The Atlas of Tomorrow

A public device for philosophical reflection.

Artwork by Candy Chang. Stories by James A. Reeves.

Spinning the dial | Photo by New American Public Art

We tell ourselves strange stories. Stories like I am not good enough or I will never be understood. We hear these words in the private chatter, the idiot hum in our heads. This voice is a village crowded with heroes and cowards, a chorus of teachers, dreamers, and thieves fighting for our attention and telling us we who are. But sometimes we catch a glimpse of who we might become. Perhaps it’s a rogue thought in the shower or a shiver of déjà vu on the sidewalk, but for a moment our mental weather clears and the world makes some kind of sense.

They call this synchronicity, when our insides meet the outside in a meaningful way. You might call it gut sense or intuition, but you know when it happens. It’s encoded in the hairs on your neck, the flutter in your nerves, and it’s been within you all along, a deep prehistoric knowledge that occasionally breaks to the surface before disappearing beneath the next wave of chatter.

2016
Philadelphia, PA. Located on South Street one block east of Broad Street. Address: 533 South Juniper Street.

34' w x 32' h
Acrylic, polytab fabric, aluminum, stainless steel, high-density polyethylene.

Interactive dial design and fabrication by New American Public Art. Project management by Dave Kyu, Laure Biron, Evan Thornburg, and Jessica Lewis-Turner. Installation assistance by James Shuster, James Burns, Kien Nguyen, and Adam Alli.

The Atlas of Tomorrow is a three-story interactive mural in downtown Philadelphia on South Street one block east of Broad Street.

The Atlas of Tomorrow was designed to make these moments happen more often. Conceived by the artist Candy Chang, the award-winning interactive mural combines the ancient wisdom of the I Ching, the tactics of the Surrealists, and the work of Carl Jung into a contemporary device for philosophical reflection in downtown Philadelphia. Passersby are invited to consider a current dilemma in their lives and spin a six-foot dial to select one of sixty-four fables along the wall to consult for guidance. The sixty-four fables, written by James A. Reeves, blend the lessons of the I Ching with classic archetypes that highlight the different personalities we carry within us.

The stories and artwork evoke an inner world of archetypes to help examine personal struggles, behaviors, and opportunities for growth. The result is a collection of dispatches from ‘the town in our head’ that describe familiar anxieties and passions through endless winters, murderous sunflowers, and rotting cars. By reflecting upon these archetypes, we might gain new perspective on the role we play in our relationships with others, as well as our relationship with ourselves.

Finger-painting the mural | Photo by Steve Weinik, Mural Arts
Finger-painting the mural at Broad Street Ministry, Philadelphia | Photo by Steve Weinik, Mural Arts

Designed with the idea of art as meditation, The Atlas of Tomorrow consists of over 200,000 dots that were finger painted by Chang and the Philadelphia community. Each dot is a finger print, a primal mark that converges into a larger image and speaks to value of new perspectives. By injecting a device for personal reflection into the public realm, The Atlas of Tomorrow reimagines what a mural can do, offers a stepping stone to other mental health services, and promotes emotional wellness as a critical component of thriving communities.

“The Atlas of Tomorrow taps into the spiritual and encourages pedestrians to take a philosophical pause, as each fable’s archetypes highlight our common humanity.”

—Public Art Review Magazine

This project was a collaboration with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, and Broad Street Ministry. The project was featured in the exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum from 2016 to 2017, and Chang received the Tony Goldman Visionary Artist Award for this work.

Candy Chang jumping in honor of of Mural Arts founder Jane Golden’s unbridled energy at the mural opening, 2016 | Photo by Carol Bova
Launch of the mural with Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services Commissioner Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Mural Arts founder and Executive Director Jane Golden, artist Candy Chang, and Councilman Mark Squilla, 2016 | Photo by Carol Bova
Selected Fables

A book is coming soon

Stay tuned!