Enduring Engagement in “Past Futures”

Installation view of "Past Futures" exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Installation view of “Past Futures” exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Past Futures: Science Fiction, Space Travel, and Postwar Art of the Americas closes on June 7. The subject matter of Past Futures—avant-garde art inspired by the Space Race and the explosive growth of science fiction during the post-war period—is truly interdisciplinary. Topics of space travel and the imagined future attract artists, scientists, writers, and visionaries alike. For this reason Past Futures was visited by diverse academic departments across the Bowdoin campus. Students from courses in art history, environmental studies, English, fine arts, sociology, and the digital humanities, among others, explored Past Futures and considered the intersections of art, science, and technology during the Cold War.

Curator Sarah Montross and associate professor of romance languages Arielle Saiber present a gallery talk in Past Futures.

Curator Sarah Montross and associate professor of romance languages Arielle Saiber present a gallery talk in Past Futures.

Since its opening on March 5, the exhibition has also been enlivened by a robust schedule of programming. Public gallery talks were led by Bowdoin faculty member Arielle Saiber, Department of Romance Languages, and Elise Weaver, Department of Physics and Astronomy, while Beckwith Artist-in-Residence George Lopez performed a concert inspired by the “alien” in classical music in the Museum’s rotunda. A screening of Nostalgia for the Light, a documentary about astronomy, archaeology, and Chile’s political history, was followed by a discussion led by Allen Wells, History, and Sarah Childress, Film Studies. And students got in on the fun at the Student Night at the Museum, wearing sci-fi costumes and enjoying electronic music generated by students in Frank Mauceri’s class “Computer Composition and Synthesis.”

Keynote speaker Gabriel Perez-Barreiro and curator Sarah Montross celebrate the opening of Past Futures.

Keynote speaker Gabriel Perez-Barreiro and curator Sarah Montross celebrate the opening of Past Futures.

Yet for those who are not able to view the exhibition in person, there are several ways to engage with the project, via online and published resources.

Bowdoin student Cody Stack ’16 designed an extraordinary website which presents the exhibition’s central themes, as well as a selection of the artworks on view in the show. Stack worked closely with the exhibition curator, Andrew W. Mellon Post-doctoral Curatorial Fellow Sarah Montross, on this project. Combining his talents for both fine arts and computer science, Stack had previously designed the acclaimed digital exhibition Fifty Years Later: The Portrayal of the Negro in American Painting.

Students get into the sci-fi spirit at the Student Night at the Museum. Taken by Catherine Yochum ’15.

Students get into the sci-fi spirit at the Student Night at the Museum. Taken by Catherine Yochum ’15.

Past Futures is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue co-published with MIT Press available for purchase online through the Bowdoin Store. In this publication, essays by scholars from Mexico, Argentina, and the United States expand on the subject of space travel and sci-fi in arts of the Americas, offering the first-ever scholarly publication on this subject matter.

In addition, the keynote lecture by scholar Gabriel Perez-Barreiro, titled “‘Latitude 0’08791′: Latin American Artists and Science Fiction” given on March 26, 2015, is available for viewing online.

 

 

thumb:Chinese, "Jar (Guan)," 3000-2500 BC, painted ceramic. Gift of George and Elaine Keyes in honor of Barry Mills. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.