As 2020 approaches, many years since “we were supposed to have flying cars” have past. Popular stories in film and literature like “1984,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Back to the Future Part II” take place in a future passed, leaving us laughing at the ridiculous technology that doesn’texist yet. But “The Running Man” and “Blade Runner” both take place in 2019 (the latter starts in November), but the planet isn’t like that either. This leaves us wondering what’s to come, since various predictions were proven incorrect by time.
Enter a world unknown, and known, in “A Trace by the Future,” where 2019 meets an unnamed year, on view at UMass Lowell’s University Gallery through November 21. Washington, D.C.-based artist Jonathan Monaghan’s exhibition featuring recent work incorporates pastels and fluorescents, pop culture and technology in sculpture, video, print and installation presentation format to envision another version of a technological hereafter. The soft pinks and greens and plush fabric contrast with the robotic looking figures, ominous, almost-too-gold security cameras and threatening spikes that are featured in some of his creations. But even so, this world seems safer and more intriguing than any other imagined future.
The exhibition’s central component, “Out of the Abyss,” a 19-minute looping video, animated solely by Monaghan using 3D animation software, unites notable present-day objects with traditional apocalyptic imagery. Expected and electronic, otherworldly music and sound effects, similar to the sounds of countless sci-fi movies, accompany the video. As you watch, it seems like the video is filmed with a drone, reminiscent of nature centered documentaries giving you a close look of the landscape and creatures of this place.
Today’s rampant consumerism merges into the imagined. Cans of La Croix, a brand of sparkling water that in recent years has dominated as a millennial-loved beverage; Balenciaga Speed Trainers, that famously look like socks and Beats by Dr. Dre, enhance the eerie feeling of familiarity by using name- brands hyper-specific to current culture. Perhaps the most frightening moment of “Out of the Abyss” was a small, iconic image of Steve Jobs on an e-reader resembling a Kindle, but with a start screen that read “blood.”