The utopia of technology never quite arrived. In the 1960s, you often hear, we were promised flying cars, space settlements, robot butlers and the end of work. But then, curiously, the horizon of futurity diminished. The Space Age expressed a vertiginous sense of the changes to come. Thirty years later the dawning of the Internet Age expressed merely a deflated resignation to the end of history. The critic Frederic Jameson once said that it was "easier to imagine the End of the World than the End of Capitalism" — perhaps only through science fiction could we glimpse the hidden spaces beyond the prison of the everyday. But ironically, (and inevitably) as the End of the World has crept closer, our sense of futurity has returned. In the heat of another Anthropocene summer, you can survey an art, design and theory landscape obsessed with machine intelligence, delighting in speculation, conducting flâneurie in computer games, imagining marxism for lettuces, sketching programmes for geo-engineering, reflecting on the nature of the post-human.
The future is back, but it’s too early to say if that’s a good thing.
This studio is interested in futurity as a quality of all objects, images and texts. In a sense, all human works reveal an attitude towards whatever is to come – whether the return of Christ in glory, or the final victory of the Proletariat. They are open to reading as speculative – revealing a magnified – or distorted – image of the fears and desires of the present. The most interesting futures are often the ones that didn’t happen, but were meant to, and whose ghostly presence continues to hang over the present.
This year the studio will:
- read and talk about science fiction short stories as a way of exploring ideas about the future
- consider how the future may already be here – just not evenly distributed yet
- read an extract from an alien encyclopaedia and write some entries of our own
- ask how fictions might transform our reality
- think about utopia, dystopia and critical ambivalence as states of mind
- seek to connect design, fiction and theory as disciplines and practices
Suggested readings, resources and preparatory activities
- Watch Keiichi Matsuda’s film Hyperreality
- Look at Mario Klingemann’s Neurography
- Read Alan Moore’s short comic Dr Dibworthy’s Disappointing Day
- Watch Benjamin Bratton’s lecture Remarks on the Hole of Representation in Computer 'Vision’
- Read the Xeno-feminist Manifesto
- Listen to a podcast About Buildings + Cities – try episodes 3, 18, 20, 24, 35 or 39 for starters.
- Read Philip K Dick’s Foster, You’re Dead
- Watch Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace and listen to the 99pi on Project CyberSYN
- Have fun on The Vault of the Atomic Space Age
- Play a computer game. Then try to write a description of what it was like (100 words or so) to an imagined friend who has never heard of one. Then read one of the studies on Heterotopias
Studio 01: Imperfect Theories
Things can lead to theories. They can point to a way of seeing artefacts or objects that is more significant than the thing itself.
Studio 02: Narrative, Storytelling and Time
This studio focus on modes of storytelling and narrative conventions. We particularly focus on time in narrative, and the studio undertakes a brief aesthetics of time and thinks about how art and culture has imagined time.
Studio 03: Memento
The Memento research studio employs a critical, layered and multi-disciplinary approach to the problems around memory and society.
Studio 04: Knowing Audiences
In this studio we will be thinking about audiences, how they can be understood, theorised and researched.
Studio 05: Small Encounters
Emma Davenport and Gina Pierce
Textiles present exciting material and theoretical opportunities for us to think through our practice, to make sense of the world around us in the past, present and future.
Studio 06: Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing
Nico de Oliveira
In the last decade or so we have moved from objects to subjects or audiences. In parallel, the word performative has been adapted from a theoretical term to a key rubric within the discourse of contemporary art, architecture and beyond.
Studio 07: Meaningful Work
"The aim of art is to destroy the curse of labour by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse towards energy, and giving to that energy the hope of producing something worth the exercise." William Morris
Studio 08: The Liminal
This Dissertation Studio examines instances of the liminal as they occur in critical theory and culture, and is open to any topic and students from all disciplines.
Studio 09: The Form of the Text
Studio 9 encourages you to approach the dissertation as a crafted textual project. Through workshops and seminars we will consider some of the elements and activities of which the dissertation is comprised, and look at innovative and exciting ways to work with the form of the text, and the act of building it.
Studio 10: Science Fiction Futurity
The utopia of technology never quite arrived. In the 1960s, you often hear, we were promised flying cars, space settlements, robot butlers and the end of work. But then, curiously, the horizon of futurity diminished.
Studio 11: Commonism
Commonism – with an o in the middle – explores how political activism, participatory design processes, interventionism, collective action and shared authorship are transforming the world of art, architecture and design.
Studio 12: Globalism
For good or ill, we live in a global world. Whilst this may appear to be obvious, globalism is only a relatively recent term as is the phenomenon itself. What do we mean by this? How did we arrive in this place?
Studio 13: Data Stories
Dissertations produced in this studio will be informed by critical research into how data is collected and then used as raw material with which to make or mediate architecture, design and art work.
Studio 14: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture, and Liberation through Music and Performance
This interdisciplinary studio reflects the widening of music and film studies in the last thirty years to include popular music, and popular culture linking art, music, film, advertising, social issues and minority struggles for liberation.
Studio 15: London Walking
Walking as a mode of art practice has its roots in the Dada and Situationist movements of the early twentieth century, with significant developments during the conceptual ‘turn’ of the 1960s.
Studio 16: Souvenir
This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past. It considers the role of memory and how it is embodied in cultural artefacts.