What if an exhibition could both predict the future and interrogate the way we use technology? It is pretty much what the Guggenheim’s very first online exhibition does by implementing the principles of stock market to news. Åzone Futures Market lets visitors invest in technologies of the future based on articles (or “Hot Tips”).
With Åzone Futures Market, the Guggenheim allows visitors to interact with an exhibition and actually make it change and evolve through time. Moreover, what Troy Therrien, Curator of architecture and digital initiatives at the Guggenheim, has created is an online exhibition that finds continuation in a physical space located in Lower Manhattan, not an exhibition that would be mainly physical with a digital extension.
In lieu of rooms, the exhibition is divided into key future themes visitors can invest in: Bloodless war, fresh water democratisation, robotic medicine… Starting with 10,000Å, each user buys or sells a given theme based on the articles attached to it or on new link. Each transaction influences the value of a theme, which can be considered as the interest shown for it and therefore how much it might be discussed in the future. The idea of predicting the future and the idea of getting rich (Monopoly-rich, but still) to be able to invest and explore more gets users hooked, with some of them having made more than 2,000 trades or being worth more that one million Å.
Now that you know how Åzone Futures Market works, you may wonder what all those algorithms have to do with an art museum. Well, first of all, one of museums’ roles is to give people a way to interrogate both their past and their future, and Åzone Futures Market is focused on the future in a very unique way.
Then, several artists – such as Douglas Coupland and Jenna Sutela, architects, theorists and strategists (also called “Contributors”) have been asked to create tools, incentives and hacks to enhance the experience and make its architecture evolve to follow the visitors’ needs and still keep it interesting. A fully collaborative way to involve both users and contributors in what the future might be and how it is defined and to keep the digital exhibition relevant through time, way longer than an physical exhibition would have lasted.
This digital exhibition shows how museums can find a new place in a hyperconnected world, as a platform for citizens to reflect on social and economic issues. By offering the opportunity to bet on the future, the Guggenheim opens a new era is the perception of cultural institutions, that are no longer content providers, but real catalysts for thought and content. In a nutshell, with ‘Åzone’, the very concept of ‘exhibition’ is shaken to the core and we are given a glimpse at how museums will look to primarily engage visitors as online users and to keep their content and data relevant through the next decades.