Strategies to Resample the Future

Beginning this Friday December 7th, Datacide and Next:Now are going to be hosting a series of freeform political talks at Vetomat about what's happening in our culture...

Nostalgia. Fear. The power that advertising holds to detach us from the present. The power of subculture to free us from it. These are all potent themes in a city like Berlin, resonating as it is with the echoes of alternating eras of warfare and hedonism.

Berlin's residents have become used to seeing these themes ruthlessly capitalised upon and recreated by the tourism and entertainment industries. But now, these industries have slid from being a mechanism that lets people remember the past to one that lets them recreate it, dangerously, in a spell of detachment.

If one traces a path from European capitals like Berlin, that have been scarred by war, to decadent American metropolises like Las Vegas that exploded with post-war success, one sees the template that dooms the West to re-enact the extremes of defeat and triumph forever.

Society's past atrocities have become a fantasy that some choose to escape into, just as others already escape into its past parties. But neither extreme is ever truly sincere when the underlying urge is for the reassurance of familiarity. Fashion has dressed this generation to match the world's extremes; it hasn't equipped it to deal with them. And inertia in a paradigm of extremes, defaults to the extreme.

It seems that the reenactment is turning into a real-life performance. A few strategically-placed Facebook posts here, a few hysterical articles there, and suddenly the stage is set by a few well paid producers for the next world war, fought via trending tweets and PR people wrapped in smug, self-referential styles. All that's left for us spectators to do is slot ourselves into familiar, black and white roles. Disguised by retro stylings, it all feels a bit less real than it is. How did we get there? Which way is it to the future? Can we get there without merely reverting to the past?

A century of war alternating with celebration seems to have left some people unable to imagine a reality that does anything except swing wildly between senseless extremes like a pendulum. The tension between extreme hedonism and equally extreme politics is also being played out in Berlin with an intensity unseen anywhere else, so this seems like a good place to delve into the subconscious origins of it all: the dreams and fears of capitalism.

It's heavy stuff, but seen through the lens of a culture that capitalism keeps insisting is just fluff: another duality of extremes. Which ones will dominate depend on who turns up to the talk... and to the reality show we call life. Will you be there? And will your mask be on or off?

The talk will feature local artists Eugenia Monti (aka Darkam) and Matthieu Bordel (aka Electric Kettle). These talks aim to cover some of the territory outlined in the extract below... and anything else that arises from that! Event starts at 7:00 p.m. in Vetomat, Wühlischstr. 42, Friedrichshain. 

Donations are very welcome!

Here's a taste of writing by the organisers:

'Atari emulators, electro-swing, Polaroid replicas, or Hieronimus Bosch’s triptychs in Virtual Reality: everything nostalgia related sells better than ever, and we’re not just talking about pop and mainstream. Every obscure fraction of a subculture had also its 15 minutes of …revival in the past 18 years. An obsessive (therefore unhealthy) attention to the past is influencing all aspects of cultural production in these days. This is certainly a “Sign o’ the times”ii. Times of “Liquid fear””iii, that tangible feeling of anxiety that has only vague contours but is present everywhere. Dangers can strike anytime, everywhere: no matter what’s your job, tomorrow you can be fired, like those guys at Leeman Bros carrying their stuff out in cardboard boxes; you can be shot while you sip your cappuccino, in the name of god or the N.R.A.: or you can be killed by some multi resistant bacteria, and you have the same chance to get infected on a safari looking for the big 5 or in your local hospital having a proctology check up. To quote Bauman’s favorite metaphor:

'“We’re walking on a mine field, we are aware that all is full of explosives, but we don’t know where there will be an explosion and when. There are no solid structures to rely on, nothing in which we can invest our hope and expectations.”iv

'Or, using the words of Comité Invisible:

'“From whatever angle you approach it, the present offers no way out. This is not the least of its virtues. From those who seek hope above all, it tears away every firm ground. Those who claim to have solutions are contradicted almost immediately. Everyone agrees that things can only get worse. “The future has no future” is the wisdom of an age that, for all its appearance of perfect normalcy, has reached the level of consciousness of the first punks.”

'In this context the past can be seen as a cozy and warm nest, a perfect world that we can control as it is shaped by our selective memory, a safe place. And so, as thinks are like that, instead of struggling to build up an uncertain future (to go for an Utopia), a very common choice is to aspire to return to a golden past, to go for a “Retrotopia”vi. The spreading of this approach is another “Sign o’ the times”, but one with very scary implications.'

The rest of the text can be found on Datacide.


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