Can art anticipate tomorrow’s happenings?
For Marilu Knode, executive director of Laumeier Sculpture Park, the answer is yes — though it’s not an exact science. Next month Knode will explore the topic in depth when she hosts a presentation titled Art’s Ability To Predict the Future at Murmuration Festival.
“I picked that title because I believe firmly that if you are really attentive to what really good contemporary artists are doing, you’ll come away with ideas and knowledge that will help you understand not only the world you live in but the world you’re moving into,” says Knode.
Case in point, she notes, was the 2012 Laumeier installation The Space Between Scott and Plessy by artist Ken Lum. The piece features busts of Dred Scott and Homer Plessy, two men of color (Scott an African-American and Plessy a Louisiana Creole) who fought for civil rights and whose names are attached to famous Supreme Court decisions that upheld racist policies.
“In 2012, Ken Lum was looking at two historical figures who were fighting oppression more than a century ago,” notes Knode. “And then you think of what happened in St. Louis two years later with the flashpoint of Michael Brown’s death. That feels like a very prescient thing. All the conversation of modern-era Jim Crow and Black Lives Matter is what Lum was addressing with his piece. What artists can do, is reveal to ourselves things we’re not wanting — or not willing — to deal with.”
Of course, to accurately predict the future, one must also have an interest in history.
“Even though we think of the contemporary world as being only about today — our world is a shaped by the past,” continues Knode. “If you want to change the future, you have to understand where we’ve already been.”
“The world is still largely rooted in old-fashioned art forms, such as painting,” says Knode. “Paintings are important, don’t get me wrong. I love that art form. But at Laumeier, we try to have a much broader sense of what we can do to have fun and, I think, have a better sense of what a broader audience would be interested in. We’re not in a box. We are the landscape. So much of what we do is bring everyone’s attention back to the thing that sustains us.”
Knode will present “Art’s Ability to Predict the Future” on Saturday, September 24, at 4 p.m. on the Centene Stage at Murmuration Festival. More information at murmurationfest.com.