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Symposium: Future Imperfect – Cultural Propositions and Global Perspectives

005 / 30 September 2013
Perforated City, 2013
Perforated City (close-up), 2013

Symposium: Future Imperfect – Cultural Propositions and Global Perspectives


Venue: Tate Modern (Starr Auditorium)


Date: 9th November 2013


'The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality.'

– Henri Bergson


What can speculations on the future tell us about the priorities of the present and the demands of past?


Future Imperfect brings 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, contributors will highlight how present histories and institutions are being shaped through propositional speculations on the future. 


This symposium is organised in collaboration with Ibraaz (www.ibraaz.org), the leading critical forum on visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East.


The event is supported by the Kamel Lazaar Foundation (www.kamellazaarfoundation.org).


For tickets and further details, please visit: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/conference/future-imperfect.




10.30–12:30: Propositional Futures


Living under the shadow of an apparently unending 'war on terror', the far from resolved global financial crisis, the ongoing uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, as well as the ubiquitous systems of connectivity and surveillance that have come to define the twenty-first century, it would seem that the future – constricted by the all too immediate present – is not what it used to be.


This panel asks: what is increasingly 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?


10.30 – Introduction: Anthony Downey and Nora Razian

10.40 – Performance Lecture: Raqs Media Collective  

11.05 – Keynote lecture: Douglas Coupland  

11.30 – Conversation: Tony Chakar and Todd Reisz

12.00 – Discussion and Q&A with audience (Moderated by Anthony Downey)


12.3013.30 Lunch Break


13.30pm15.25: 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 was to emerge in struggles against dictatorships, state repression, and colonization, across the United States, France, Mexico, Brazil, Northern Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Spain, and Germany.


The events of 1967 and 1968 have defined global historical consciousness since, but their legacy has arguably waned in the wake of decades of under-development and repression in the Middle East and, elsewhere, the ascendancy of neoliberal capitalism. Nevertheless, 1967 and 1968 have recently re-emerged as problematic cornerstones for both 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?


13.30 – Introduction: Omar Kholeif

13.35 – Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige in conversation with Anthony Downey

14.00 – Propositional Futures I: Khalid Abdalla (Mosireen)

14.25 – Lecture: Tarek El Ariss

14.50 – Discussion and Q&A with Audience (moderated by Omar Kholeif)


15.15 Break


15.3017.30: 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 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 will discuss what a future arts infrastructure might look like across the Maghreb region to begin with, and will question how the role of artists and institutions could change both regionally and globally. We will finally ask: 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?


15.30 – Introduction: Anthony Downey

15.35 – Panel Discussion: Zineb Sedira, Abdelkader Damani, Omar Berrada, Amir Mousawi* and Marcos De Andres* (*AMBS architects). Moderated by Anthony Downey

16.30 – Propositional Futures II: Bassam El Baroni.

17.00 – Q&A with Audience (moderated by Anthony Downey)

17.30 – End


17.30 Drinks Reception (open to public)


19.0020:15: States in Time a film screening in the Starr Auditorium, curated by Omar Kholeif.


This programme takes the notion of the ‘state’ as its starting point. What does it mean to imagine a state – a state of being, of consciousness, of lived experience? As we move into the future, what will the world look and feel like? The artists and filmmakers in this programme, many of whom are presenting UK premieres, explore relationships of power, globalisation, and political imagination in unique ways. Shifting through time – from the present to the future and back to the past – their films pose questions about the changing nature of statehood and the idealism associated with it.


The Goodness Regime (2013)

Jumana Manna and Sille Storihle

HD video, 21 min, UK Premiere.


Kempinski (2007)

Neil Beloufa

SD video, 15 min.


Farther than the Eye Can See (2012)

Basma Al Sharif

13 min, UK Premiere.


Pipe Dreams (2012)

Ali Cherri

In Arabic; English subtitles. 6 min, UK Premiere.


Tied and True (2012)
Wu Tsang and Nana Oforiatta-Ayim

HD video, 7 min.


Tickets and further information can be found here: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/conference/future-imperfect

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