Johannah Herr presents I Have Seen the Future

Field Projects
526 West 26th, #807 New York NY
April 7 – May 14
Opening April 7, 6-8pm

This project is an appraisal of the world that was wished upon us.

Twenty-five years apart, in the very heart of the American Century, two World’s Fairs were held in Flushing Meadows. On the precipice of World War and at the height of the Cold War, the world came to New York City, and New York City showed itself to the world. Tens of millions of visitors flocked to Queens to glimpse the American Way, paved the world over as an unyielding, uniform path hewn by capitalism and democracy. They stood in awe before the Unisphere and beheld the unilateral force that thundered forth as mushroom clouds—and Coca-Cola.

The World’s Fairs are a testament to a time and a place when America looked both within and without, from a city that dares to call itself the Capital of the World. Through a sensibility that emphasizes intersectionality, interconnectedness, and correlation, I Have Seen the Future takes the opportunity to look back at how visions of utopia of 1939 and 1964 have defined our reality in the 21st century. I Have Seen the Future is a multifaceted exhibit of components meant to evoke the experience of visiting the World’s Fair—with the hindsight of 2022.

In truth, the project leans more heavily on 1964, which was a World’s Fair not sanctioned by the international governing body, and therefore reliant on corporate funds. That private-public partnership feels very familiar in 2022. With an eye on continuity, we ask how the Space Race was not just a proxy for the Cold War, but for WWII, and a conflict that arguably is ongoing; we examine utopia as a violence that enforces segregation in myriad ways that define wealth and income distribution in America; we see how state surveillance harassed and even assassinated civil rights leaders to protect social order.

Johannah Herr’s flocked architectural models are sculptural objects that each represent an imaginary pavilion in a themed “Area” of the World’s Fair. The display is also accompanied by patterned, embossed wallpaper that references 1960s interior design and subtly contains language of racially restrictive covenants in postwar housing. These are complemented by a digitally printed “Ironic Curtain” detailing unfortunate Cold War-era parallels between the US and the USSR. Naturally, the floor is tiled in linoleum; the entire exhibit is rendered in a late 1950s palette reminiscent of the era’s appliances—which were decidedly weapons in the Cold War.

The seven models have been photographed and included in I Have Seen the Future: Official Guidebook, a collaboration with Cara Marsh Sheffler that expands upon the themes tackled in the models through text and subverted advertisements. Through these items, they emphasize a worldview that hinges on interdependency—a concept all too foreign to the country that gave the world the cowboy, the pioneer, the action hero.

Peruse the pavilions of the tomorrow that was yesterday, and take a moment to read a word form its (many) sponsors. Through these objects, we invite you to behold the future we were told to hope for.

—Johannah Herr & Cara Marsh Sheffler