Half a century ago, architects and artists such as Archigram and Eduardo Paolozzi were exploring our future in an age of optimism about how technology and science would enable us to achieve things that had previously not been possible. In 1959, the Soviet Union’s “Luna” made the first landing from earth on the moon while, a decade later, “Apollo 11″ from the United States enabled the first men to walk on the moon, quite an astonishing achievement at the time. 50 years later, what have we achieved from these discoveries?
At the same time, scientists were busy with the technology of supersonic flights. Concorde 001 made its first test flight and went supersonic in 1969, the same year as the Apollo 11 moon landing, since which it Concorde been “retired”. We have gone so far and then retreated exhausted, and we are all now back to long slow flights across the Atlantic.
It wasn’t only scientists – artists and architects were also thinking about the future. Archigram used technology in the 1960’s to develop futuristic ideas for buildings, communities and cities, holding the exhibition “Living Cities” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London in 1963 while “This is Tomorrow” held at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1956 featured the Independent Group (IG) of artists of which Eduardo Paolozzi and Cardelle McHale were leading members while artists such as John Pumb and Derek Boshier were creating abstract and city scenes.
By coincidence, the IG held their meetings in the early 1950’s in the location where the Dover Street Market in Mayfair is now located, across the road from Gazelli Art House where the work of these and other artists is on show.
The curated exhibition “This is Today” at Gazelli is showing work from a number of artists working in different media, along with the futuristic architectural drawings and models of Archigram. who were all looking at what the future might bring in parallel with developments in science and technology, some of which did emerge architecturally in projects such as Lloyd’s Building in London and the Pompidou Centre in Paris and, artistically, in projects such as Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Station.
The exhibition raises two questions. How much of what these artists and architects imagined has now come to fruition and, also, what are artists and architects today imagining for a future beyond a widespread interest in data and the virtual world? As a society we seem so focussed on the problems of today – immigration, oil prices, the EU, economic slow down, climate change and the like that we seem to have lost the optimism and creative ideas demonstrated by the artists and architects of the 1950’s and 1960′s.