Spontaneous future(s), Possible past - CODAworx

Spontaneous future(s), Possible past


Location: Austin, TX, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $150,000

Project Team

Andree Bober

Landmarks, the public art program of the University of Texas at Austin

Nisa Barger

Landmarks, the public art program of the University of Texas at Austin


Beth Campbell

Kate Werble

Kate Warble Gallery


Ron Pauley

Page Sutherland Page

Brock Rindahl

UT Capital Planning and Construction

Brian DeVaney

Vaughn Construction

Robert Boland

Art handling, conservation, installation services


Delicately charting the human condition with all the gravity and humor of real life, Beth Campbell’s drawing and sculptural mobile for the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin reveals the interconnectedness of shared experience. The site-specific commission is rooted in the artist’s ongoing drawing series—”My Potential Future Based on Present Circumstances”—which explores rhizomatic structures, circuit boards, and early virtual worlds in order to map imagined futures or parallel lives. Campbell’s text-based drawing for Landmarks investigates spontaneous future cognition, a newly developing branch of cognitive psychology that explores the random and involuntary thoughts that individuals have about their future. Like neural networks, the drawings branch out in linear fashion, accumulating narrative tentacular strands that chronicle various possibilities resulting from choice or chance. Campbell’s mobile extends this drawing into three-dimensional space, expanding her thought process and hypothetical considerations into repeated forms that mirror one another like speculative visualizations of possibility. Referred to by the artist as a “[drawing] in space,” the mobile, made of hand forged steel wires, mimics the twists and turns of complex structures such as the human nervous system, an arboreal root system, or social networks.


The goal of this project was to introduce a work of art into Dell Medical School’s new Health Transformation Building that would beautify and activate the space while reflecting the activities of the building. The lobby welcomes thousands of medical practitioners and patients every day, many who linger at the entrance. The commission was conceived as a way to delight the eye and engage visitors in closer reading.The mobile responds naturally to air currents from passersby with gentle sways and turns that catch the eye. The drawing draws people into its branching descriptions of events, and they linger to trace the outcomes. Both works derive from Campbell’s “thought tree” concept, which proposes a question and then maps each possible outcome. Her method echoes the decision-making process that doctors and nurses deal with each day when deciding how best to treat their patients.