This exhibit in the ACME Lab at the Utah Museum of Fine art invites visitors to “time travel” to the year 2039 and experience four potential futures for the residents of Green River. In doing so, visitors, specifically teens and young adults, are asked to consider the role they each play in shaping their own community’s future. They are tasked with voting for one of four possibilities: for the town to disincorporate, become a tourist town, recruit a recycling industry, or host a MarsNow space colonization facility. All of these futures are based in Green River’s past or another rural community’s reality. After voting, visitors step into the future to 2039. Each possible future brings both advantages and disadvantages to the community. Moreover, these fictional futures affect individual lives in ways that are sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and often complicated.
In the year leading up to the opening, I was part of the Epicenter team that created to concept of the exhibit with the help of the ACME Lab. We constructed narratives for two best-friends, Mia and Cera, whose diaries illuminate how the different futures affected each of their lives. We also designed and built “artifacts” from each future that correspond with these narratives (such as a dirt bike, space rock valentines, a recycled metal crown, and a For Sale sign), as well as sound and smell stations that brought these people and places to life.
This project is the product of many minds and ideas, and has just as many goals. We wanted to show the audience in Salt Lake City the complexity of rural places as well as the unseen ways our worlds are interconnected; tell Green River's story of booms and busts and imagine a more democratic future where residents get to have a say in the economic future of their town; take a critical look at the “silver-bullet” solutions for struggling rural places; and encourage young people to get involved in forming their own communities' futures. While there are certainly things we didn't get to explore, we hope this exhibit will spark conversations and new lines of inquiry for the visitors and ourselves.