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I in the 22nd Century : A Future History of Japan is a multi-art form storytelling installation about human cultural and biological evolution.  Japan is used as a model but the messages are universal.

The central narrative describes the transformative powers of creativity and emotional connection.  It challenges us to engage in debate about synthetic biology, a life-changing scientific revolution, which allows organisms, including humans to be created from artificial DNA.

The I in the 22nd Century : A Future History of Japan installation creates the premise that an art exhibition is taking place in 2100 to celebrate the new century. In my role as artist-curator, I am creating works of art for the exhibition as well as curating the exhibition, which itself is a work of art in the form of an art installation. I have so far commissioned seven artists from around the world to create works for i22.

Outreach and Education programs are an essential component of the I in the 22nd Century installation.  In each location a series of public discussions with experts and commentators on the themes presented in the exhibition will take place.

Roberto Iolini — Studio Syncandi, Kyoto Japan 2018

Creative Rationale

The installation embodies the following themes:

  • Artistic culture is indispensable in maintaining and promoting a healthy society and quality of life.
  • Creativity is essential for innovation and thus the survival of our species.
  • Optimistic societies are open and not afraid to innovate, and are based on traditions of criticism. Their institutions keep improving.

The following questions are posed by the work:

  • Is empathy an antidote to socio-political conflict?
  • Can synthetic biology save the world?
  • Can technological and economic progress alone lead to social progress?

The purpose of this art installation, a fictional exhibition set in our future, is to shed light on the mysterious anti-hero I and her accomplices, who were catalysts to a radical social revolution which occured in 2040, known as the Great Dynamic, an historical event which transformed Japan into a politically open, creative and dynamic society. When present-day audiences enter the exhibition they are metaphorically time travelling to the 22nd century.

The exhibition presents a collection of artworks by a group of people known as S-Humans, who were created using artificial DNA. The fictional video artist, composer, illustrator, writer, photographer and animator are connected by the fact that each underwent a profound transformation after being ‘deprogrammed’ by an enigmatic character known as I.  Each S-Human interrupted their day-to-day life to obsessively create artworks that tell stories about I and her affect on them.

As audiences move through the installation and spend time with each exhibit, they glean important narrative information in a variety of forms from each artifact. For example, the graphic novel explains the world of the I character before she met the S-Humans and describes her adventures.

The mesh of the various character-based narratives forms an allegorical world highlighting particular facets of the human condition. The narratives explore how emotions and creativity affect cultural evolution, and examine the effect on societies when scientific thought and research are encouraged and allowed to flourish.

The idea is for the content in each artwork to trigger cognitive and emotional responses in the audience to bring them into the world presented in the installation. An explanation of the i22 world, presented as exhibition notes and a series of short video interviews containing anecdotal information from fictional people associated with the S-Human artists, contextualises the installation.