No one knows what doesn’t yet exist. But identifying possible, probable and preferred futures can help us understand the present and the past. The plural is important; it reminds us not to try to predict the future, one single future. Just like art, futures studies (also called foresight) is more than a discipline. It is practice and method, a roundabout tour of understanding rather than a straight path to knowledge.
We wanted to bring professional futurists together with artists, to see what they might have in common and how they might question each other. Therefore we composed ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ around the ‘four futures’ that Professor Jim Dator of the University of Hawaii proposed in the late 1960s. He identified ‘continued growth’, ‘collapse’, ‘discipline’ and ‘transformation’ as generic images we may use to envision preferred futures.
‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ wants us to think associatively and critically about things to come rather than looking back at how previous periods imagined ‘the future’. It uses the basic tools of exhibition-making – authors and audiences, pictures and stories, surfaces and spaces – to probe some possible futures. How shall exhibitions stimulate our thinking? Must they become immersive environments to lure us away from our screens? How autonomous will they, and the art and artists they feature, be in relation to the rest of the world?
The public programme for ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ is a series of workshops addressing specific themes to do with futures and with Antwerp, such as art, fashion, architecture, global trade, education or the welfare state. The international futures conference ‘Design, Develop, Transform’ takes place at M HKA on 16–17 June. See muhka.be and ddtconference.org.
We thank all participants and supporters of this experimental venture!