representation. Maller believes this inner dialogue is what drives our actions and belief in ourselves, a reflection of who we think we are and aspire to be. As expressed by the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer in Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation) an experience of will, a response of intuition, is the ultimate experience. As Deacon observes, ‘self-representation, in the context of representation of alternative pasts and futures, could not be attained without a means for symbolic representation. It is this representation of self that is held accountable in social agreements, that becomes engaged in the experience of empathy, and that is the source of the rational, reflective intentions’ (1997). 

Coleman, D. (2013). Isaac Asimov’s 1964 predictions about what the world will look 50 years later– in 2014. Open Culture. Retrieved from http://www.openculture.com/2013/08/isaac asimovs-1964-predictions-about-2014.html

Deacon, T. (1997). The Symbolic Species. London: Penguin Group

Gomez-Pena, G. (1994). The Multicultural Paradigm: An Open Letter to the National Arts Community. In D. Tylor and J. Villegas (Eds.) Negotiating Performance. (1994). London: Duke University Press.

Huizinga, J. (1955). Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon, In K. Salen and E. Zimmerman (Eds.) (2006), The Game Design Reader – A Rules of Play Anthology. Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Lemereis, D. (2012). Beyond touch screens. In, T. Sterkenburg’s, What’s the future of communication? Let’s ask the experts.TNW (The Next Web). Retrieved from: http://thenextweb.com/media/2012/07/15/whats-the-future-of communication-lets-ask-theexperts/

Potter, N. (2011, August, 26). Stanley Kubrick envisaged the iPad in ‘2001’, says’ Samsung. abcNEWS. Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/apple-ipad-samsunggalaxy-stanley-kubrick-showed-tablet/story?id=14387499

Tong, M. (Nov 2013 – 3:11pm). SBS. Migration biggest contributor to population growth