This is the Future, by the film and new media artist Hito Steyerl, explores a vibrant, imagined garden through an immersive environment of video projection, sculpture, and architectural intervention. Steyerl is one of the foremost artists offering critical reflections on the complexities of the digital world, global capitalism, and the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for society, which is explored in this exhibition.
This is the Future opens with a short film about the long-held human desire to predict the future and the hope that today’s applications of AI will achieve this quest. Against this backdrop, the film introduces Heja, a prisoner who cultivates a garden in her cell but must hide it in the future to protect it from her captors. The moving image projection sets the stage for Power Plants, a series of video sculptures recently acquired by the Museum. Held by steel armatures, multiple LED screens present colorful, morphing imagery of plants, each one generated by an AI neural network that predicts its evolution by creating and capturing its future state. Short texts describe the healing properties of the plants—which seem to grow out of a rocky landscape indicative of the devastating climate crisis—intended to be future remedies for contemporary social, political, ecological, and technological ills. The Portland Art Museum’s presentation is the U.S. premiere of This is the Future.