Starting to build the future of our world means imagining how it could be. This concept underlies the work of Superflux: a reality whose description cannot be encapsulated in one word; a design studio, a centre for research and artistic practice, but - above all - a laboratory of future design, the discipline that helps businesses innovate through the experiential exploration of possible future scenarios.
Superflux was born in 2009 from the minds of Anab Jain and Jon Ardern as a meeting point between art, design, environmentalism, urbanism and technology. Its founders call the suggestions they draw inspiration from "murmurs of a potential future" to construct their works, which consist of installations that reproduce an imaginary scenario set in the future, using technological and design artefacts to stimulate the viewer's mind.
Every Superflux work starts from concrete premises: what if drones were used in traffic management? What if artificial intelligence could change the way we care for the weak? What impact would the end of human domination have on the planet?
Starting from these monumental questions, Superflux builds environments that the viewer can experience and that lead him to reflect on the future from the perspective of someone who sees a possible scenario taking shape before his eyes.
The firm's clients include Google AI, Cabinet Office UK, Anthemis, Suncorp, Sony, Samsung, IKEA and DeepMind.
Mitigation of Shock Singapore - 2219: Futures Imagines
In 2019, Superflux is exhibiting at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore a work reproducing a typical flat in the city in 2219. The premise is that climate change has altered human living conditions, generating - in particular - severe food shortages.
In this new context and in a city as densely populated as Singapore, man is forced to rely on his ingenuity and survival spirit to adapt his lifestyle to the new conditions.
The first thing one notices upon entering the installation is a kayak, as the developers have imagined that rising waters will cause permanent flooding of the city, so means such as kayaks will be needed for travel.
The windows are screens that reproduce a dystopian landscape where civilisation succumbs to the vegetation growing unchallenged. The visitor can actually have the experience of overlooking a future environment.
The interiors are occupied by fungi, insects and plants of many species as the flat of the future in Singapore should be as close as possible to an independent ecosystem.
The utensils tell us about the activities of man in 2219: made from various waste materials, including components of technological objects, we find hunting and fishing weapons.
Finally, even the books are a window on the future, and it is no coincidence that political texts are absent: indeed, man is struggling to produce new perspectives on a non-anthropocentric world.
REFUGE FOR RESURGENCE - How Will We Live Together?
In 2021, Superflux presents an installation at the Architecture Biennale that consists of a 4-meter table set for 14 diners. The special feature? Only three of the diners are human.
The work starts from the premise that human beings must stop seeing themselves as the dominant species if they want to save themselves from climate disaster, but rather begin to open up to a future where humans and other creatures are on the same level as inhabitants of Planet Earth.
What stronger image of sharing could there be than a laid table? In addition to the three human diners (a man, a woman and a child) the table is set for 11 other species including mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, farm animals and even mushrooms.
Every element of the table is carefully designed to mimic the presence of the respective diner, with a specific menu for each, as well as cutlery made from discarded materials and porcelain plates illustrated by Nicola Ferrao depicting fairy-tale scenes narrating the journey towards survival of each individual species.
In this work, mythology, folklore and ceremony meet: semantic areas typically belonging to human culture that now extend to the entire realm of living beings to symbolise the abandonment of humanity's claim to dominance.
The projects of Superflux put into practice what is called 'future design' or 'design for the future', one of the many declinations of design that has the peculiarity of working with scenarios that have not yet been realised, trying to shape the world to come.
The fundamental assumptions of future design are:
- The focus on environmental issues that stems from the need to become aware of the current climate crisis and the consequences it will have on our ways of life.
- The inclination towards a sense of community and collaboration seen as a means of strengthening humanity in view of uncertain future scenarios. A concept that can be extended to the entire realm of living beings, as Superflux suggests in 'Refuge for Resurgence’.
- A sustainable approach to the use and production of consumer goods as a conscious choice of respect for Planet Earth.
Superflux demonstrates that the encounter between humanistic and scientific disciplines is always a great source of innovation. Art is not just an aesthetic filler of our lives, but can help us build the future because creativity is the indispensable component of every new beginning and project, as well as one of the best qualities of human survival.
A final important point that needs to be emphasised is the crucial importance of institutional support in the development of projects of this kind. In fact, the UK government is one of the clients of the Superflux firm, which it has used for urban redevelopment projects. It is only to be hoped that institutions globally will become increasingly aware of the innovative potential of similar initiatives, especially in light of ever-increasing changes.
Translated by Margherita Folci
Sources consulted for the following article:
- Superflux: the duo inspiring change at Venice Biennale through hypothetical worlds - Financial Times