On May 20, Eric de Bruyn and I are presenting a “Future Caucus” as part of the Van Abbemuseum’s ten-day programme Becoming More.
Not too long ago, Fredric Jameson’s phrase that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” was widely quoted and taken as proof of a decline—or indeed collapse—of the utopian imagination, which Jameson himself has analysed so compellingly in its literary (science-fiction) manifestations. Today, there is an abundance of neofuturisms, futurologies, speculative philosophies and accelerationist scenarios. What seems at stake here is a fundamental split between a “capitalist realism” that encapsulates the future in an ever-expanding process of accumulation, and a tendency that in the face of a looming planetary catastrophe attempts to imagine another future, which can be conceptualized as the liberation of human potential or, alternatively as the proliferation of posthuman alterities.
The tropes of “the end of history” and “the end of the future” are now replaced on the one hand by crisis-laden motif of the “end of the earth” or the “end of labour”, and on the other hand by a return to the future through a series of recent, themed exhibitions, festivals and biennials as well as a resurgence of artificial intelligence and automation in the popular imagination. Despite this return to the future, the temporal horizon of our present moment is perhaps more aptly characterized by the “shrinking future” of just-in-time production, risk management, high-frequency trading, and the futures market. “Speculative” artistic and intellectual practices seem little inclined to problematize their implication in a speculative market whose movement is marked precisely by a perpetual extension of the present and a colonization of the future.
The ‘future caucus’ is convened to address the following questions: Could it be that the total privileging of a radically different future (itself a modernist move) over various pasts and presents is not itself a dangerous impoverishment? What can be learned from historical futurities and potentialities? Do we need to distinguish between a return to the futurity of utopian thought and revivals of a specifically modernist, utopian imagination? Is there a repressed content of utopian thought to be discovered that might speak to our current predicament?
Speakers and moderators are McKenzie Wark, Maurizio Lazzarato, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Diederich Diederichsen, Marina Vishmidt, Doreen Mende and Kodwo Eshun. There are also pleasing connections with some of the other days; on the 21st, for instance, Graeme Thomson and Silvia Maglioni will present a session of their Cinema Tarot.
Image: Joachim Hellwig / Claus Ritter, Liebe 2002, DEFA futurum, 1972.