Sci-fi thinking to imagine futures
The times we are living in could be the setting of a dystopian novel. Ice caps are melting, islands are disappearing due to rising water levels and large sections of the 25-million- year-old Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia are dying. All the while, the economic machinery that is causing our planet’s demise presses forward. Climate change predictions are coming true much faster than expected, and yet we find ourselves faced with a collective failure to create a viable alternative to this story of impending destruction. Despite scientific proof that we cannot continue as we have, there is currently not sufficient global commitment to a plan of action. Is it possible that only a global eco-dictatorship can force us out of our inertia?
I Taste the Future sets out to re-engage the idea of the “future” without succumbing to apocalyptic thinking. We have used science fiction as an important thinking tool for LIAF 2017. It is a mode of thinking that helps to widen the scope of possibilities of future scenarios. The genre’s ability to imagine “what if?” often results in projections of extremes—visions of distant places with alternative societies, either utopias or dystopias—which ultimately return to the hopes and fears of the present.
Against the backdrop of Henningsvær, a historical fishing village with a population of 460 people, a group of artists were asked to imagine life 150 years from now. The results of this thinking process spread across three exhibition venues, the Henningsvær Stadion and other public spaces. Over the course of September, the exhibition will present continually site- specific performances and a weekly film and talk program and will culminate in the symposium The Henningsvær Charter, aimed at writing a charter for the future safeguarding of oceans.
We imagine the exhibition as performing a kind of co-thinking, offering speculative visions of what the future might mean. Both new and existing works resist old ideas of futures linked to technological progress that result in exploitation of both humans and nature. Instead they offer a series of counter-narratives that move beyond “future as usual” by looking critically at the past and probing ways to dissolve gender, race and class divisions that have long supported structures of inequality. The performance focus of LIAF 2017 embraces unpredictability as a way to resist any dominant narrative, favouring instead “shifts in the story” and the open idea of many possible futures.
The exhibition contains two archives. Sci-fi literature is mixed with research that is organized around the themes of nation-state building, particularly the drive to border off a political territory to benefit only those on the inside, and extractivism, the removal and commodification of natural resources from the earth. One territory that complicates the nation-state logic is the ocean. When the concept of nation states was developed in the 17th century it was determined that oceans do not have sovereignty and cannot be owned (Mare Liberum) in order to guarantee the free, global passage of goods. Today, oceans are at risk of becoming the last frontier to be colonized. The non-ownability of ocean territory is under increasing pressure due to the
emergence of deep-sea mining technologies alongside competing national claims on untapped resources like fossil fuels below the ocean floors. All the while, waste continues to accumulate in our seas and oceans without recourse or responsibility1. In response, many of the artworks in LIAF 2017 advocate for a relationship to the earth that is not just about “owning” but rather “belonging”. It is a call for collective responsibility against practices driven by commercial insularity that threatens the global livelihood of tomorrow.
Milena Høgsberg and Heidi Ballet, 2017
1 Norway, Turkey, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are the only countries that allow the dumping of mining waste at sea while even big mining nations like China and Russia have voted for a ban. In Førdefjorden, on Norway’s west coast, Nordic Mining plans to dump waste at deep water from a rutile ore. minehttps://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/14/norway-and- turkey-vote- against-ban- on- dumping-mining- waste-at- sea