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FUTURE VISIONS ou’re standing in the centre of an open plan room, on the 105th floor of a Googie-inspired skyscraper created using only the finest eco-friendly materials. To your left, pure white panelling hides a series of invisible touch screen appliances, ready to control every facet of the room. To your right, a long curving wall of glass provides stunning views of the metropolis below your feet. And in front of you, a minimalist interior is complemented by Eero Aarnio-styled furnishings. You’re standing in the apartment of the future – the future that cinema has promised us.

But it wasn’t always like this. While undoubtedly influential, early science-fiction films like Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis were clunky and crude in their depictions of future worlds. They might have conjured up fantastical images, but they were still very much attached to their industrial roots; teeming with brutal pistons, flickering steam dials, bubbling test tubes and arcs of electricity. By 1939, the New York World’s Fair might have promised the ‘World of Tomorrow’, predicting wonders that the American public would see in the decades to come, but in reality, that world was light-years away.

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Ironically, it was not an American event that precipitated the beginning of a new era, but rather a Soviet one, when on October 4, 1957, the USSR launched the Sputnik 1 satellite, igniting the space race with the US. Sure enough, the American public’s fascination with technology intensified with every satellite – and later astronaut – shot into space. Steven Heller, design aficionado for The New York Times, aptly stated that this period saw ‘a longing for the future and a rejection of the past’. Architects and designers embraced Space-Age style as ‘the currency of fashionable design’, according to Sixties Design author Phillip Garner.

In film, one movie stood out above all others, vividly capturing America’s extreme fascination with the Space Age: Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science-fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. The use of antiseptic white lines and stark set design, not to mention Olivier Mourgue’s plump red Djinn chairs, came to encapsulate everything the period – and the future – embodied: a bold new world in which sciencefiction was being transformed into science-fact. But the mood would only last as long as the allure of the space race itself, and by the late ’70s fascination had turned to disinterest and outright scepticism. Soon enough, what had once been the immediate future of the 1960s had rapidly become the immediate past. Sciencefiction became darker, more corrupt, represented most explicitly by Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner, with its squalid streets and run-down architecture. This was a world in which technology’s promises of a better future had been systematically broken. Yet strangely, cinema’s vision of the future since the late 1970s has barely altered, caught between dark dystopia and ascetic minimalism. Somehow, we seem to have lost the ability to articulate what the future means to us in the twenty-first century. “I think in some respects we do struggle to define a purely new vision of the future without using the same iconic interiors that Kubrick presented in 2001,” suggests Shane Walter, co-founder and creative director of visionary digital festival onedotzero. “I mean, in some ways, Syd Mead, the concept artist on TRON, created something wholly original, which as a film is perhaps just as much an icon as 2001, but that was influential from more of a tech and games point of view. In truth, most films of the future

“WHEN WE LOOK AT T H E F U T U R E , IT HAS NOW BECOME A BLEAK P L AC E R AT H E R THAN ONE OF G R E AT H O P E .” really take on a combination of both these two aesthetic visions, albeit with some tweaking and degrading at times.” The sort of experiences that Walter hopes to bring to the onedotzero festival in November offer a more positive image of the future than we’ve become used to, with an emphasis on exploration and utopian visions. “My aim is to distil a serous spirit of positivity because I feel when we look at the future, it has now become a bleak place rather than one of great hope,” he says.

With its citystates strand (a series of filmic responses to urban environments and fast-paced city living, from quirky personal insights to shared global experiences) and the experimental wow + flutter, Walter hopes to restore “a sense of adventure and hope about our shared world. There’s an emphasis on convergence and collaboration – in the work, the programme and, ideally, the audience. In some ways the festival is quite a Bauhaus ideal,” he adds. “Philosophically, the Bauhaus school was built on the idea that design did not merely reflect society; it could actually help to improve it. And that’s what we’re aiming for.” Walter wants to rediscover the days when science-fiction symbolised a more harmonious and promising time. “Back then I was enthralled by what the future would be like – it was an exciting destination where untold new gadgets and devices would make it both easier and more fantastical. It was a very exciting and perhaps optimistic vision; flying cars, space and time travel. Right now our worldview of the future is so pessimistic, I think it’s vital to inject some positive thinking about our collective future.” O n edotzero, a sh owc ase of some of th e best i n con temporary an d i n tern ation al movi n g i mages, ru n s from November 10-14 at Lon don’ s B F I S ou th ban k. w w w.one do tzero.c om

038 T h e T R O N : L e g a c y I s s u e


Little White Lies - Tron Feature  

Future Visions feature for Little White Lies 'Tron' issue.

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