Emerge: Redesigning the Future – DaraghByrne.me

Daragh Byrne Associate Teaching Professor
School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University. Courtesy appointment in the School of Design.

Emerge: Redesigning the Future

Dates 2012 - 2012

Collaborators Aisling Kelliher

A mixed-media forum for discourse on speculative futures through diverse participatory modes

The ASU Art Museum serves as a crossroads where multiple disciplines intersect to forge something new: from art to science to philosophy to history, the constants at the Museum are innovation and dialogue.

In Spring 2012, the Museum hosted an exhibition titled Emerge: Redesigning the Future. The show came out of a unique, campus-wide event March 1-3 called Emerge that brought together artists, engineers, bio scientists, social scientists, story-tellers and designers to build, draw, write and rethink the future of the human species and the environments that we share.

Here are just a few of the big questions that artists and scientists explored during Emerge:

How are emerging technologies transforming our minds, our relationships, everything we own and the landscapes in which we live? What kinds of humans will we become? What kinds of humans should we become?

The exhibition Emerge: Redesigning the Future gave audiences a chance to sample some of the futures imagined during Emerge, and included hands-on activities that made visitors part of the project, such as writing and sharing letters to the future. Some of the letters were funny. Some were heartfelt. Some were clear calls to action.

One activity in the gallery asked people to design an object of the future, then sculpt it out of clay and, if they chose to, display it in the Museum. Dozens of imaginative objects, by visitors of all ages, filled the cubbies, from practical to fantastical.

The exhibition was originally scheduled to be up just until the end of the spring semester, but visitor response was so positive that the curators decided to extend the show’s run through the summer. It provided a cool, free, thought-provoking environment for families, combining art and science to create something that transcended any one particular discipline and allowed for real conversation about what the future might look like.

Will there be panda jerky and pheromone-enhanced Tic Tacs at the convenience store, as one group predicted? Will our bodies be a combination of human and non-human, as pictured in the video of a performance titled Immerge, which took place during the Emerge event? Will we have enough water, or will we experience a shortage that will require us to change our way of life?

Shortly before the exhibition closed, a group from the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at ASU’s Cronkite School toured it. These young journalists had come to Phoenix from all over the world – from Egypt, from Ethiopia, from Serbia, from Pakistan, from South Africa – to pursue studies, receive leadership training and forge professional affiliations with journalism and public relations organizations in Arizona and across the nation.

Watching the group members interact with and get to know each other within the context of the Museum was a real pleasure – the range of accents and viewpoints in particular. And, watching them as they pondered the questions that the Emerge exhibition poses was eye opening. Because these are questions that we all need to consider, not only here in Arizona, but around the globe, in order to create a more sustainable future – one that isn’t just the future we’re headed toward, but the future we want.

Text By by Deborah Sussman Susser, PR Specialist, ASU Art Museum. Taken from http://magazine.asu.edu/blog/arts-culture/back-future-emerge-asu-art-museum. Photos by Craig Smith.

Exhibition Credits

Emerge exhibition team

  • Daragh Byrne
  • Sarah Davies
  • Aisling Kelliher
  • Cynthia Selin

Lead developers of Emerge

  • Thanassis Rikakis
  • Joel Garreau
  • Cynthia Selin

Sponsors and Partners

  • Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
  • The Center for Nanotechnology in Society
  • ASU Office of the President
  • Intel
  • The Prevail Project of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • School of Sustainability
  • Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
  • ASU LightWorks
  • ASU Art Museum
Find out more

Related Projects


(2012 - 2014)


(2011 - 2013)

Related Publications

Kelliher, A., & Byrne, D. (2015). Design futures in action: Documenting experiential futures for participatory audiences. Futures, 70, 36-47.