Social Futuring (By Rod Northcutt)

It seems strange that a group of makers does not put the making of things first, but that is how we work. Of course, it always ends up that we make things (perhaps it is our destiny? The fact that we have the word "make" in our collective name?) but at least it is not how we start our discussions (we get together and really think through issue and concept first). I like to think it is because we are always looking to the future and that we are skeptical of past solutions to issue-based problems. The solutions to past problems are, after all, only applicable to past environments, not the current or future ones. As artists, we have all worked to communicate somewhat complex ideas and systems with art by making things as vessels of communication. Because of that thingness, it is hit and miss on who gets it and who pans it, that is, some people who interact with the work get what we intend to communicate, some don’t. The worst situation arises when someone misses the intention because they are confused by the thing that is intended to communicate. Sometimes it looks too much like the art of the past (art that was often made to confound and confuse anyone not well read on aesthetics, philosophy, or art theory) and they immediately think, "this was not made for me to understand.". Sometimes it looks too much like a utilitarian thing, so it is not considered as communicative but as a useful thing. There are perils in the reliance of to communicate, but we want to communicate with things...we are in a tough spot! So regarding that, we think that the thingness of a communication is not the thing to avoid, but DEFAULT thingness IS the thing to avoid. If the future is unscripted so should be our creative response to it.    

While many artists work to create for themselves a style or manner (we can recognize the expressively lumpy figures of Auguste Rodin or the turgid plumpness of the figures of Fernando Botero in an instant), we work hard to avoid it. We feel that working consistently suggests that we are on a well-worn path, or a heuristic (a habitual method of solving a problem), and habit is history, and "(art) history does not progress." Marcel Duchamp said that, and although i realize that i am making a historical reference while discussing the avoidance of habit, well...we think he was pretty sharp and future thinking. As soon as we see that we are using habit and consistent methods to design solutions, we start over and work up from the issue (again the steps of issue/content/form). I always thought that an artist can, and should, respond to the zeitgeist, the German phrase for the spirit (geist) of an age or time (zeit), but even that is essentially looking to the past and not the future. That is implied by the “geist” part…if spirits or ghosts are specters from the past, a “spirit of an age” can only be understood retroactively. What about the future? What does art futuring look like? Is it possible? How can we extrapolate our social histories and quotidian activities to see where we are going rather than to recapitulate, over and over, where we have been?

Coming soon: The MAKETANK mission and programs we are unveiling for the Fall