Liam Young builds futures at Fundación Telefónica


He is an architect, a filmmaker, he is very much a designer and the future is his great field of work. The Australian Liam Young has been addressing for years the repercussions of the use of technology in our lives and in the cities we inhabit, combining reality and fiction, and his studies are usually reflected in futuristic films, which are nourished by both deep research and his own imagination, and also in photographs, models and diagrams that complete these projections and that refer to the possibilities and dangers of Artificial Intelligence and the need to use it for our own benefit and that of nature.

Six of these video installations, two of them created for the occasion, are on display starting today at the Espacio Fundación Telefónica, in an exhibition entitled “Building Worlds” that affects, in addition to Young’s desire to rethink our societies, the visual forcefulness of these audiovisual stories, normally made with the collaboration of technologists and scientists and in some cases part of museum collections such as the MoMA and the Metropolitan in New York, the Victoria & Albert in London or the National Gallery of Victoria.

Liam Young. “Build worlds”. Telefónica Foundation Space

The tour begins with In the Robot Skies, a piece dedicated to the analysis of drone technology and shot precisely with them: this short film is based on experiments carried out with drone cameras that were developed ad hoc for this project and that were programmed with individual behaviors and their own cinematographic criteria. It stars two teenagers, residents of London high-rise buildings, who hack the surveillance mechanisms used to keep them apart and send each other love letters; the plot comes to us through the eyes of the remote control, with the aim of promoting the debate on their potential uses as cultural objects and not only of a military nature.

Liam Young. "build worlds".  Telefónica Foundation Space
Liam Young. “Build worlds”. Telefónica Foundation Space

New Cityfor its part, is made up of a set of urban visions that are projections of the future from present perspectives: burning issues today (or turn up your volumesays the artist). He has studied young cities and emerging phenomena in urban contexts and has digitally stitched together photographs of observed experiences to explore trends to watch out for. In four videos he makes us immerse ourselves in imaginary cities that question us about solutions in terms of global logistics, climate crisis or automated employment: one of them is made entirely of data; another is a villa offshore in the Pacific Ocean inspired by outlaw zones in India and China.

Liam Young. "build worlds".  Telefónica Foundation Space
Liam Young. “Build worlds”. Telefónica Foundation Space

Where the city can´t see refers to the new ways of living, and especially of looking at the city, which will involve driverless vehicles and the technologies of urban planning called smart, in relation to surveillance systems and data collection for the unborn. If the localities that we inhabit today respond to patterns of occupation that we, or our ancestors, already designed our ways of seeing, the following could attend to the technological lookwhich will not be neutral and will contain biases and contradictions.

He presents this video to young people who go by subway to a secret party in a city where everything in motion is observed with millimeter precision. To avoid this surveillance, they develop ways to go unnoticed, such as suits that turn their bodies into blind spots for cameras, for physical detection algorithms. In the field of Artificial Intelligence, the way we move identifies us as much as a fingerprint and there will be those who configure alternative ways of doing it to preserve their privacy; Young considers technology as another type of nature to which we respond and understands that urban subcultures that defend privacy are already incipient. This piece has been engraved, by the way, with laser scanner technology used in autonomous cars.

Certain epic tone gives off The Great Endeavor. The debate around climate change usually focuses on the need to reduce carbon emissions, but currently the procedure for this is usually based on capturing the atmospheric ones and injecting them into the earth and since, in the future, the procedure will fall short and surely it is necessary to implement technologies that absorb them directly (as well as other industries that reverse polluting processes, with economic and creative resources from all countries), this work offers us a prototype of that anti-pollution device, developed together with the scientist Holly Jean Buck. It resembles a city on the water, it would transform the dioxide into liquefied gas to bury it in the seabed and is accompanied here by designs of opulent monkeys, which the workers who would participate in the project would wear, who would be millions and could be considered heroes of the modernity.

Planet Cityfor its part, contains a radical response to the challenge of urban growth and the overexploitation of resources that echoes the theories proposed by the biologist Edward O. Wilson in his essay half-earth. This American author suggested freeing half the planet from human presence, allowing its occupation by nature and redistributing the human population in the other half, around cities with an extreme density of inhabitants. The one that Young has devised would be the size of a US state and living there would mean sacrificing some of our lifestyles and adopting others based on existing technologies and sustainable energy; It would therefore entail a cultural change: the ultimate purpose of the artist is to underline that nothing prevents us from reimagining the places where we live and that it will also be possible to celebrate in them.

The exhibition closes with The Emissary, I work in a post-apocalyptic way. Recalling that half a century ago the golden record of the Voyager 1, a portrait of humanity in the seventies based on images and sounds, Young has designed, together with professionals from NASA, a fictitious spaceship, ten kilometers wide and made of non-obsolete materials, which would conserve and transmit eternally what we are today. It would be the testimony that one day we exist and also a kind of funeral.

To avoid this extinction, the Australian advocates making the right decisions and rowing in the same direction; for betting on hope in the face of fear and anxiety and for putting ourselves into action, understanding the future more as a verb than as a noun.

Liam Young. "build worlds".  Telefónica Foundation Space
Liam Young. “Build worlds”. Telefónica Foundation Space

Liam Young. “Build Worlds”


c/ Fuencarral, 3


From May 20 to November 20, 2022


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