Alicia Eggert & Safwat Saleem

The Future

2015 - 2017

 
Photo: John Wadsworth

Photo: John Wadsworth

 

The Future is a series of data-driven sculptures that illuminate critical human rights issues affecting people around the world. The sculptures are freestanding marquee-style signs that are each composed of 206 light bulbs. Each bulb represents one of the world’s 206 sovereign states; collectively, the light bulbs spell the word “future” in some of the most commonly spoken languages.

 
The base of each light bulb is etched with the name of a sovereign state. The lights of the three sculptures are lit for - respectively - countries at peace, who allow same sex marriage and who have dropped the death penalty. Photo: Mike Femia/TED

The base of each light bulb is etched with the name of a sovereign state. The lights of the three sculptures are lit for - respectively - countries at peace, who allow same sex marriage and who have dropped the death penalty. Photo: Mike Femia/TED

 

The first three sculptures in the series are written in English, Mandarin and Hindi. They illuminate the overall state of peace, death penalty and marriage equality around the world. Data is culled from various sources, including the Institute for Economics and Peace and Amnesty International.

By intentionally simplifying complex matters and representing them as binary on/off states, The Future is designed to instigate conversations and create awareness about issues across the globe that affect billions of people. The Future may look rather grim and dark at this particular moment in time, but our hope is that the project inspires people to reflect on what can be accomplished to make the world brighter.

 
The Future at Dallas Aurora. The first three sculptures in the series illuminate the overall state of peace, death penalty and marriage equality around the world. The number of light bulbs suspended in the air corresponds to the total number of bulbs that remain unlit on all three signs, representing the potential for a brighter and more peaceful future. Photos: Dallas Aurora and Mike Fleming.

The Future at Dallas Aurora. The first three sculptures in the series illuminate the overall state of peace, death penalty and marriage equality around the world. The number of light bulbs suspended in the air corresponds to the total number of bulbs that remain unlit on all three signs, representing the potential for a brighter and more peaceful future. Photos: Dallas Aurora and Mike Fleming.

THE FUTURE / Peace

Today there are just a few countries that can be considered completely free from conflict.

Over 210,000 civilians have died as a result of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also estimated that 400,000 civilians have died in Syria in the past five years.

An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home - the highest levels of displacement on record. Among them are 21 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

US and Russia are two of the largest weapon exporters in the world with America selling weapons to at least 96 countries. The US also remains by far the world’s largest military spender, at nearly three times the level of China, which is second.

THE FUTURE / Death Penalty

While the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty grows, 2015 saw a dramatic rise in executions globally - 1,634, or 54% more than 2014, often for crimes such as corruption, adultery, blasphemy, treason or questioning state policies.

Nearly 90% of these executions happened in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; followed by the USA. But these figures exclude China, thought to be the world’s top executioner, where numbers are classified as a state secret.

For the past 40 years Texas has executed 531 people, more than a third of the national total.

A total of 156 people sentenced to death in the US have later been exonerated.

THE FUTURE / Marriage Equality

Same-sex marriage is allowed in just 22 countries. The first law providing for marriage of people of the same sex in modern times was enacted in 2001 in the Netherlands.

76 countries criminalize sexual acts between adults of the same sex.

In some cases recent human rights advances have been repealed. For example, in 2009, the Delhi Court in India ruled in a historic judgement that the section of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized “unnatural sex” was unconstitutional. However, in 2013, India’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex relations between consenting adults would remain a criminal offense.

There are 10 countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.

The Future debuts at TED2015. Photo: Mike Femia/TED

The Future debuts at TED2015. Photo: Mike Femia/TED

 

The Future/Peace premiered at TED2015, and has since been exhibited at the Cartagena Data Festival and Writing Lightly. In October 2016 all first three sculptures - /Peace, /Death Penalty and /Marriage Equality - were exhibited at Dallas Aurora.

The Future is an ongoing work, commissioned by and created in collaboration with Fine Acts, with more global issues being currently translated into sculptures.

 
The Future at Writing Lightly. Photo: John Wadsworth

The Future at Writing Lightly. Photo: John Wadsworth

Photo: John Wadsworth

Photo: John Wadsworth

 

 
 

Alicia Eggert is an interdisciplinary artist whose work focuses on the relationship between language, image and time. Her artwork often moves, changes, deteriorates, and in some cases, even dies. It has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing and the Triennale Design Museum in Milan. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and VICE, as well as in Typoholic: Material Types in Design and Elements, and Principles of 4D Art & Design.

Alicia is a TED Fellow and has an MFA in Sculpture/Dimensional Studies from Alfred University. She was an Assistant Professor of Art at Bowdoin College in Maine from 2010-2014, and is now an Assistant Professor of Studio Art at the University of North Texas in Denton.

aliciaeggert.com

 

 
 
 

Safwat Saleem is a Pakistani-American visual artist, graphic designer and filmmaker. He's best known for making politically-charged satirical art. His artwork has used a variety of media, including illustration, writing, animation, audio, film and sculpture. He often combines several media to create multimedia storytelling experiences that get his audiences talking -- and laughing -- about subjects that tend to otherwise make people feel uncomfortable. Safwat is also the founder of Bandbaja, a Pakistani music magazine that promoted the use of modern popular music as a socio-political tool.

Safwat’s work is shown regularly in galleries around the United States and has been featured in publications such as Wired, BoingBoing and Brainpickings. He is a TED Senior Fellow.

safwatsaleem.com