I write through waves of iso-fatigue, but with the warm spring winds lifting my spirits. I am also buoyed as I reflect on the dynamic and generative events that were Assembly for the Future 2020 which I am excited to share with you in this update.
There was no blank page. There was no empty land.
There was never a moment that felt like the stage was set
for the world to come.
There was only the unmarked seed,
the garden already overgrown, and between the weeds and the flowers
there was work — there was living to be done.
- Jingua Qian, Still Life (excerpt). Assembly for the Future #3
My collaborators Sophia Marinos, David Pledger and I are catching our breath after a huge burst of real-time, responsive art making on Assembly for the Future. It might seem counter intuitive that we would find such joy and purpose in imagining the future at a moment when time has changed so much, but it really was an antidote to the despair of the present.
Over three events we assembled. Guided by our Usher to the Future, Robbie, Keeper of Time (yours truly) our ensemble of fifteen Moderators, six Artists, six Respondents and three First Speakers over 300 people gathered and built other futures together.
Each of those First Speakers talks, Claire G. Coleman, Scott Ludlam and Alice Wong are now online to view here + Scott’s Love Letter from 2029 was also published in the Guardian. Each Assembly generated ten Dispatches from the Future, two Artworks and a Future Archive piece – and I really encourage you to take a moment to jump in. From poems, to spoken word to a manifesto, a ‘zone drop’, a mission briefing, a vlog and more; the forms and approaches and content are varied but all are transporting and moving their own ways. All in all, the Assembly series generated 49 futures, a new body of work from 2029 – check them all out here.
Alice Wong The Disabled Oracle Society by Joshua Santospirito
This creative burst and the experiment of Assembly for the Future affirmed even more urgently that we need new stories and new visions of the futures – we need hundreds of thousands of them, we need everyone to feel they have a claim on the futures, a stake in them, we need contested, divergent, contradictory demands, arguments about how to get to these futures and a whole lot of new ideas about how to deal with the now. We need to develop a habit of imagining futures that have potential. Only then can we realise them.
The pandemic is throwing into high relief everything that is broken in our current system, our inherited historical injustice, our privatised and carceral responses.
According to Arundhati Roy this pandemic is a cuddly teddy bear compared to the shocks to come from the climate crisis. If we want to deal with these shocks with dignity and humanity we need to centre care, justice and a practice of listening, imagining and creating together in all that we do.
This project is one humble attempt to practice some of these ideas, to invite small cracks of possibility into conversations between audiences and artists – with a hope that this might just influence the ways in which we all think – and act.
It is a very simple and widely used device, but when you speak from the future it does something to your body and to the body of the listener – we are transported, some part of us reacts differently to the possibility.
This is the space in which we are attempting to make work – in the hope that it can unlock a place in all of us to fight for a liveable future for all rather than accepting the rampant inequality and violence of the present.
I am humbled to have been awarded a fellowship with the Bertha Challenge for 2020-21 and this will enable me to make The Things We Did Next my focus for the coming year. So stay tuned, we are currently plotting for next year with plans for more Assembly events, a sound-feature and a book!
In solidarity and with care,
strange bedfellows led
dismantling predatory architectures
artists and farmers in their villages
broken systems cast them aside
changed how we saw culture and Country
they fed the soil
returning what was there
no longer floating
and Country spoke through them
whether they knew or not
And Country Spoke Through Them (excerpt)
By Zena Cumpston
Elders Anthology of Australian Poetry, 2020-2029
Assembly for the Future #2
Newsletter September 9th 2020: