Trippy art experience ushers Austin back to the future with downtown debut
UPDATE: “Museum of the Future Present” will host a grand opening party Wednesday, August 4 at 7:30 pm, which will feature a performance by punk supergroup Off!, as well as a first look at the museum. A limited amount of tickets ($100) are available at museumofthefuturepresent.com.
When Mesmerize packed up its geometric lights, monochrome furnishings, and space-altering sets last month, it left a gap in Native Hostel and in the weirder, more effortful side of Austin’s art scene. Thankfully, a new music-focused installation is going up in the same space, with promotional efforts that are nearly inexplicable right out of the gate, in the best way.
Starting August 5, Native Hostel and When Where What will host a time-bending audiovisual experience: “Museum of the Future Present.” The installment, in collaboration with LA curatorial collective Eye Contakt, pairs artist performances with unusual audio, visuals, and interactive technology that goes beyond the standard music video and hoodie promotion.
Eye Contackt director Autry Rene Fulbright II, the music industry connector that brought together each act in the collection, describes the other company they helped found that inspired the pop-up museum, rife with pop-culture references from the mundane to the esoteric. Enjoy Cult Classics has offered ubiquitous but eclectic items like VHS releases, tarot cards, and Rubik’s Cubes, anything, they say, “that has nostalgia from ... Gen X to Gen Z.”
Every artist entity featured in the museum — including legendary downtempo group The Cinematic Orchestra, bold comedian Hannibal Buress, and concert visual production company Strangeloop, among others — comes from Fulbright’s professional history as a musician and manager.
Curating this project allowed them to act as a surrogate for personal experience with each creator, allowing more intimate insight. They compare it to the famous Marina Abramović performance, “The Artist is Present,” pointing out the conscience-altering state of simply being present, and aiming to create a similar but opposite experience in which the art has its own presence to confront.
“For me, the artists are absent, but the art is present,” Fulbright says. “There’s so much [more] to appreciate with an artist than just a compressed MP3 or a 45-minute to an hour-long set, or a T-shirt that is worn ... and then essentially forgotten.”
Music, the main focus of the exhibit, relies on the passage of time to exist, as does comedy, which relies on timing to be funny. Animated visual works can involve time to shift, but so can still images that make the eye search or deal explicitly with the passage of time, like Monet’s Haystacks at different times of day. The museum deals not just with the nostalgia of long standing art pieces, but their constant unfolding into the future.
Promotional videos are appropriately heady and reveal little of what to expect inside Native Hostel. One installation uses projection mapping to lay out a Cinematic Orchestra concert inside a diorama of a famous United Kingdom venue. The viewer is expected to feel gigantic in comparison, while another portion of the exhibit aims to shrink them down again.
An arcade installation evokes ’80s nostalgia, while elsewhere, artist Andrew Knives interprets the music of Detroit band Protomartyr with animations reaching back for a ’50s and ’60s aesthetic. The futurism, aside from being implied with the heavy and avant-garde use of technology, comes from the immortality Fulbright senses in art.
“In a way, I’m trying to teach a history lesson of the future,” Fulbright says.
Despite the push to look past traditional concerts, a partnership with live-music patronage organization Black Fret will bring monthly performances to the space — because it’s not Austin if there’s not a band playing for a good cause.
As a staple of the Austin arts scene, the When Where What team has seen art exhibits in the growing city gain layers, going from displaying individual pieces to creating semipermanent worlds of ongoing influence.
“I think that’s something that’s completely evolved the last couple years, and I think we’ll look back on this as the time that really changed permanently,” says founder Chris Cates.
Native Hostel proprietor Antonio Madrid points out that the shift was heightened during pandemic shutdowns, as artists had to find new ways for people to experience their art. As creatives and patrons worked together to innovate around restrictions, everyone stepped out of their comfort zones, and even the art media they were trained or willing to work in.
“For me, more so than any specific look or feel or type of art ... I feel like there’s going to be a change in the way artists perceive their own possibilities,” Madrid predicts.
Whether it’s to learn, reflect or escape, every foray into the museum should interrupt the sometimes exhausting awareness of what year it is and what we expect from art. Tickets are available for preorder ($32) now, for one-hour blocks at museumofthefuturepresent.com.