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Fiction foreshadows the future, says Superflux

Invocation for Hope, installation by Superflux for Vienna Biennale 2021 at Museum for Applied Arts

Invocation for Hope, installation by Superflux for Vienna Biennale 2021 at Museum for Applied Arts, courtesy of MAK by Stefan Lux

In 2019 at WGSN we called out the importance of speculative design in our flagship Future Innovations 2022 report. Speculative design, which uses imagination and storytelling to build fictional scenarios that imagine what the future might look like, will increasingly help governments, brands and people to envision alternative futures. In 2022, applied science fiction will come to the fore as a business practice and pathway to reclaiming identity.

We’ve often written about futurist duo, Superflux, a London-based studio which creates speculative worlds and tells future stories that help explain where civilisation might be heading and what we might do to influence these potential outcomes – or as Superflux puts it: “translating future uncertainty into present day choices.”

Anab Jain and Jo Ardern, futurists and co-founders of Superflux

Anab Jain and Jo Ardern, futurists and co-founders of Superflux

Jain and Ardern say that fiction foreshadows the future and apply their research, analysis, and speculative narratives to wicked problems in governments across the world. They also work with businesses – including Microsoft, Sony and Samsung – to create corporate visions that enable brands to build more responsible, sustainable futures.

Active in the spheres of art and design Superflux has exhibited at MoMA in New York, the National Museum of China, and the V&A in London. The duo are currently showing two provocative installations that question how we will live together with nature at the Venice and the Vienna Biennales, which run from May to November this year.

Invocation for Hope, installation by Superflux for Vienna Biennale 2021 at Museum for Applied Arts

Invocation for Hope, installation by Superflux for Vienna Biennale 2021 at Museum for Applied Arts, courtesy of MAK by Stefan Lux

On episode 28 of our Create Tomorrow podcast, Lisa White, WGSN’s creative director and director of WGSN Interiors, caught up with Superflux co-founders Anab Jain and Jon Ardern to discuss their current installations at Vienna and Venice Biennale’s, and their inspiring visions of the future. Here are some podcast highlights:

The potential of speculative design

“If you are presented with the future as if it really exists, you are confronted with it in the most banal way. Then it challenges your ideas of what you thought was possible, because it’s in front of you. That jump from what could be, to being within it, inside it and experiencing it, is really valuable, especially if you are going to make large investments in new product developments and new innovations. To be able to experiment and actually experience the consequences of that idea is very powerful. That’s what speculative design brings.” – Anab Jain, co-founder, Superflux

Refuge for Resurgence installation by Superflux at Venice Biennale

Refuge for Resurgence installation by Superflux at Venice Biennale, photography Giorgio Lazarro

Hope in action

“There are two forms of hope; passive hope where you sit back and say ‘well maybe things will be better tomorrow’ and then there’s the more active form, where you see a possibility and potential. And because it’s possible, it’s your responsibility to pursue it. So even though we see the potential for disaster, there is a possibility for hope. Love is contagious. There have been periods in history when society has radically changed for the better. So as well as things being able to pull apart, they can also come together.” – Jon Ardern, co-founder, Superflux

Invocation of Hope is at the MAK, as part of Vienna Biennale for Change 2021 until 3 October 2021.
Refuge for Resurgences is at the Venice Arsenale, as part of the Venice Architettura until 22 November 2021.

To hear the full discussion tune in to Episode 28 of our Create Tomorrow podcast,  on Apple and Spotify.

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