|From Future Bear 2 created by Julian Chambliss (don't blame Rachel)|
Future Bear as art is driven by my collaborator's ability to bring a complex narrative around the environment into focus using the image of a polar bear. As Rachel explained in her TEDx Orlando presentation, she sees the polar bear as a symbol of our collective concerns about global warming. Future Bear, the hybrid Graphic experience, must content with my assertions of what and how comic book narrative operate. There are several great works on that, but one of my favorite is Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. If you haven't read it, you should. McCloud's analysis about how comics operate isn't about story as much as the cognitive engagement that grows from the merger of words and pictures. What McCloud's work highlights is the complexity that is achieved when creators move from just word or just pictures to the synergy of image and text on the comic page. Building the narrative around Rachel's rich visual allows me to address the same concerns that inspired her art.
Like Rachel I see the collective concerns about the environment in the images in our contemporary society. Thinking about the ideas and patterns of actions connected to those ideas inspired the story content you will see in the second Future Bear installation. It is a time travel story, but for the story to work, the future and the past are in dialogue. We need, in my opinion, to know Future Bear's future world to understand the stakes when she is acting in our world.
To imagine a future world isn't simply a creative act. As is the way with everything in Future Bear, this part of the story is connected to modern historical trends. Futurism or futurology or foresight studies, which is defined as “the study and forecasting the future” emerged as a recognizable subfield in the 1970s with the publication Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1970). A sociologist by training, Toffler argued society was undergoing massive structural changes from “premature arrival of the future.” Toffler’s work went on to become a documentary narrated by Orson Welles in 1972. In 1974, the University of Houston at Clear Lake established the first future studies program. Almost from its beginning, future studies has been hard to categorize. Whether an art or science, futurists draw upon complex mathematical models as much as history, cultural, and sociological observation to predict future development. The fact of the matter is that there are numerous organizations both public and private dedicated to thinking about the future. Indeed, the National Intelligence Council published Global Trends 2030 a report that offered a glimpse of the possible futures late last year. Using experts from a variety of fields, the organization considers environmental, demographic, and globalization factors to forecast possible outcome to aid policy development. Experts and laymen alike tend to dismiss the implication of future studies. The possibility educated assertions will affect how resources are allocated and restrict contemporary practice in favor of some "possible" better outcome is difficult to accept. This is the benefit of a project like Future Bear. In the artistic realm, to imagine the future is acceptable, even welcomed. As I think about the future, I draw inspiration from past debates. The fact the story seems to resonate with contemporary conflicts merely highlights how much understanding the past can be useful to chart a future.