The Future, Brand-New and Retro

By lavanya ramanathan
Friday, December 14, 2007

Retro-futurism. That's the term for those mid-20th-century fantasies of flying cars, robo-housekeepers and alien rulers -- "fantasies" because they now seem, well, laughable.

"The New Future," an exhibit opening today at the District of Columbia Arts Center, uses those retro, often rosy visions as a starting point for reimagining the future. And this time, it doesn't look so pretty.

In video installations, performance art, paintings and photographs, the four artists -- Urban Scout, Jade Doskow, JoWonder and Benjamin Edwards -- envision ever-inflating houses, an environmental apocalypse that will require new survival skills, and the human response after Earth's resources are squandered. "The Jetsons," it is not.

Curator Kristina Bilonick, an artist herself, was inspired by the writings of Ray Bradbury as well as a profile she had read about Portland performance artist Urban Scout. Where Bradbury in "Fahrenheit 451" conceived government-imposed anti-intellectualism as the overriding feature of the future, Urban Scout has chosen to step backward in time, away from materialism and toward sustainability to avoid self-destruction. He's "living off the grid," says Bilonick.

The other artists: Doskow, who takes unmanipulated photographs of old World's Fair sites and finds they're a shadow of their former promise; Edwards, who paints images of huge houses (McMansions?) and creates "ether studies" that look as "if an Internet cable spilled out into the open," says Bilonick; and JoWonder, who makes animated videos.

The show opens tonight with a reception from 7 to 9. At 8, Urban Scout will teach a survival skill (and he will do it wearing an outfit made of roadkill. Gross). The show is up through Jan. 13. 2438 18th St. NW. 202-462-7833. For more on the show, visit

Save the Date

[ CONCERT ] Cornelius We were way surprised to see the Japanese electronic pop musician-composer on the 9:30 club schedule next month. After all, after delivering the popular indie record "Fantasma" back in the late '90s, he did seem to drop off the face of the Earth, releasing only one album between "Fantasma" and 2006's "Sensuous." And he hasn't been to Washington since 2002, so we're expecting a big crowd of old fans Jan. 25 (one of only five shows in the United States on this tour). $15. 9 p.m. 815 V St. NW. 800-955-5566.

[ ON STAGE ] Tracy Morgan The former "Saturday Night Live" comic and current "30 Rock" prima donna "Tracy Jordan" hits Lisner Auditorium early next year for a comedy show. Tickets for the March 1 performance go on sale today at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster and at the Lisner box office. $29.50; George Washington University students and faculty, $23.60 at the Lisner box office only (202-994-6800). 8 p.m. 730 21st St. NW. 202-397-7328.

[ THE SCENE ] Spare a Day for Service The D.C. Jewish Community Center is looking for a few good folks of any religion to perform community service on Christmas Day. More than 1,000 people are expected to sign up for various projects of their choice, including serving meals to the homeless, visiting nursing homes and handing out gifts at homeless shelters (there are even gift-wrapping shifts before Christmas). Volunteers have their choice of one-, two- or three-hour shifts, and the DCJCC makes it easy on you by organizing the outings. Register online at 202-518-9400, Ext. 3565.

The District


[ THE HOLIDAYS ] TubaChristmas! Holiday tunes are somehow more exciting when interpreted by tons of tubas, sousaphones and euphoniums. Tonight, a slew of musicians gather, rehearse for a while, then put on a show. Free. 6 p.m. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600.

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