Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Corporatism and the Future

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.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Future Bear Issue 2 and Fast Fashion

I’m currently on a sabbatical from teaching, so I’ve been focused on making the second issue of the Future Bear story come to life. This issue is more complicated than the last (as we really dig our teeth into the conundrum of time travel) and more characters are introduced both from the present and the future. 

One of the fun things about this issue comes from drawing scenes and characters from an imagined place and time, where all kinds of technologies have been invented and integrated into our daily lives. As Future Bear’s writer, Julian has been paying attention to futurists like Michio Kaku (who we both saw speak at Rollins this week) and his predictions about intelligent wallpaper (which will replace hand-held screens and TVs) computer contact lenses and teleportation. All of these things are either written into Future Bear, or seem to be lurking on the periphery.  

Oddly enough, it’s the future of fashion that is really challenging me. I have been working on a crowd-scene set in the future and I just don’t know how wacky to make the outfits. My awareness of the current trend of fast fashion has only complicated it further, i.e. what is trending one week will be replaced the next by another “micro-trend” next week. This week in 50 years, fashion may one again be infatuated with 1983 for all we know. That might actually be good for me because as a child of the 80‘s, I am still in love with with Cyndi Lauper’s look from “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  Who isn't?