Marvin Unger Countryside, The Future (2020)

Countryside, The Future is an exhibition by architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas and AMO at the Guggenheim Museum New York. I was involved in the research, video-cutting, post-production of audio and video and in the realization of nearly 40 video installations as part of the exhibition design team.

Countryside, The Future is an exhibition addressing urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues through the lens of architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal, Director of AMO, the think tank of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).

A unique exhibition for the Guggenheim Museum, Countryside, The Future will explore radical changes in the rural, remote, and wild territories collectively identified here as “countryside,” or the 98% of the Earth’s surface not occupied by cities, with a full rotunda installation premised on original research.

Through a series of eight case studies focused on the twentieth century, this section provides representative examples of “political redesign,” the application of political will and vision to the transformation of the countryside at territorial scale. Such acts, proposed and effected by various political regimes, are profiled, from dictatorship to democracy.

Case studies include a prototype of a nineteenth-century commune, efforts to recondition the landscape of the Soviet Union in the twentieth century, and a food security program put into effect in Qatar in 2017.

Featured on ramp 5 are complex case studies that counter accepted notions of nature through the lens of its preservation: in Uganda, the unintended consequences of conservation success with the mountain gorilla;

in Siberia, the global and local impact of thawing permafrost; in Patagonia, large-scale land acquisitions by wealthy individuals and private conservation organizations.

The threat of thawing permafrost caused by climate change remains largely underrepresented and unknown, occurring in remote and therefore “invisible” areas of the world. Permafrost—continuously frozen ground—, constitutes nearly a quarter of the land in the northern hemisphere, occurring at high altitudes and in low-lying areas around the polar region.

Following the north-south US highways of the Great Plains during harvest season. A 1,000-mile (1,600km) journey—from the Canadian border at Bottineau County, North Dakota, down to Howard County, Texas—across one of the world’s most productive agricultural landscapes: predominantly flat by default, further flattened through intensive cultivation, in some areas enhanced by technology and protected by cover crops;

in others exhausted, made blatantly clear when viewed from above. This film was made late in the harvest season: wheat fields have already been emptied; corn, sorghum, and cotton were being harvested; sunflowers, soy-beans, and other beans were still maturing.

As Koolhaas notes in the exhibition text: “Can we prove that René Descartes could only have invented his mathematical methodology because he was living in the hyper-orthogonal landscapes of the Netherlands—dedicated to produce vegetal and artistic abundance in increasingly artificial ways? Can we treat the ocean like a new countryside? Can we prove that Japan is the site where demographics of aging will mobilize robots to sustain ‘life’ in the countryside;

that certain corporations now operate revolutionary structures that accidentally invent a ‘new architecture,’ focused on machines not on humans; that plants no longer need daylight or earth (and a lot less water) to grow, that they can influence and take care of each other better than our current monocultures allow them to, showered with pesticides; that nuclear energy is not a finished chapter, but that fusion is around the corner; that all these phenomena create new dreamlike images, promises, and conditions…”

Director: Rem Koolhaas, Samir Bantal; Curator: Troy Conrad Therrien; Graphic Design: Irma Boom; Conception: Janna Bystrykh, Niklas Maak, Federico Martelli, Stephan Petermann

Exhibition Design: Valentin Bansac, Yotam Ben-Hur, Sebastian Bernardy, Cookies, Lucas de Ruiter, Anne M. Schneider, Marvin Unger, Rita Varjabedian, Aleksandr Zinovev

Photo Credits: AMO, Janna Bystrykh, Laurian Ghinitoiu and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, David Heald

Text Credits: AMO and Janna Bystrykh