3.7 2090

The News

All the news, all the time.

9 August 2090

Press release

The Tate Twilight

By Rajat Chaudhuri

The Geiger-counter-wielding guards scan you through into Delhi’s abandoned central metro station, now the venue of Tate’s newly opened Twilight exhibition space. The main concourse has VR interactive walkthroughs of doomsday scenarios, visualizations of a shutdown of the thermohaline circulation, or you can pose questions to the Buddha delivering his first sermon. It’s also possible to chat with a Mayan soothsayer, marvel at Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “Triumph of Death” or behold a lifelike Kali, the dark goddess of time with her garland of human heads. More familiar terrain includes spying upon terrorists nuking the Great Gustaff sulphur dioxide tower, rolling on the deck of an Arabian Sea oil rig as a supercyclone hits, or chatting with a mind-uploaded simulation of corporate guru Jack Windows or Greta Thunberg.

Most of the tunnel-halls are dedicated to the 21st century and you begin with a virtual swim along London’s subterranean Fleet river. Encounter floating artefacts and objects, like the severed head of an assassinated Jewish revolutionary who requests a drink while narrating how they are fighting against gene-tweaked Russian oligarchs with heat-tolerant skin, who now lord over a partially submerged London that seceded from the UK.

From there, venture into the Chinese-controlled uranium mines of an overheated Niger. Listen to a clandestinely videoed 2080 account of a white Frenchwoman engaged as slave labour who is suffering from radiation-induced lung cancer. The holotext details how these mines lit up the homes of France till a three-way tussle between the French, Chinese and militants broke Niger apart.

Segue to a largely abandoned Paris where soaring temperatures have sent the Ministry of Environment into the catacombs. Among the objects on display in this hall are a laser guillotine and a compassion suit: voluntary suicide equipment with a supply of helium. A holovision of the perpetual secretary of the Académie Française recites an experimental prose poem extolling the virtues of a helium-laden departure.

Head east. Swim along a waterworld colony of Hong Kong’s Kowloon with its expensive undersea bubble homes and floating shanties packed with Pacific islanders. Stroll along extensive sea walls built by American POWs and Uighur detainees till you bump into a real cha chaan teng serving noodles and steaming-hot milk tea. Free, if you listen to a lecture about the importance of freedom.

The Tate Twilight offers an honest and gut-wrenching, intense experience, peppered with the dark hilarity of our times. Try on Japanese air-conditioned hotpants with self-cleaning nanotech, a mid-century craze fuelled by a super-scorcher summer, or watch the results of a singular attempt at de-extinction in the form of a climate-friendly Bengal tiger which refuses meat and is no bigger than a cat.

Closer to the exit gates are softly-lit caverns. Here a solarpunk community activist weaves gentle notes on her dotara while others offer free permaculture classes and video game renditions of Callenbach’s Ecotopia. Within the digital walkthrough of a multispecies Himalayan eco-town stand men in grey personal protective garments wielding megacorp vaccine shots… You pays your money and you takes your choice.

One minor quibble: It seemed the core VR platform running the walkthroughs of the Tate Twilight had been hacked because all through the tour we kept encountering phantasmic characters, one with a yellow mop and another with cold beady eyes, whispering in our ears, urging us to buy smart weapons and seabed methane futures.

Tip: Carry a torch, there will be power cuts.