A close-up image of various objects on a grey background.

Chris Woebken

Artist in Residence, 2015

A portrait of a person against a blue background.

Artist Statement

My work revolves around the interest in understanding how we think about the future. In current works like ’99¢ Futures’ (2013), ‘Junk Mail Machine’ (2013) or ‘Pawn Tomorrow’ (2014) I propose new methods and tools for collaboratively prototyping futures embodied in artifacts and placing them back into familiar contexts, while ‘The House in the Sky’ (forthcoming) weaves a complex pattern across the history and present of future thinking.

An experiment that inspired my interests in another strand of investigation is just a stone-throw away from the Headlands Center for the Arts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model, a giant physical hydraulic model once used to “calibrate” the computer simulation with the real world. The project ‘Elsewheres’ (2014-present) focuses on the role of scientific modeling and techniques of simulation, recognizing that epistemic practices such as quantitative modeling have become our primary lens on natural systems.

While At Headlands

Are we finally approaching real-time prediction of what is to come, or are our capabilities of forecasting falling short of global matters of uncertainty such as climate change? Do we fundamentally know more about the future than we did in the past, or do we just have more data about the world to interpret? What is the role of computer simulation modeling and its graphical depiction.

Together with my collaborator Sascha Pohflepp I am exploring some of these questions in ‘The House in the Sky’. A meticulous virtual recreation of a modernist home based on Leonard McCombe’s photos found in LIFE Magazine’s 1959 article “A Valuable Batch of Brains” hosts conversations between researchers and practitioners whose work relates to notions of the future. History of modeling and chance, objects of the future, computer graphics, utopian visions and methods of pre-digital divination will all become subjects in an attempt to find out how long the future is today and how we are trying to grasp it.

The conversations, filmed in October 2014 in New York and in California, will become digitally embedded in a semi-fictional narrative created by writer Geoff Manaugh, shifting the basis of our recreation from LIFE’s piece about the legendary think-tank RAND Corporation into a more counterfactual realm, one where our history and the impossible is going to collide through the use of computer simulation as a medium.

Selected Video

Island Physics – Exhibition walkthrough of Island Physics on Governors Island. Show curated by: Chris Woebken, Nicolas Andreas Fischer, & Sascha Pohflepp