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Globally renowned artist and architect Suchi Reddy will unveil a new, site-specific artificial intelligence (AI) and light sculpture in November 2021 as the centerpiece of “FUTURES,” the Smithsonian’s first major building-wide exploration of the future. Titled “me + you,” Reddy’s two-story installation weaves human wisdom and intelligent technology together, forming a shimmering monument reflective of visitors’ collective future visions.
The work marks Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) first major contemporary art commission, and its blurring of responsive light, color and AI, coalescing in a human-centric form, is groundbreaking in a public artwork.
“me + you” will debut in the 90-foot-tall central rotunda of the historic Arts and Industries Building (AIB), America’s first National Museum, where the electric light made its Washington, D.C., public debut in 1881. On view through July 2022, “FUTURES” will reopen the landmark space for the first time in nearly two decades to celebrate the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary. With more than 150 objects, ideas, prototypes and installations, “FUTURES” will fuse art, technology, design and history to invite visitors to dream big and imagine not just one future, but many possible futures on the horizon.
Reddy will invite visitors to activate “me + you” by speaking their “future vision” into designated points at its cloud base. The artwork then translates their meaning, tone and sentiment through a series of AWS AI services tuned in collaboration with the artist, reflecting their words back as a unique kinetic mandala of color and light. Each person’s “future vision” then flows upward into a central totem, subtly shifting the pattern and color of the sculpture’s digital artifact of “collective futures.” The work will evolve continuously throughout the run of the exhibition.
For those who cannot join in person, a parallel web app will allow anyone, anywhere to contribute their future and voice, taking a global “temperature” of what the world is saying at any given moment. To create the work, a team of engineers from AWS, Amazon’s cloud-computing division, worked closely with Reddy for two years, investing more than 1,200 hours to build the underlying AI cloud-technology infrastructure that will power both the sculpture and web platform.
“This breathtaking installation is a powerful and fitting central destination for ‘FUTURES,’ blending humanity and technology, said Rachel Goslins, director of AIB. “We’re grateful to partners at AWS for their vision and support from the earliest stages of this project.”
“I believe that the power of art lies in its ability to show us new information about ourselves, and to cause us to reflect on the human condition, our cultures and communities,” Reddy said. “Art is a form of wisdom that delights, enlightens and prompts engagement. Human connection and human interaction are integral to ‘me + you,’ and the sculpture encourages visitors to explore their individual voice as well as to recognize our collective power.”
“‘me + you,’ AWS' first major art commission, will allow people to interact with AI in a completely new way,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of Amazon Machine Learning at AWS. “We are grateful for this opportunity to show Smithsonian visitors and online viewers just how beautiful technology can be. Reddy’s vision and artistry, combined with AWS technology, has created an awe-inspiring work of art sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who engages with it. We hope this project inspires current and future generations of artists and technologists."
About Suchi Reddy
Born and raised in Chennai, India, artist and architect Reddy immigrated to the United States at 18. Traveling the country and living, and working in eight states, Reddy developed a keen sense for the similarities and differences that bind communities together. Her artistic practice takes root in her architectural training with its expression as public sculpture and experiential work. She tackles issues of societal engagement using art and experience to create discourse around subjects with both local and global relevance. Her work engages material innovation and interactive technologies in the service of expressing ideas around the power of community. ‘me + you’ is her first commissioned large-scale sculptural museum installation, building on her decades-long work in neuroaesthetics, the emerging science of how art can positively influence well-being, creativity and connection.
In 2002, she founded her award-winning New York-based firm, Reddymade, with a human-centric approach to design, dedicated to celebrating diversity and equality, as well as addressing the economic, social, environmental and cultural impacts of her work on both the user and the planet. Recent and upcoming projects include collaborations with Google (“A Space For Being,”), Johns Hopkins and Muuto. In 2019, “X,” her large-scale public artwork celebrating equality, diversity and love, was installed in New York City’s Times Square.
Designed by architect David Rockwell and his award-winning firm Rockwell Group, “FUTURES” will introduce nearly 32,000 square feet of new immersive site-specific art installations, interactives, working experiments, inventions, speculative designs and “artifacts of the future,” as well as historic objects and discoveries from 23 of the Smithsonian’s museums and research centers.
“FUTURES” will also showcase stories of future-makers who are working tirelessly towards a more equitable, peaceful and sustainable world—inventors and creators, activists and organizers—with a special focus on communities who may not have always had a voice in future-making. Visitors will be able to glimpse how past visions have shaped where we are today, as a way to shape their own version of humanity’s next chapter. Instead of simply asking what kind of future we want to live in, visitors will also be challenged to consider why.
A mobile “FUTURES” Guide by award-winning firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners will launch late summer 2021 in advance of the exhibition opening. A full slate of dynamic, future-forward performances, pop-ups, virtual events, workshops and late-night experiences will also be announced.
“FUTURES” is made possible by a select group of partners and supporters: Amazon Web Services, Autodesk, Bell Textron Inc., Jacqueline B. Mars, John and Adrienne Mars, the Embassy of the State of Qatar, David M. Rubenstein and SoftBank Group Corp. Major support is also provided by Accenture, the Annenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kevin S. Bright and Claudia W. Bright and Robert Kogod. Additional funding is provided by John Brock III, Wendy Dayton, Nancy Hogan, Suzanne Nora Johnson and David Johnson Foundation, and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.
About the Arts and Industries Building
The Arts and Industries Building (AIB) opened in 1881 as the country’s first National Museum, an architectural icon in the heart of the National Mall. Its soaring halls introduced millions of Americans to wonders about to change the world—Edison’s lightbulb, the first telephone, Apollo rockets. Dubbed “Palace of Wonders” and “Mother of Museums,” AIB incubated new Smithsonian museums for over 120 years before finally closing to the public in 2004. “FUTURES” is a milestone first step in the long-term plan to renovate and permanently reopen this landmark space.
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