Event Recap: Future Forward Chicago

The Creators Project at Vice and the All-New Toyota Prius showcase innovative art installations in Chicago’s Fulton Market


Feature Photo by Alex Welsh

The first thing you notice upon entering Future Forward is the giant cube hanging from the ceiling, turning its constituent panels meditatively under the embrace of stage lights. Doris Sung’s installation Drift is so patently cool and futuristic that you don’t realize what you’re watching is actually a demonstration for responsive building ventilation using thermobimetal. Sung is an architect and doesn’t usually design chandeliers. But Vice’s The Creators Project and the All-New Toyota Prius brought her work and two other installations together to show how innovation and eco-consciousness can be both exciting and attractive.

Each piece at Future Forward Chicago highlighted a different Prius theme. Sung’s piece spoke to theme of technology and how it should be shaped by its surroundings.

“As an architect, constraints are how we design,” Sung said. “We respond a lot to the environment. You have to deal with the sun moving across the sky throughout the day.”

The second piece, VT Pro Design’s Reach, highlighted Prius’ Eco-Heritage, with a lighted wall of moss-covered geometric panels that respond to the motion of people in front of it. Wave your hand in front of them, and the panels follow as if by telekinesis — or more appropriately, as if the sun is determining what direction they grow in. The motion seems so natural that you can enjoy childlike wonder for a moment. (Although certainly no writer for this site pretended to be any sort of wizard in front of the installation while no one was looking.)

The idea behind this piece, as designer Tyler Lamptree described it in a Creators Project video, is that “Prius isn’t just a way to drive around and save money. It’s this big idea that you can still keep up with technology, move forward into the future, but harmoniously work together with nature.”

VT Pro’s Matt Wachter echoed this idea that working with nature shouldn’t be negative: “Sometimes limitations can inspire creativity. Sometimes when you have zero limitations, it’s hard to come up with ideas.”

Similarly, for the theme of Design, the duo NONOTAK created their infinite room Hoshi using decidedly finite resources. While the sign outside explains their mirrored room’s combination of minimalism and maximalism, composer and architect Takami Nakamoto finds its theme in direct experience: ”I really hate when I go to a museum and I need to read the description. I feel this wall between the art and me because I have to read a card to understand what’s going on. Our studio aims to have installations that play with the visual perception of the audience, something direct.”

The unity of the lights and the music create a sense of space and motion that make it easy to forget that you are walking very slowly down a deceptively small corridor.

As Nakamoto noted, the experience even transcends species: “It’s funny — we saw a dog go into the installation and he changed the way he behaved. It’s proof that it plays with visual perception. It’s not about showing an art piece but proposing an experience for people to think about. It’s about how space, light can come together and make you travel.”

Learn more at The Creators Project Future Forward.