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In media and popular culture, cars feature as the ultimate symbol of luxury and freedom. While automobiles increase mobility by decreasing time and distance, acceleration has led to a set of catastrophes, including vehicle crash fatalities, environmental and atmospheric damage, military conflicts, insufficient infrastructure, and economic injustice and segregation in cities via the expansion of highways and use of eminent domain. With this problematic history in tow, the nature of automobiles is changing. In the last two decades, self-driving cars have advanced from research to reality and offer tremendous promise, from reducing emissions and congestion through ridesharing to decreasing the number of driving accidents and deaths. Nevertheless, we will only realize this potential if future development accounts for past failures and such possible pitfalls as mass surveillance and attacks on artificial intelligence.

The Autonomous Future of Mobility examines the car’s legacy over the past century, predominantly in the United States, as depicted in art and visual culture. The works included in this exhibition are organized around six themes that address vehicular culture, signs, space, energy, speed, and autonomy, offering a view toward today’s emerging technological developments and exposing our vulnerability in the face of the horsepower and political power that drive mass movement.

The Autonomous Future of Mobility, the fall 2020 Teaching Gallery exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, is curated by Constance Vale, assistant professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, in conjunction with her fall 2020 undergraduate studio class of the same name.

Download the Teaching Gallery essay

Selected works

Online Exhibition

The Teaching Gallery is a space in the Kemper Art Museum dedicated to presenting works from the Museum's collection with direct connections to Washington University courses. Teaching Gallery installations are intended to serve as parallel classrooms and can be used to supplement courses through object-based inquiry, research, and learning. Learn more