Spectres of the Future

Curated program comissioned by VISIONS, Montreal, Canada, 2016 

Remnants of the Future, Uriel Orlow, 2008, 17min

Sitting in Darkness, Graeme Arnfield, 2015, 16 min

Friendly Things From the Future, Nicholas Brooks, 2014, 13 min

A Idade Da Pedra, Ana Vaz, 2013, 29 min

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The fascination with ruins arose in the eighteenth century alongside the historicisation of the flow of time, and was just as much about fearing and hoping for the future, as imagining the past. The contemporary obsession with ruins, at a time of the final dismantling of the myths of linear progress, comes from both the anxiety and fetishisation of destruction. It also hides, according to Huyssen, nostalgia for a time when we had not yet lost the power to imagine alternative futures. Uriel Orlow’s Remnants of the Future in its very name alludes to a temporality that does not exist on a linear plane: the future has already come and gone, and its traces are visible in the present. Its subject is an Armenian half built ghost town, an aborted Soviet project – the ‘end of history’ looms large. Ana Vaz’s A Idade Da Pedra is inspired by another utopian project, that of the construction of the city of Brasilia. Weaving together the 16mm texture of the filmed landscape of the far west of Brazil and the CGI speculativeness of the monumental structure, the film blurs the line between a quarry and an archaeological site, the construction of a city and the unearthing of a ruin. The image is suspended between the deep past and the deep future, in the title’s mythical time of stone.

Time Travel has been one of the key motifs in science fiction since the genre’s inception. In 2011 China passed a ban on its depiction in film and TV, leaving its close neighbour Taiwan with a curious advantage – the liberty of exploring non-linear ideas of time. Nicholas Brooks’s Friendly Things From the Future takes place in Hualien, on the quiet coast of Taiwan. Taking inspiration from the cyclical nature of time inferred from Taoism, the water cycles that provide Taiwan’s tropical climate, and the nature of Hualien’s main industry: the manipulation and cutting of stone, the film treats the future as already part of the fabric of time’s cyclical unfolding, present in the landscape and mysterious stone objects, and in the layers and rhythm of the edit. Graeme Arnfield’s Sitting in Darkness explores a youtube-accelerated phenomenon of a mysterious sci-fi drone coming from the clouds over Canada. What sounded like an otherworldly message from the future turned out to be the sounds of a distant catastrophe trapped in the atmosphere for years, and the myriad videos both real and fake remain as ruins of the event: the speed of the networked image creating a lasting monument to the sonically lasting moment.