Don't leave false illusions behind
Opening : 24.2 - 16.00 - 22.00
Duration : 25.2 - 10.3.2022
Saskia Te Nicklin
Curated by Patrick Schabus
Poster Design: The Friendly Facts
“The fantasist can fly straight to the light. But had better, like a moth, watch out—circle round and fly back into darkness. Too direct, it's all lost.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
After decades of suprarealist incursions into the world of phantasms, fiction and ideas there is a slight pushback against the binary view of reality as an antagonist to the world of fictionality.
More and more the idea of a fluid continuum has breached the walls of the realist fortresses that were built in the last millennium. A third way has been opened, an avenue between two roads that were built to drive in different directions at different time intervals.
It seems that a decade of political change was topped with a covidian cherry that activated multiple paradigm shifts at once could bring forth an emergent anti-utopianism as a counter to the ideologies of old, especially when those are felt to be incongruent in terms of their prognosis and outlooks.
This recent age of social singularity has seen a deconstructive decline in utopist ideologies like Accelerationism, Futurism on one side but also a decline of eschatological ideas, giving way to hybrid forms of thought where both pro-techne and anti-techne ideas are brought together.
For many years it seemed nigh impossible that a form of hybrid between Degrowth and Accerlationist thought could rise as a viable thought-net to catch the current moment.
This current development is not a new one, as similar theoretical syntheses have emerged in times of epistemic shifts; to quote Niklas Luhmann: “‘society develops figures of thought with which it can endure the unobservability of the world and allow intransparency to become productive.” A new theory does not need to be completely true, it needs to be built on a basis of epistemic possibility.
The new view upon the future seems to be akin to a re-skinned corpus, where unfamiliar flesh has been reassigned to work in unison with skeletal remains to form a new body. Here and there the new being is still trying to adjust, sometimes it falls flat on its back and at other times the alliance between two disparate entities works against all odds. This is akin to the situation of two ideologies forced to breed a hybrid idea structure.
When we reread cyberpunk literature and compare it to the contemporary world, it could be possible to see certain similarities. On one hand, we have megacorporations, persuasive control of both our emotions (social media) and invasive digital surveillance. On the other side, the whole economy of the world is ever more in danger of crushing itself whenever a previously unknown variable comes into play. While many governments and organizations had conducted research into possible futures, and even came to the conclusion that there was a high risk for a new pandemic, this future seemed all too impossible for the pre-covidian worldview. Ergo any proclaimed future is always to be seen as a mere figment of our collective worldview, an anchor to keep the ship that we name society at bay, but nothing more than an ideological carrot that we will never meet.
There is a certainty in fiction, as we all perceive it to be safe terrain, with no bumps, roadblocks, or holes that could endanger our lifelong fact-discerning mission that is life itself. But not any fiction has the potential to catch the dangers of the current moment so that its stories might be able to represent our present. Fiction that wants to show us a path to a future yet untaught might need to create a form of equilibrium between the known and the probable, especially as many a fiction is not built as a gate into possible futures but only as a mirror for our own misconceptions and half-truths. A quote by R. Salim al-Shabazi comes to mind:” My troubled mind wanders off and my nature is disturbed,I have always remained smitten, longing for drunkenness.” A prognosis that stems from troubled times is built upon epistemic sand, and therefore needs to be virus checked against many dangers of which Counter-epistemology might be the most systemic.
Facts are friendly, but we seldom know how much was left out or how embellished the truth has become. Therefore, the realm of the story, of fiction itself can present a recourse from the game of mirrors that we have to endure in our every waking hour.
And fiction is not devoid of critical agency, it is a realm with powers of its own. Those who can deconstruct a story might be more akin to seeing a lie woven into the fabric of reality, and thus the dissection and reconstruction of fictions can be a way of determining in which ways others and we ourselves can play tricks upon our knowledge of current events.
Regardless of the implications of how often our belief systems endanger our ability to counter incoming dangers we still desperately want to believe in counter-epistemic claims, the Rubicon has long been crossed by those who oppose facts because of political gains. We can now only try to diminish the effect of the constant acid rain of half-truths and virulent lies.
Not only the endangerment of our collective reality is currently at stake as we have also re-entered the space race. While the last race to space was in a way a peaceful fight between the two political blocks during the cold war, this one is driven by entrepreneurs. The age of fiscal individuality has brought us to the possibility that humanhood could develop into a multi-planetarian society. Unless the next human miscalculation brings forth another seemingly uncrossable chasm between our desire for the proclaimed carrot and we will be forced to come up with new ways to bring forth new futures and utopias, soon to be discarded like those before.
We could therefore propose that the previously prophecized future is both now and also indefinitely canceled. Therefore, there is only one possibility: that humanhood will create new utopias and futurist dreamscapes just as it has always done and will do, regardless of how diminished the prophecies of old have become: Hope, and therefore a possibilist outlook into the future will always realign to the changing mental and political landscapes. In this regard, science-fiction can be seen as not only a recreational pastime but as a possibility machine that might enable us to create and find viable futures easier and faster. Maybe if we could reroute the power we invest into the false hope of building paper-thin ideas that are expected to grow fool-proof structures built on fundaments of thawing permafrost to create a viable future for us all and give more agency to the discovery of upcoming problems by raising questions and keeping our knowledge of ambivalent solutions close at heart without succumbing to the false safety of ideologies.
Post scriptum :
When the famous radio broadcast “The war of the worlds” by Orson Welles was first broadcast - a series of incidents happened where an assortment of people started shooting water towers, as they were convinced that such an action would help fight the alien invasion.
Sarah Rechberger's work was kindly supported by ao. Univ.-Prof. DI Dr. Marie Theres-Hauser (Head of the Institute for Molecular Plant Biology in the Department for Applied Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences).