FUTURE disenchantment

2017 May 19
by dickdickerydick

2009’s Futuresonic Art Programme 


The Environment 2.0 Exhibition
CUBE Gallery, 13 – 23 May

Expecting an arts programme “more ambitious and relevant than ever”, this year’s efforts were more insipid than inspiring. The Environment 2.0 exhibit, based at CUBE, had all the trappings of a School Science Museum display – interactive works, wall charts, graphs and post-its. We were even collared into filling out a questionnaire.

P1030460The collaborative exhibition between Yamaha and the Royal College of Art, despite being the most innovative component, consolidated this general feeling. Transporting us back to childhood and enticing us to play with an array of objects-cum-instruments, “Making Fun Serious” in reality had the opposite effect and was a welcomed, if still disappointing, supplement to the weightier educational pieces. 


P1030436Whilst there were some genuinely interesting works, like Scenocosme’s singing plants, Akousmaflore, and Yuri Suzuki’s Graffiti Radio concept, the majority of the exhibition was overtly concerned with conveying an environmental message. Even Ackroy & Harvey’s Beuys’ Acorns, with its direct reference to the art world, was displaced by climate concerns and environmental issues.

For me, the only piece with any tactile and creative appeal was Manchester artist Rob Bailey’s installation, Vice, consisting of an inconspicuous insect trail, cut from an array of paper detritus. Unlike the rest of the exhibition, the work was subtle, delicate and beautiful. Arguably the only real piece of art in the entire exhibition.


I felt that there were too many examples of edification over aesthetics – the first thing you encountered on entering the gallery was a recital of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A woman reading from a textbook to a set of empty chairs I suppose perfectly depicts Environment 2.0, the Art Exhibition. An overall disengaging and arid affair. 


Startrunning – Exhibition
Unit G22, 14 – 17 May 

Leaving Futuresonic’s “focal point” we headed into town in search of the rest of the arts programme. Finally we stumbled across festival EVENT Winner, Startrunning, in a gutted Northern Quarter shop unit. Now, I’m an arts graduate. Contemporary art – sculpture/installation in particular – was my specialised area of interest, and indeed passion. I believe everything viewed contextually has substance – whether I personally like it or not is another matter. This however, was just an embarrassment. A vacuous, contemptible embarrassment. I was actually disgusted. Even more so by the fact that Futuresonic actually financed this monstrosity as one of the 5 EVNTs winners, “for creative quality, innovation, ability to deliver, and the potential for the award to have a creative legacy”…

Legacy maybe, but not in the way they anticipated.

Captincaptin, Gary Fisher, Jack of None, Mark Fell and Semiconductor between them had produced an infuriatingly pretentious ode to the “simultaneousness of analogue”: two items of retro music equipment (decks and some sort of tape player) reworked into kinetic/sound pieces, a glitchy video and a book mounted in a corner addressing a deflated balloon-type object embedded in the ceiling. Essentially piles of ‘edgy’ miscellaneous crap making vague allusions to one another. Sadly we missed the coinciding EVNT at Sandbar on the Sunday. Maybe then it would have all made sense, but it doubt it.


To conclude, I probably didn’t see enough of the Futuresonic Arts Programme but I definitely didn’t see enough “art” on the Futuresonic Programme, or at least something either provoking or inspiring. Since introducing the arts strand in 2003 the festival has produced numerous world firsts and visionary exhibitions such as the 2004 Mobile Connections exhibition – the first of its kind – and the Art For Shopping Centres in 2007, which saw the Arndale transformed into a giant gallery.

Such an impressive history overshadows this year’s somewhat feeble attempt – a mediocre museum show at CUBE. Even the theme, though certainly relevant, seems unimaginative and exhausted, executed with equal lacklustre. Such a shame for Futuresonic to end on this dwarfed and deflated note. Lets hope they revive some of the previous spark and ingenuity on their return as FutureEverything…

words Holly Dicker
by Laura McCann & Holly Dicker