Awfully Wonderful: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art

Curated by Bec Dean and Lizzie Muller
15 April–14 May, Carriageworks

Watch the ABC Arts Nation feature on Awfully Wonderful


Adam Norton Mars Gravity Simulator (photo courtesy of Performance Space)

Science fiction is a potent cultural expression of the impact of science and technology on society. In visual art, as in film and literature, artists use the mode of science fiction to open up imaginary worlds and alternative spaces where different social, political and personal possibilities can be explored. In these imaginary worlds, real scientific discoveries, tools and technologies are combined with speculative and fantastical future possibilities.

Awfully Wonderful: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art presented new and existing work by twelve Australian artists including time machines, hand made robots, meteorological instruments, interplanetary communication devices, a Mars gravity simulator, wearable technologies and apocalyptic visions.


Hayden Fowler Anthropocene (photo courtesy of Performance Space)

Awfully Wonderful combined artworks with technical apparatus and scientific instruments from the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.  It explored how these different kinds of things all function as speculative objects: conduits through which truth and fiction mingle, creating powerful new ways of understanding our present and preparing for our future.

Awfully Wonderful included a screenings of Philip Brophy’s film Northern Void and  of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (2011 release) introduced by archivist and historian Michael Organ.

It included a discussion forum hosted by RealTime magazine and the Speculative Futures  research symposium, which led to a special issue of Fibreculture Journal: Networked Utopias and Speculative Futures, edited by Lizzie Muller, Su Ballard and Zita Joyce.

The exhibition was accompanied by an audio guide that investigated the science behind the fiction of the works on display. The audio guide featured interviews with leading Australian scientists about topics such as Mars exploration, scenarios of human annihilation, orgone energy and time travel. It was generously supported by, and produced with RiAUS.