Imagining a frightening future has long been the bailiwick of science fiction writers and dystopia-driven filmmakers. Now, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago ponders that less-than-pretty road with “News from Nowhere: Chicago Laboratory,” the first U.S. exhibition devoted to the work of noted Korean artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho.
Inspired by 19th-century British designer William Morris’ novel, “News from Nowhere” tackles topics ranging from engineering to philosophy as it conjures a time when the species has been forced to start over. The show — anchored by the artists’ film “El Fin del Mundo” — is a collaborative project that includes Pritzker Prize-winning architect Toyo Ito, Rotterdam design collaborative MVRDV and fashion designer Kosuke Tsumura.
Initially presented last fall at dOCUMENTA, a survey of cutting-edge art that takes place in Germany every five years, the visionary exhibit wowed Mary Jane Jacob, the exhibition’s organizer and SAIC’s executive director of exhibitions and exhibition studies. “We have seen many end-of-the-world sci-fi movies, but this was a vision we hadn’t seen before,” she says. “Then [there] was more — a scientific display, architectural models, futuristic clothing.”
With its curious objects, plans and texts, “News from Nowhere” is a brainy musing on the art of survival. There are prototypes for artificial organs that recycle water within the human body, biodegradable “bubbles” fit for humans to live in and schemes for new foods. And the two-screen “El Fin del Mundo” depicts one artist living in a world on the edge of catastrophe, and another negotiating a post-apocalyptic future.
“The thing I find so remarkable about Moon and Jeon’s practice as artists, and something which propelled me to bring their work to Chicago and which made the School of the Art Institute the right place for it, is that their artistic method is to bring together creative people for an open, respectful and deep exchange,” says Jacob. “On the one hand, the conversation is about art — the role of the artist, the importance of beauty to humanity — things that have always concerned artists. But on the other hand, their subjects have relevance to our everyday circumstances, like how will we have clean water in the near future, and even now, for some populations?”
‘News from Nowhere: Chicago Laboratory’
Through Dec. 21, Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute, 33 S. State, 7th floor; Saic.edu