The view from Venus
Jacque Fresco designed a society without politics, poverty and war. Will it ever leave the drawing board?
Published: October 13, 2011
To this day, Fresco and Meadows are still living in their dome in Venus, aspiring to realize that vision. Though “The Venus Project” sounds naively Utopian, Fresco insists it isn’t – he calls it an “alternative direction” for a better society. Needless to say the couple is still quite far from moving society in that direction – money is part of the problem, as is an apparent unwillingness to collaborate with others – but it is worth noting that the Venus Project is arguably more popular now than at any other point in its 31-year history. Last summer, the couple returned from their first world tour, which spanned five months and 20 countries, ranging from Colombia to Slovenia. In addition, the Venus Project was recently featured in two prominent documentary films, one of which pointed thousands of young activists toward Fresco’s cause. Certainly, the onset of the Great Recession spurred many people to propose radical solutions to the world’s largest problems, but few of these people have also lived through the Great Depression, and perhaps none of them have illustrated their solutions as vividly as Fresco.
Though Jacque Fresco has been alive for nearly a century, he walks the 22-acre campus of his property in Venus daily. When doing so alongside a reporter on a July afternoon, he walks with his arms behind his back, his left hand clasped in his right, pausing to make eye contact when describing a particularly salient point – which is often. On Saturdays, he gives “Venus Tours,” which can last more than six hours. It is then that Fresco exhaustively describes his vision for the future, though most audience members are already quite familiar with the project, given that they were likely convinced to pay the $200-per-group fee by the vast amount of material available online. (The FAQ section on the Venus Project’s website is 105 questions and 26,618 words in length.) Fresco loves to talk – his teachings are populated with sweeping tales spanning from the islands of the South Pacific to the streets of New York City. For a history buff, these stories are a joy; for a reporter seeking direct answers, they can be frustrating. It’s for that reason that Academy Award-nominated filmmaker William Gazecki’s 2006 documentary on Fresco and the Venus Project, Future by Design, was the product of intensive editing. “I must have shot in that living room 20 times,” Gazecki says, adding that each session lasted between two to three hours.
With the exception of a heaping plate of store-bought cookies provided for guests, the couple’s living room appears straight out of The Jetsons – under a domed roof, a thin sofa traces a curved line in front of floor-to-ceiling sinusoidal windows bordered by scientific instruments. Near a spectrometer rests a hair dryer Fresco uses to demonstrate the “memory” of a coil of flexible space-age metal which, after being twisted and disfigured, can be heated to return to its original shape. The prevailing theme of Fresco and Meadows’ home is their work – renderings of and magazine articles about Fresco’s futuristic cities occupy the walls and shelves; the borders of their circular coffee table correspond with the borders of an illustrated circular city placed under the glass. Even in the bathroom, there are drafting boards and fine-tipped pens within arm’s reach of the toilet.
> Email Jeff Gore