Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future

18 April–11 June 2018

HENI Project Space, Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery

Bedwyr Williams, Tyrrau Mawr (2016) © Bedwyr Williams

This free group exhibition, opening at the Hayward Gallery HENI Project Space, brings together artworks by seven international artists who imagine how our world might look and feel in the future. Engaging with the idea that adaptation is necessary for survival, the artists included present films, sculpture and text-based works that explore ideas of change and hybrid forms of architecture, biology, technology, and language.

The exhibition, a collaboration with Concrete, Dubai, takes its title from the phrase adopted in recent years by the business sector, and explores the idea that Darwin’s theory of evolution can serve as a metaphor for a future-facing strategy for survival and growth. In recent years, ‘Adapt to Survive’ has been the mantra of entrepreneurial start-ups and professional ‘change-makers’, suggesting a fast-paced form of agency that is antithetical to Darwin’s concept of natural selection.

At the same time, futurology has become established as an area of research combining game theory, statistics, and speculation. Responding to these cultural shifts, the artists in Adapt to Survive make educated guesses about our society’s evolution and progression, but equally convey uncertainty and scepticism about our accelerating patterns of growth and consumption.

The glitchy monologue spoken by Ann Lislegaard’s computer-animated fox consists of quotes from HG Wells’s Time Machine (1895). This novel— one of the first works of science fiction—is also the first to explore the idea of a vehicle capable of transporting the user through time and space. In Lislegaard’s Time Machine (2011), the fox’s voice and the narrative it attempts to tell appears to be on the edge of breaking down or falling apart, while in the creature’s crazed expression is the suggestion that the future is just as flawed as the present.

Resembling geological samples in museum-style vitrines, Julian Charrière’s sculptural series Metamorphism (2016) explores our relationship to the planet’s natural resources, specifically minerals extracted for use in consumer goods. With Metamorphism, Charrière imagines what our world might look like many millennia in the future, when the products that characterise our era have been re-incorporated into the Earth’s strata. To make his futuristic ‘samples’ Charrière poured 20 tonnes of molten rock over a pile of broken consumer electronics, later applying a chemical wash to the cooled forms to simulate the effects of acid rain.

Set in the year 2045, Rainer Ganahl’s short film I Hate Karl Marx (2010) presents a young German woman struggling to accept a world in which China is the dominant political and economic power, most countries are communist and everyone speaks Chinese. Ganahl’s deliberately provocative film seeks to address western xenophobia and forms part of the artist’s ongoing engagement with non-western cultures.

Marguerite Humeau’s work explores contemporary manifestations of ancient myths, including the figure of the sphinx—the half-beast, half-human gatekeeper of ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. Sleek and sinister, Humeau’s sculpture Harry II is an exploration of modern sphinxes: online security, border control and surveillance. In this sculpture, anti-climb ‘raptor’ fencing is cast in artificial human skin; plastic vessels hold artificial blood; and a three-faced winged beast—part predator, part crest—emits a low hum reminiscent of a heartbeat, or remote aerial warfare.

In Tyrrau Mawr (2016), Bedwyr Williams presents a vision of an imaginary mega-city in rural North Wales. The work takes the form of a high-definition digital matte painting, a technique used in filmmaking to create vast and complex scenic backdrops. In his narrative voice-over, Williams offers a series of vignettes that provide glimpses into ordinary lives led within this new metropolis. Each one captures a sense of post-modern listlessness or malaise.

Presented by the front window of the Hayward Gallery foyer and visible from the outside is Andreas AngelidakisThe Walking Building (2004–6), a proposal for the contemporary art museum of the future. Responding to the needs of today’s mobile, digitally-connected artists, this ‘hybrid hyper-building’ is a shape-shifting structure that adapts to different environments and needs. In this video, the museum comes alive, crawling like an animal through the streets of Athens. The work is inspired by Archigram, an avant-garde architectural collective who championed radical, adaptable urban structures such as The Walking City (1964), and three of whose founding members were involved in the design of the Hayward Gallery.

The Butterfly Already Exists in the Caterpillar (2018) is part of artist and writer Youmna Chlala’s ongoing project The Museum of Future Memories. Through a combination of text and image Chlala evokes a city in flux: a place of rising sea levels, where seasons have ceased to exist and the remaining inhabitants have forged new ways to live. Echoing the progress of the graffiti and wildlife that reclaimed the walls of this city, Chlala’s words and images will expand beyond HENI Project Space and into Hayward Gallery Foyer, over the course of the exhibition.

Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future is curated by Dr Cliff Lauson, Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery.

The exhibition will be accompanied by Conversations from the Future, a talks programme taking place in the Dan Graham Pavilion, Hayward Gallery. Full listings below.

Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future is a collaboration with Concrete, Dubai, and has been has been generously supported by C L E A R I N G New York / Brussels. The exhibition will tour to Concrete, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai 7—21 November 2018, where it will be accompanied by a public programme.

Dr Cliff Lauson, Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Alserkal Avenue’s Concrete for the first time, on an exhibition that takes a timely and imaginative look at the future of our civilisation. It is also Hayward Gallery’s first project space exhibition to tour internationally and we are thrilled that this show will be seen by a global audience in a remarkable new space, and in a city that is constantly looking to the future.”

Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal Avenue said of the collaboration:

“Supported by the vision of our founder, Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, we have always strived to create a springboard for cultural exchange, working with the world’s leading arts institutions. Hayward Gallery has a rich history of promoting and supporting contemporary art, featuring landmark exhibitions by some of the genre's foremost artists. We look forward to bringing Adapt to Survive to Concrete, in our first collaboration with Hayward Gallery, as we feel it raises awareness of important issues surrounding futurology and sustainability, subjects that resonate with audiences in Dubai.”

Listings information:

Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future

18 April–11 June 2018

HENI Project Space, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Hayward Gallery opening times:
11am–7pm every day except Tuesdays when the gallery is closed.
Late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm

Talks programme - Conversations from the Future:

‚Äč2nd May 2018

Writer and artist Zach Blas. 7.00-9.30pm. Tickets £7

9th May 2018
Artist Bedwyr Williams in conversation with writer and critic Chris Fite Wassilak. 7.00-9.30pm. Tickets £7

16th May
Artist Marguerite Humeau in conversation with Senior Curator at Hayward Gallery Dr. Cliff Lauson. 7.00-9.30pm. Tickets £7

HENI Project Space
Originally opened in July 2007, the Hayward Project Space has been home to a regularly changing programme of exhibitions featuring both emerging and newly established artists as well as significant expressions of broader visual culture. Focusing on innovative forms of art making, the Project Space has also been a platform for presenting the latest developments in contemporary art from across the globe: in addition to the UK, exhibiting artists have come from Latin America, Africa, Europe, North America, Russia, China, Korea, India, and Japan. Presenting 6-8 exhibitions each year, the Hayward Project Space’s programme moves at a faster tempo than the Gallery’s main exhibitions. Free to the public, it enables the Hayward to provide a continuous visual arts offering even at those moments when the main galleries are closed for installation. It also crucially enables the Hayward to regularly feature the work of emerging artists from diverse backgrounds: over the past 8 years, the Project Space has featured artists from 20 different countries and 5 continents. The Hayward Project Space reopened in January 2018 in a larger space on the ground floor of the building and as the HENI Project Space. The rebuild and renovations were kindly sponsored by HENI publishing. While adjacent to the Hayward’s principal galleries, it offers an enclosed environment that will ensure that its exhibitions maintain a distinct identity within the larger Hayward programme.

Concrete, Dubai

A multi-disciplinary space conceptualised by Alserkal Avenue, Concrete is the first building in the UAE to be completed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), founded by Rem Koolhaas. Located in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, Concrete is an adaptable venue whose ability to metamorphose to bring creative visions to life makes it suitable for international, museum-grade exhibitions as well as events across art, design, fashion and the performing arts.


HENI Publishing

Established in 2009, HENI Publishing is a small, independent art publishers based in Soho, London, working with artists on projects ranging from major trade publications to artist books and limited editions. HENI have published six Gerhard Richter publications to date along with titles, both upcoming and previously published, on the work of Sabine Moritz, Brian Clarke and the late Albert Irvin, working closely at all times with the artists to create personal, bespoke publications with impeccable production values. Whilst specialising in contemporary art monographs, both HENI Publishing and its sister imprint SALMA Editions have published a diverse range of publishing projects, including books on the work of the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery (street art),the drawings of Tommy Kane (illustration) and the life and work of Stephen Webster(jewellery design).

Hayward Gallery 
Hayward Gallery is a part of Southbank Centre and has a long history of presenting work by the world's most adventurous and innovative artists including major solo shows by both emerging and established artists and dynamic group exhibitions. They include those by Bridget Riley, Martin Creed, Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Jeremy Deller, Anish Kapoor, René Magritte, Francis Bacon and David Shrigley, as well as influential group exhibitions such as Africa Remix, Light Show, The Human Factor, Psycho Buildings and most recently The Infinite Mix. Opened by Her Majesty, The Queen in July 1968, the gallery is one of the few remaining buildings of its style. The Brutalist building was designed by a group of young architects, including Dennis Crompton, Warren Chalk and Ron Herron and is named after Sir Isaac Hayward, a former leader of the London County Council.


Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 17­ acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as The National Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. For further information please visit

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