Forest of the Future? | ART & SPECULATIVE DESIGN FOR WALTHAM FOREST | Pictorem Gallery in Walthamstow, 2 - 25 May | Private View: Thursday 2 May

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“Speculative Design” + art + Waltham Forest

Forest of the Future?, a show featuring work by four local artists, applies the emerging discipline of speculative design to the specific local context of Waltham Forest. Speculative design is the practice of creating speculative visions of a future world, some of which may be utopian, some dystopian. The aim is to use these speculations to help decision-makers - politicians, citizens, consumers, voters, businesses - think about what a better future can look like, and how to achieve it.

Why this exhibition, now?

There is a clear link to one of Walthamstow’s most famous, William Morris, who could be considered a proto-pioneer of Speculative Design with his utopian novel News from Nowhere. Some of Morris’ ideas - which may have been seen as unfeasible at the time, such as a clean river Thames and physically healthy humans - have become reality over the next 100 years. What far-fetched ideas of today may become tomorrow’s reality?

Now is an amazing but also fraught time for Waltham Forest. Growth, regeneration, opportunity, knife crime, gentrification, pressure, change, immigration, Brexit, dreams and hope, all so eloquently captured in Greenaway and Greenaway’s film for the opening of the Borough of Culture. It feels like now is a time where there is so much change, so much up for grabs, yet where the chance of being isolated and disempowered is so stark. One of the motivations behind Speculative Design is that it is better to talk about the future than not: by speculating more, at all levels of society, and exploring alternative scenarios, reality becomes something we are more empowered to change. We can’t predict the future, but we can think about what we do and don’t want, and that is democratising in itself. This is has additional worth when big data, global finance and politics appears to diminish choice.

There is also the link to the Borough of Culture. This amplifies the sense that now is a time to consider the Borough’s future. There’s a lot of focus on the borough, and a lot of difficult questions. Now is a good time to think: what do we want our Waltham Forest to be in the future?

Important details

The exhibiting artists are: Liv Bargman, Stephen Bennett, Cat Drew and Phoebe Ridgway. The Pictorem Gallery is at 383 Hoe Street, London E17 9AP. The exhibition runs from 2-25 May 2019. The Private View is on the 2 May. Normal opening hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-5:30pm. Contact @srgbennett for more information.