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SITE Santa Fe’s ‘Future Shock’ explores fast-changing world

SANTA FE, N.M. — A beaver swimming in a bathtub, a cougar clawing at pillows on a motel bed and a deer rifling through a mini-fridge. In Doug Aitken’s short film “Migration,” animals are left to their own devices in areas humans have made around them.

“A lot of what we’ve created is repetitious,” said Aitken.”It’s almost like we have a conscious desire for repetition: go to a hotel, wake up in the same room … . You wake up and have no idea where you are because it’s all the same place.” He spent a month traveling to motels across the country and put animals in spaces like rooms, bathrooms and pools to capture their reaction and exploration of the human-made landscape, without people around, which in a way also gives viewers a chance to re-see these structures through the creatures’ eyes.

Aitken said he wanted to show “juxtaposition” between the pre-industrial, natural world and structures man has now created. He displays the film on billboards, which he called an “aggressive” element of our created landscape.

This and several other pieces examining the rapid changes in today’s society, paralleling changes at the newly reopened SITE Santa Fe, are part of “Future Shock,” SITE’s first major exhibition following its remodel.

The exhibit, featuring 10 international artists, including Aitken, is based on the 1970 Alvin Toffler novel of the same name. The phrase describes a phenomenon that occurs when too much change happens at once and a society cannot handle its rapid evolution.

Back in June, SITE director and chief curator Irene Hoffman told the Journal that with “Future Shock,” she wanted to match a new building displaying a “forward-looking approach” with a dialogue about where society is today as it undergoes ongoing change.

“While perhaps the current generation, digital natives, are equipped for all of the changes happening, there are many people that are not,” said Hoffmann. “What does that mean when things are changing so quickly?”

The installations tackle contemporary issues, including environmental change and its effect on animals, advancements in surveillance technology, space exploration and the global market, as well as one’s own personal future shock about death and an afterlife.

The exhibit begins with the display of a watch, designed by Canadian artist Patrick Bernatchez, that makes a full rotation only every 1,000 years.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, a San Francisco-based artist known for her use of emerging technology, spent six years working with leading world scientists to create “Infinity Engine,” a multi-room installation displaying the latest advancements in genetic engineering. Most citizens are unaware of what scientists are capable of in the field, said Hershman Lesson, and she wants viewers to be “moved” by what they’re learning.

Hershman Leeson said this will be the most complete version of the installation ever shown, and it will include an “ethics room” where visitors can look through Supreme Court lawsuits related to genetic engineering; interviews with international scientists working in the field; a bio-printing section that has a bio-printed ear; and a facial recognition system that can identify someone’s age, gender and mood.

A she learns more, Hershman Leeson says, she tries to remain optimistic that s cientists will use the technology responsibly a nd for the betterment of the planet.

“What we’re discovering is neutral,” said Hershman Leeson. “It’s what we as human beings do with it that makes the difference.”

The other featured artists include Andreas Gursky, Patrick Bernatchez, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Alexis Rockman, Dario Robleto, Tom Sachs, Regina Silveira and Andrea Zittel. The show will be up until May 1, 2018.

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