If you crave an experience you’ll never forget, you absolutely must visit the Museum of Future Present, hosted by Native Hostel.
By Cy White, Photos by Cy White.
Walking into Native Hostel, one could be forgiven in thinking they’re strolling into a seasonally themed dive bar or a hipster hangout. Walk in a little further, you see there’s quite a bit more depth to the place than initial impressions suggest.
Visitors mill around, a little unsure of what they’re walking into. We’re here to see a museum, right? Depending on where you come in, you either are greeted with a rustic open space with a small stage adjacent to a floor-to-ceiling window, or you walk into a bar space where a pool table and sexy paintings of full lips and pin-ups greet you at the door.
Dig deeper still, and you see saloon-style signs advertising a tattoo parlor. (And, yes, the tattoo parlor is real and is really open for business.) Native Hostel is a…To call it quirky does it a disservice and in this instance is actually insulting. To call it charming belittles its maturity. Pinning it with a “hipster” modifier cheapens the authenticity of the space. It’s definitely styled within an inch of its life. Depending on your mood, you’re either in a steampunk shuttle thruway the likes of which the crew of the Firefly would frequent on one of their excursions, or you’re in the Wild West looking for a good time on the bad side of the settlement.
The space certainly sets the tone for the experience waiting for anxious visitors down a closed-off hallway. When the doors open to the Museum of Future Present, not even the most seasoned and open-minded museum hopper would fully expect what greets them.
Welcome to the Future Present
Darkness. That’s what hits first. Not complete pitch, but certainly a heavy lack of light that envelopes you like the expansiveness of outer space. Right in front of you, time welcomes you, almost taunts you. At least a dozen clocks, faces frozen at midnight. There’s no pervasive, cheesy ticking of clocks. Quite the contrary. There’s a white noise humming underneath the odd lack of sound. Turn to your left, Death greets you. The clocks have you stuck in the present, while the Reaper calls you to inevitability. Reminiscent Bill Murray’s Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come from Scrooged. (Arguably the only adaptation of A Christmas Carol that actually matters.) Noise-scrambled TV screen for a face and all.
Turn the tight corner, a small television with an ’80s-style display of several people being scanned while meditating. Where you are now isn’t where you’re standing, it seems to say. You are where your mind perceives you. Which could be anywhere and nowhere at all. Our minds and bodies are just vessels harnessing energy. Computers transmitting a constant flow of information.
Look behind you. A silver-face and clad mannequin of a woman hovers over a table. Under the Plexiglas top, homemade Tarot cards. Each representation more unexpected than the next. Cheeky, vulgar, irreverent. It’s an uncanny display of human indulgence and hubris. Past a wall of a semi-holographic astronaut, we come into a disco arcade. Three segmented glass spheres hang still from the ceiling. The two arcade machines seem to just be displaying what any arcade game does before someone inserts coins: a preview of what’s to come once you decide to press play. But, in fact, if you lean in, you hear singing. You notice that on both games the video playing is actually in perfect synch with the words. Two versions of a music video about the future heartbreak play on a loop. All flashing colors and cartoon-simulated narratives.
Activate the Senses
As the museum opens up, the space again readjusts itself. Wider, more open. Certainly more light than when you came into this world. What greets us are several motifs, all surrounding the concepts of time, sound and light. The senses are all activated. (Though you’re denied your sense of touch when told not to touch anything save for an immersive exhibit where you’re forced to sit in a char and observe yourself in isolation.) To your left, what appears to be a throwback to a 1960s kitchen, complete with pastels, washing machine and small oven. However, take a closer look. You might realize the relationship between sight and sound are more overtly expressed than expected.
So it goes for the entirety of the museum. A 1980s-inspired living room, sound system blaring a cheer-chant-rap from Hannibal Buress. Further back, darkness envelopes you, displays toying with your sense of awareness. (Do you see what you think you’re seeing? Is anything even there?) Back still, the world opens back up into a digital Garden of Eden, information about sin and consequence fed to you through a sequencing machine.
The room that gives me pause, however, is a stand-alone room. Four walls and a projector. I step in, and the world suddenly narrows to me and the projections on the wall. I take no pictures in this room. It is my sanctum, a space where despite the heavy foot traffic in and out is an isolated chamber of patterns, movement, meditation. There are pulses, various moments of segmented motion that synchronize with your heartbeat. Each breath in and out a rhythmic reminder that you are here, present, each second ahead of you dictated not by time, but by your inhale, exhale.
The Future Is Now
When I find my center, I meander back into the world of light, sound, immediate controlled chaos. This is the future, and it is happening now. We’re given a history of the museum’s inception. Jonathan Horstmann, the museums curator and co-creator, explains that each exhibit serves to force you to experience each moment as it happens. “There is no future,” he says. “We’re living in the future now. The next moment is the future.” It is, and we are all living in it with every breath we take.
The future comes quiet and constantly. But when it does arrive, it’s with a crash-bang. A shout, not a whisper. It’s always a surprise party, whether surprises are your thing or not. The Museum of Future Present embodies this notion of the quiet riot, everything sneaking up on you only to grab you and punch you in the gut.
If you see one thing this fall, you absolutely must see the Museum of Future Present. It’s an experience you’ve had before, yet one like not other.