Experimenta's First Biennial
15 years ago, Experimenta’s first biennial envisioned the house of the future.
One of Experimenta’s most ambitious early exhibitions, and the first in the organisation’s series of biennials and triennials, took place in 2003 at the defunct BlackBox gallery situatedbelow the Arts Centre, Victoria. Titled Experimenta House of Tomorrow, this collection of 30 new works took a playful look at must-have inventions for the house of the future. Bringing together artworks by media artists, filmmakers, architects, scientists and designers, House of Tomorrow toyed with the idea that present-day homes in 2003 didn’t meet the needs of their occupants, and posited creative and theatrical solutions such as digital pets and virtual plants, interactive flying carpets, virtual bed partners, and mirrors that altered your reflection.
Immensely popular with more than 47,000 visitors, House of Tomorrow successfully merged the wild possibilities afforded by the technologies available at the time and the fear of the unknown that accompanied them, all within the ‘safe’ space of the home environment. Despite its future-focuss, House of Tomorrow was tinged with a nostalgia for a future originally posited by the world fairs, expos and popular culture of the 50s and 60s. This was best captured by the exhibition’s extraordinary bright blue, inflated PVC entry façade created by Christopher Langton, that was equal parts Suuronen ‘Futuro House’ and the Jetsons, and was also echoed in the public programs that included a screening of rare 1950s TV commercials.
Curated by Liz Hughes, Shiralee Saul, and Helen Stuckey, House of Tomorrow was complemented with its own issue of MESH (#16) that published critical essays on the intersection of art, technology and the domestic sphere by Ian Haig, Angela Ndalianis, Kathy Cleland, and Darren Tofts and Lisa Gye.
Some of HoT’s artworks are still in circulation. Zizi the affectionate couch by Stephen Barass, Linda Davy, and Kerry Richens (2003) has a permanent home at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart where is continues to growl, vibrate, and purr as the ultimate in pet and furniture hybrid.