The Future Imperfect Lectures
Future Imperfect brought together an international line-up of artists, writers and cultural practitioners to consider ways in which artistic practices can help inform and shape collective futures. Through performances, interviews, panel discussions, and a screening programme, each participant's contribution highlighted how present histories and institutions are being shaped through propositional speculations on the future.
Living in the shadow of an apparently unending 'war on terror', the far from resolved global financial crisis, ongoing uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, and ubiquitous systems of connectivity and surveillance, it would seem that the future – constricted by the all too immediate challenges of the present – is not what it used to be.
This panel explored the questions, 'What is at stake in articulating propositions on the future?', 'What kind of language can be used to describe the as yet unknown ways of being in the future?', 'Why do we rely so much on future orientated goals rather than the realities of the here and now?', and finally, 'Why is the future not what it used to be?'
Introduction: Kamel Lazaar, Anthony Downey and Nora Razian
Performance lecture: Raqs Media Collective
Keynote lecture: Douglas Coupland
Conversation: Todd Reisz
Discussion and Q&A: Shuddabrata Sengupta, Douglas Coupland and Todd Reisz, moderated by Anthony Downey
1967/1968: What Was Lost?
The events of 1967 still resonate across the Middle East and beyond. In June of that year, the so-called Six Day War, or an-Naksah (The Setback), heralded an end to a number of things: the nationalist ideal of Pan-Arabism, the political will towards more open societies, economic growth, and the nascent cultural dispositions that marked the 1960s. One year later, in 1968, a revolutionary politics emerged in struggles against dictatorships, state repression, and colonization, across the United States, France, Mexico, Brazil, Northern Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Spain, and Germany.
In terms of a global historical consciousness, the events of 1967 and 1968 had a significant impact; however, their legacy has arguably waned in the wake of decades of under-development and repression in the Middle East and, coextensively, the ascendancy of neoliberalism. Nevertheless, 1967 and 1968 have recently re-emerged as problematic cornerstones for uprisings across the Middle East, since 2011, and anti-capitalist movements around the world, provoking in turn a singular question: what was lost in the idealism associated with the period of Pan-Arabism and the radical politics of 1968? And what do those losses tell us about the apparent social, political and cultural impasse that marks the present and the future?
Introduction: Omar Kholeif
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige in conversation with Anthony Downey
Conversation: Tony Chakar
Lecture: Tarek El Ariss
Discussion and Q&A: Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige, Tony Chakar and Tarek El Ariss, moderated by Omar Kholeif
Structural Futures: Where to Now?
The future, as Louis Althusser once observed, tends to last a long time. The possibilities associated with it often remain unrealized and this can be, under the compromised conditions of modernity, a conceptual necessity: the future must always remain in the future. However, for possibility to become potential and be realized over time, both within cultural practices and institutional contexts, infrastructure needs to be in place.
This panel discussedwhat a future arts infrastructure might look like across the Maghreb region, to begin with, and how the role of artists and institutions could change in a global context. What will a future audience look like and how will culture continue to not only negotiate public space, civil society and institutional practices, but promote the sustainability of the future as an ideal?
Introduction by Anthony Downey and presentations by Zineb Sedira, Lina Lazaar, Omar Berrada and Abdelkader Damani
Propositional Futures II: Bassam El Baroni
Panel discussion and Q&A: ZIneb Sedira, Lina Lazaar, Omar Berrada and Abdelkader Damani