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About the Cover: Near Future

For our January cover artist, visions of a perfect future can easily overlook the realities of the problematic present.

Artist Hudson Christie, who designed the cover art for this issue, admits he’s not exactly optimistic about what tomorrow may bring. “Many would say that, in 2017, it already [felt] as though the world [was] upside down,” he explains. “But those who have been dealing with tensions of race, gender, and class have been dealing with a chaotic reality for a long time, and that’s unlikely to change in time for the ‘near future’ to arrive.”

After submitting a few ideas, the idea of viewing a relatively close utopian landscape literally came into focus. Above is an early animated sketch.

Christie’s assignment was to create a depiction of utopia and dystopia as contrasting concepts. (Like much of his other work, the Toronto-based artist built his piece around real, sculpted elements, using paper and polymer clay, which he then photographed.) “With illustration, you often need to begin with cliché and work backwards,” says Christie. “The Epcot-inspired, shiny, white city on the horizon is recognizably utopic. However, thanks to postmodernism, depictions of utopia and dystopia are more or less the same. They serve as mirrors of each other.” Christie says that flipping the image in one lens fulfills this function, “making a literal mirror of that so-called utopic vision” and thereby destabilizing both visions of the future.

Another exploration played with a less direct interpretation of the near future, wherein the central figure views alternating representations of positive and negative outcomes.

“To me, the ‘near future’ is really unknowable,” says the artist, whose work has also appeared in publications such as The New Yorker and the New York Times. “In my most recent body of work, I’ve been exploring the unreliability of administrative sight—specifically, thinking about how a top-down, bureaucratic perspective tends to distort the meaning of objects and people. These themes are increasingly relevant as we begin to rely on algorithms to be protectors of security in our environment. We’re teaching robots to keep humans in check—a role that humans have, so far, performed tragically poorly.”

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