The Future is Not What It Used To Be
5 - 29 February, 2004
2004, century 21, millennium 3. We are now living in the future. Where are the silver suits with shoulder-pads and capes? Where are the white minimalist rooms with the doors that swish open and closed, the video phones, the talking computers and the blue cocktails? Where are the monorails and the domed cities on the moon? Ok, we have some of those things, but the future isn't what Science Fiction (the literature of the future) promised. We are still travelling to 'The Future' at a steady rate of sixty seconds a minute. Even the Sci Fi written now has undergone a paradigm shift in perspective from a utopian to a dystopian outlook, often apocalyptic. Basically we've lost our optimism and our priorities have changed from a masculinised Ardua ad Astra , "science will save the world" attitude to a more feminine stance tempered by ecological and social concerns.
Jess Johnson's work often has a Sci Fi (or at the very least, Sci) element to it. Her Early paintings resemble the covers of non-existent British paperbacks from the1960s (Arthur C. Clarke and Brian Aldis) and '80s (Greg Egan and Iain M. Banks). Later works invent hypertrophic steroidal comic-book superheroes or look down microscopes at (to quote H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds ) "things that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. The Future Is Not What It Used To Be is a continuation of some of those themes. A single robot transformer toy (a cybernetic knight) lies prone, bent over backwards on a collage of rocket ships and bodybuilders (both being quasi-scientific, modern, and decidedly phallic ideals of perfection). Perhaps we should interpret this as a failed and fallen hero served up on a shield of the Boys Own paradisical future that technology has failed to bring about? As Gustave Flaubert wrote, "the future is the worst thing about the present."
Text: Andrew Wood