The Future Is Certain; It’s the Past Which Is Unpredictable is an exhibition about the perception of time and history, about how the past can reassert itself in the present and the future. The old Soviet joke serving as its title is an entry point, an ironic comment on the general state of mind in the USSR during a time when the country attempted to reshape nearly all aspects of life. In the late 1920s, the Soviet Union introduced ambitious five-year plans for economic development to govern its vast territories, which stretched from Central Europe to the Far East through. These plans, following the aims of Marxist historical materialism, focused on a bright future for the working class. In fact, these five-year plans were so future-oriented that they necessitated changing the past to suit their aims. Archives, libraries, museums and individual lives became places where this rewriting took place.
This exhibition was organized by Lithuanian independent curator Monika Lipšic and first commissioned as part of a series of events marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution at the Calvert22 Foundation in London in 2017. When the Revolution occurred, it freed millions of people in the Russian empire and led to the birth of the Soviet Union, but its vast ambitions led to the destabilization of time itself. The future might have been unpredictable, but it must have seemed more reliable than the past, which was constantly being rewritten in the service of politics and ideology. Drawing inspiration from historical events, the featured selection of artists and artworks slowly grew from a 20th-century, Central and Eastern European focus to a more dispersed set of chronological and spatial references addressing the ways we understand and describe the past. The exhibition includes work by the artists and collectives Tacita Dean, Felix Kalmenson, Maria Loboda, Jonas Mekas (with Johnston Sheard and Justė Kostikovaitė), Deimantas Narkevičius, Robertas Narkus, Emily Newman, Goda Palekaitė and Monika Lipšic, Jura Shust, Emilija Škarnulytė, Slavs and Tatars, and Juan Pablo Villegas.
The Future is Certain; It’s the Past Which Is Unpredictable, says its curator, “is an exhibition of ideas and artworks, as well as of historical facts and records that may appear or disappear through human agency or seemingly of their own accord. Many of the artists in the exhibition treat history as a material; for others it serves as a source of inspiration. Enter through a joke, stay for some time and dig through the past to the future. History is an experience.”
The Future Is Certain; It’s the Past Which Is Unpredictable is organized by independent curator Monika Lipšic for the Blaffer Art Museum and is adapted from the original version presented by Calvert 22 Foundation, London, on view from June 23 –August 20, 2017, as part of The Future Remains: Revisiting Revolution season.
Generous funding for The future Is Certain; It’s the Past Which Is Unpredictable is provided by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, with additional support from the Houston branch of the Lithuanian American Community. Exhibition support comes from Ingrid Arneberg, Jereann Chaney, Cullen K. Geiselman, Cecily Horton, Sallie Morian, the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts in the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts and Nina and Michael Zilkha. Additional exhibition and program funding is provided by the Cecil Amelia Blaffer von Furstenberg Endowment for Exhibitions and Programs, The Houston Endowment, Inc., The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, The George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation, The Sarah C. Morian Endowment, Jo and Jim Furr Exhibition Endowment at Blaffer Art Museum and Blaffer Art Museum’s Advisory Board Members.
Image credits (from top to bottom):
Emilija Škarnulytė, Still from No Place Rising, 2016, Digital video, Duration: 13 minutes, Courtesy the artist.
Tacita Dean, The Russian Ending, 2001 (Ship of Death), Gravure on paper, 21 1/4 × 31 1/4 inches, Courtesy of Peter Blum Edition, New York.