In Rome, ‘100 Years From Now’, a Public Art Project of AAR Fellow Jeremy Mende

Franklin D. Israel Rome Prize recipient Jeremy Mende. Photo: Star Black

Jeremy Mende is wrapping up his six-month fellowship in Design at the American Academy in Rome. As he heads home to San Francisco, signs of Jeremy’s work remain behind, quite literally, all over Rome. Mende’s public art project, “100 Years From Now” features 1000 street signs designed to provoke reflection about our increasingly technology-dependent, climate-changing, globalized world.

Considering the overwhelming positivism of Italian Futurism 100 years ago, he is interested in how, 100 years after Futurism, we now see our future. Is the thought of our future something we celebrate or do we have a more anxious stance? Mende doesn’t raise these and related questions outright.

Mende’s stark but simple signs—in English, black letters against a white background—are far more cryptic. Each contains one of five phrases

the clock

to be a machine

despite the denials

100 years from now

a kind of panic

all designed to speak to one another.

“Each phrase is written to provoke what I think of as a kind of collective social anxiety; something we are experiencing when, given the present, we consider what our future may be like,” Mende said. “The posters attack the concept from different directions.”

“The idea”, continues Mende,  is that as you walk through the streets you would see four or five of these pieces, multiple exposures adding up to create a more conscious awareness of something you are already experience in a less conscious way. They’re designed to live in stark contrast to all the postering and graphic noise that really is the contemporary visual surface of Rome.”

The project was conceived last spring as millions of barrels of oil were spewing into the Gulf during the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Mende said the spill was “like a doomsday clock. A constant drumming of anxious time as we watched a technical disaster with no technology available to stop it”. He said it seemed to produce a kind of cognitive dissonance within many who wanted to both tune in and out.

“No one seemed to know (how many gallons of oil were spilling each day) and no one seemed to want to know because it was too painful; too powerful a symbol of the resource-dependent world we have all been complicit in making.”

You can read more about the project on Jeremy Mende’s website: www.100yearsfromnow.info

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