A new exhibition that showcases the work of leading experimental and speculative designers whose practices bridge the worlds of design, technology, science and philosophy, has opened at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Federation Square.

Titled ‘Sampling the Future’, the exhibition, which began on 5 November 2021, explores some of the extraordinary ways that advanced technologies and manufacturing are shaping our near and distant futures.

Ranging from 3D-printed corals and modular underwater reef structures to robotically printed and knitted architecture, the exhibition reimagines how and why objects, structures and buildings are designed and made through a selection of works from the NGV Collection alongside new never-before-seen projects.

Sampling the Future showcases the works of speculative architects Roland Snooks and Leanne Zilka, Alice Springs-based designer Elliat Rich, Sydney-based duo Kyoko Hashimoto and Guy Keulemans, and Melbourne duo Georgia Nowak and Eugene Perepletchikov.

The exhibition employs large-scale architectural installations, thought-provoking design objects, as well as film and sound-based works to explore the role of design in our world and explain how design experimentation can help us imagine (and shape) the near future and the distant future.

The ‘near future’ section presents works that combat climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, while ‘distant future’ draw on history, mythology and philosophy to explore our relationship to and reliance on natural resources, as well as the central role that materials have played in shaping the tools and artefacts of human civilisation. 

Among the exhibits is a new room-sized commission from Alex Goad and his Reef Design Lab. Goad’s 3D-printed modular system is designed to mitigate the increasing effects of human activity on marine ecosystems through the construction of reef habitats in tropical and temperate waters without using heavy-duty equipment.

Unclear Cloud, 2021 by Roland Snooks, associate professor at RMIT University and fellow RMIT academic and sound artist Philip Samartzis uses advance computation, 3D printing and robot fabrication to realise an architectural representation of the ‘virtual’ cloud that draws attention to the environmental impact of cloud computing and its massive energy requirements. Samartzis’ sound work comprising recordings of climatic research activity, weather and melting glaciers in the Bernese Alps is embedded in the installation.

The exhibit by Elliat Rich with accompanying sound work by Bree van Reyk, features a series of mirrors to provide a glimpse into a future or parallel world where Western and non-Western knowledge systems have converged and found equilibrium.

Aurum 2020 by Georgia Nowak and Eugene Perepletchikov is a film that reveals the power of gold to transform societies by juxtaposing extraction and production processes against historical narratives and mythologies.

Tony Ellwood AM, director of the National Gallery of Victoria, said, “Through the work of leading designers and architects, this exhibition gives audiences an exciting glimpse into our many possible futures – both real and imagined. The designers in this exhibition are using their ideas and skills to create objects, environments and images that expand our understanding of design, as well as to raise philosophical questions about how people in a distant future might make sense of today.” 

Sampling the Future is on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Federation Square until 6 February 2022. Entry is free.

All images from: Amy Silver (NGV Corporate)