Future Known as Unpredicted

Festival Curators

He Yining
John Tung

Festival Theme 

In equal measure the medium of photography has contended with history and interrogated memories, it has also constructed alternative realities, prophesied the future and conjured visions at once magical, absurd and hopeful. As humanity lives amidst the most uncertain of times with sieges and struggles on all fronts of sovereignty, healthcare, environment, socioeconomic issues and politics, mankind has arrived at the crossroads of how to navigate this complex future together. How can we think about the times ahead? What do we need to do, and who do we need to be? In the coming eighth Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF), we turn to exploring this shared vulnerability, courage and resilience with the theme Future Known as Unpredicted.

Expanding on the belief that mankind should mine its boundless creativity for the capacity to create the path forward, 2022’s festival shall focus on photography’s infinite potential to envision and empower, highlighting the role of artists as visionaries to advocate, inspire and inform. Central to this year’s lineup are experimental works which operate at the intersection of arts, science, technology, and design and embody strong messages for the future. Multivalent in nature, they examine the shape shifting and subversive nature of imagery as documentation and phantasmagoria, offering new insights for us to relook and reconfigure our world.

This approach is a flight from the previous edition’s theme of Departing and Arriving, which mapped out webs of interconnections in human genealogies and origins, as well as the construction of identities in relation to diasporas, migration, and colonial history. After establishing the past and turning it over for direction and wisdom, we now embark on a fresh journey in the present time to test bed and practise new permutations in navigating the human condition.

It is inevitable one lapses into nostalgia about the times before, where travel used to be limitless and physical contact with loved ones, a given. Moreover, the vastness of possibilities may appear simultaneously empowering yet debilitating; addicted as mankind is to prediction and certainty, these assurances continue to frustratingly elude us. 

Yet, we have come to the conclusion that it is better to look forward: to gather the lessons we have learned and use our perseverance, courage and empathy to better understand and support each other. To look forward to things like a kinder and more inclusive society, equitable rights, and an end to poverty, hunger, and war. To look forward to simple pleasures in everyday life that will uplift us and bring us some warmth and comfort. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once expressed in 1982, “Art is the highest form of hope”. Almost 40 years later in 2022’s SIPF, we continue to look towards this statement for the strength to forge ahead.