Yesterday I went to the Museum of Tomorrow. The Museum of the Future. But what does it mean? The Museum of how museums in the future are going to be? Or the Museum of how the future itself is going to be? The Museum of the people? Or the Museum of the planet? The Museum of progress? Or the Museum of ecological disasters?
I am sure that creators of the Museu do Amanhã were pretty conscious of how intriguing the name and the whole idea is. In order to give you some time to think it all over before entering and discovering the museum itself, they arranged for you some reflection time in a couple of long queues: one is to enter the main building, the other is to gain your access to the 360° cinema. How clever of them! Just wait and let your imagination work on ‘what the hell should I expect inside?’. Take your time, you have at least an hour, especially if you had the good idea to come on Saturday afternoon (like I did).
Actually I am grateful for this thinking time, as before I have never given it much thought to what the future is going to look like. In general, I am far more interested in the past, because I love it, and in present, because I have to live in it. The only future I conceive is the one presented to us by science fiction movies and weather forecast. As to the movies, they give us quite a lot of different images of tomorrows. Some of them are those pure white clean futures, dominated by high technology, such as immaterial touch screens hanging in the air and helping Tom Cruise to make any mission possible. On the other hand, we have those rather dark depressing urban visions, such as the one of Luc Besson, full of flying cars and with sky hidden by enormous buildings.
So what kind of future should you expect in the Museu do Amanhã? Actually I think that the suspense is one of the best parts of the visit. Therefore, I will try not to spoil the surprise and reveal just about enough for you to go and book a bus ticket to Rio.
The Museu do Amanhã reminded me especially of another movie that I have seen quite recently. It is called Tomorrowland and it begins with George Clooney’s interesting statement: ‘When I was a kid, the future was different’. The museum and the film has a lot in common. They both try to show us what the ever-accelerating progress of human activity may bring us, for better or for worse.
The exhibition englobes all the dimensions of existence: Cosmos, Nature, Humans and Science. It contains a great variety of information that, in my view, is quite difficult to grasp in one visit. Also the quantity of people present in the museum makes it a bit hard to inspect all the screens and other different kinds of support. While I could imagine a calmer place to absorb the ‘written’ information, there’s as well a lot of interactive and audio-visual exhibits that help you quite efficiently to understand the Museum’s message.
The environmental issues form part of this message. Before coming here, I was a bit afraid that Museum of Tomorrow will actually be a Museum of Ecology, and nothing else. I am definitely very interested in saving our planet Earth from environmental disaster and I try to participate on the rescue as much as I can (I actively and sincerely hate superfluous plastic wrappings). But what I don’t like about ecology is the fuss around it, and especially the fact that the words such as ‘ecological’, ‘sustainable’, ‘bio’ and ‘organic’ often turn into an efficient marketing strategy, instead of being a true concern.
However, the way that the Museu do Amanhã presents the question to us is more than convincing. On six ten-meters-high screen panels you are shown how, over the last fifty years, humankind became one of the main global forces (similar to winds, volcanos etc.), able to affect and transform not only its own living environment, but as well many other ecosystems. The presentation is suggestive and insisting. I would even say it is beautiful, if I didn’t know that there’s nothing beautiful about destroying our own planet.
When I was a child, I loved labyrinths, but I have always been a bit frustrated by them, because they never seemed complicated enough, so that I could really get lost in them. In the Museu do Amanhã they have something that reminded me of a labyrinth, kind of an illusionary space, where you really loose a sense of reality for a while. It is a rather dark square room, illuminated only by randomly positioned vertical posts that exhibit photographs of people and their cultures. What’s labyrinth-like about this room is the illusion of never-ending space, created by mirror walls, reflecting endlessly the posts. Gone was my childhood frustration, I was completely tricked! And I think that my father was too: he apologized to himself before realizing that he didn’t bumped into someone else, but only into his own reflection.
I’m usually quite sceptical towards new-born museums, as most of the time they don’t own any real artefact collection and only try to commercialize some doubtful results of even more doubtful research. Those museums include all the ‘Da Vinci’ and ‘Picasso’ exhibitions that sadly don’t possess a single art piece made by Da Vinci or Picasso, and only use famous names to attract crazy tourists like me and you (but especially you). I was pleased to see that the Museu do Amanhã doesn’t belong to such a tourist-trap category. Actually, the research behind the exhibition would satisfy even the most rigorous scientists and the Museum promises to keep the information permanently up to date. Well, I really hope so, because I can imagine that today’s tomorrow will look a bit old fashioned in ten twenty years’ time.
Perhaps, the Museum’s main goal is to present ideas, rather than the objects, but still, it hosts an important number of really beautiful artworks, whose expressiveness helps you to understand the narrative of the exhibition. One of such a pieces is the kinetic sculpture Flows by Daniel Wurtzel. It illustrates the notion of an incessant movement of all the elements present in the nature and their continuous interaction. If not for any other reason, please do visit the Museum just to see the beauty of Wurtzel’s moving sculpture. Moving in both meanings of the word.
So Museu do Amanhã is about the past, the present and the future. And when you look at the building, you will understand that Museu do Amanhã itself represents the future, skilfully inserted in the historical Região Portuária, as a part of the urbanistic project called Porto Maravilha. Indeed, one of the most futuristic aspects of the Museu do Amanhã is its architecture, beautifully designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. You will find the best observation points near the bay, behind the water pond mirrors, complementing the construction with its own reflection.
To conclude, I will simply leave you with what the Museum stands for and what they would like you to reflect upon: ‘Tomorrow is Today’.