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RETROFUTUROLOGY

RETROFUTUROLOGY

Our first group show at Observatory was:

RETROFUTUROLOGY
“How the Past Saw the Present // How the Present Sees the Future”

A group show of visual art at Observatory, Brooklyn,
curated by the Hollow Earth Society,
Ethan Gould & Wythe Marschall, Founding Colonels

The imagination (as a productive faculty of cognition) is a powerful agent for creating, as it were, a second nature out of the material supplied to it by actual nature.  —Kant

To have an imagined future, you must simultaneously have an imagined present and an imagined past.

A DeLorean decked out in flashing lights and complicated-looking wires: It’s a modest-budget promise that, yes, the technologies of our age—our new computer chips and LED lights and cars with doors that open upright like a space pod—can puncture the time barrier, with the right old-fashioned mad scientist at the steering wheel! Where to go? A rowdy 1950s, wherein a white kid can invent rock and roll? A steampunk 1800s? A future wherein the promises of kaleidoscopic, holographic advertising from the late 1980s come to fruition—a world with yet another layer of retrofuturist dreaming added onto the small-town diner…?

Our visions of the future are nested.

Our conception of time is hyperreal. In explaining the visual gimmicks of a single cultural artifact such as the Buggles’s “Video Killed The Radio Star,” we must refer to the heyday of radio; the future promised by television executives in synthesizer advertisements; science fiction pulp covers from the 1950s; the neon-on-black-and-white aesthetic of MTV in its early years, not to mention the gallery scene that birthed that aesthetic; 1950s diner-decor futurism; the late-1970s body-posturing and dystopic styling of Devo; Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, looking forward to 2026; the garb of mad scientists in movies from the 1940s;—and the sigh that comes with opening a magazine and seeing all of this, compressed down into an ad for sunglasses for hipsters.

Or not even for hipsters: The retrocamp fashion exemplified by an irritating blend of past and future has been recompressed and sold in shopping malls internationally. This isn’t marginal pulp—

This is the process on which the present runs.

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