We're sharing a selection of works produced by the artists of Autograph's online course, PILOT, in response to the theme of 'future', with introductions provided by artist and academic Alberto Duman, who was also a PILOT course tutor.
Taking place during the pandemic 'year that wasn't', the participants sought to collectively find a way to remain future-oriented in a time of chronic uncertainty. Alberto reflects on these conversations further, in an accompanying blog post Mapping Different Futures in Pandemic Times.
You can see more of the artists' work on the theme of 'rights' here, and 'care' here.
Applications for PILOT 2021 are now open.
In Chris Miller’s Me as the Wanderer above a Dead Sea, the artist/wanderer has hijacked the most representative image of the Kantian ‘sublime’ and diverted it into the neurodiverse territories of an art history of the future, claiming that space as the righteous territory of a universal practice of consciousness and imagination, occupying it already as a self-identified "disabled man with a walking stick" armed with fierce paintbrushes.
But in Miller’s version of this painting, spatial and temporal perspectives are ambivalent and speculative. Has the leap into the future already happened? Perhaps the man we see the back of, is not looking ahead into the future from the present, but he is looking back at the "terrifyingly turbulent sea" of our present from the future. Either way, the shift of visual perspective implies also a shift towards an inclusive model of personhood that honours disability experiences and reconceptualises the category of the human from the viewpoint of an anticipated future in which categories are redefined into absence, and the walking stick ceases to be a signifier of disability.
Margate 2020 is a reticent storytelling video of family holidays past and present, haunted by the presages of cancelled future trajectories, appropriately set in the city which was once one of the UK's symbols of the urban 'end of the future/no future' and is now the self-styled success case study for coastal, art-led regeneration: Margate.
Following what feels like an inevitable development - one we do not understand at first - the impassive but somehow caring narrating voice of Kiran seems almost helplessly sentient of everything around it, vigilant and alert, bound by the watchful perception that records it all - history, memory and fiction - weaving together anecdotes like parables of a haunted present, wanting to be seen or set free.
As we become absorbed by the text, we begin to see things in the black screens too, read as deliberate refusals to the overexposure of black and brown bodies and histories captured in the gesturing of institutional entrapment narrated by its author, as well as the 'ghostings' that Jemma Desai excavates in her work This Work isn’t for Us.
Pushed by the persistence of a partially covered screen and the knowledge of a graffiti that we do not see, but are told reads "racism is ugly", we are led to think of that question, asked in retrospect by the philosopher Isabelle Stengers as she reflects on a life unfolding in ‘catastrophic times’: "Was it necessary to resist the manner in which a history, which is first of all that of a capitalism freed from what had claimed to regulate it, imposes its own temporal horizons?"¹
¹ Stengers, I. (2015) In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism, Mason Press/Open Humanities Press, preface to this edition.
The delicately made digital watercolour paintings of Sophia B's Future read like design imperative bullet points, a set of wayfinding boards towards that future. Their words are painstakingly drawn (as in ‘learning how to take the pain’ in the case of Sophia) in an exercise of restraint and careful handling of her digital stylus.
All together, they look like a gentle but determined charter for future travels. They are also a map, a set of demands to be fulfilled, a graceful shout for paying attention and giving care. As Sophia always asserted from the first day of PILOT: ‘The Future Must Be Accessible’
In Scott Caruth’s short film, Future, we are drawn right into multiple dimensions, between actual historical events, chats with friends, anecdotes captured from his window, and the ‘time capsules’ we send to ourselves at key moments of our lives.
We are literally taken into the moments when the ‘flashes of knowledge’ that might reveal the operative ‘conjunctures’ of the present, are painted over the walls of the city - Berlin - at night time, perhaps silencing histories or messages that would otherwise tell different stories? The flashing lights we see are those of the service workers’ van doing that job, but in the overlap between the actual and the fictional that Caruth draws us into, we are simply spellbound to think they might be agents of forces exercising their ‘subconscious art of graffiti removal".²
Most importantly, Caruth’s narration takes us through the artifice of his own making as he tells us of his plan to write to himself in the future a year ago, only to arrive in the present a year later, and when attempting to read/decode those messages, he ends up wondering: “Maybe it will always be too soon”. ...Is there ever a ‘right time’ for the future to unfold..?
² Matt McCormick, The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, narrated by Miranda July, 2001: https://youtu.be/jmdRzqLWU_Y
Afropresentism is the Space jolts all McIntyre's previously given trajectories of time and reaps the offers of multi-temporality in the present: "PILOT brought me back, neatly depositing me at the brink of my own future. Here I am crouched in a forest, yelling at the past, consuming it, digesting it, releasing my anger and putting all energies towards remaining present and in love with being alive, decolonising what I can and able to contribute to creating a best-case-scenario-inclusive-future."
Hanou Amendah’s Future - Etsɔ is an epic dialogue with the Earth gone 'rogue', the witness of all past catastrophes, and summoned to speak with her children in a new language, in which "maybe the future is an unwavering consent to not be a single being" (after Fred Moten’s use of Édouard Glissant words), so that we may see our bonds as subjects more than just human.
"I was trying to conceive of the future differently than from a western perspective and trying to imagine it from the perspective of the cultures I inherited and also from my experiences and readings".
Spoken at the edge of water and land, this ritual of incantation is using multiple languages and concepts (Ewe, Fon and Western) to ask "how do we go about reinventing the conditions of our existence", invoking a different future and not giving in easily to the mores of the present. "In ewe language, past and future are designated by the same word: Etsɔ. Context is the only thing that differentiates etsɔ the past from etsɔ the future. Etsɔ etymologically weaves together past and present and compels one to be inconceivable without the other".
Nadia Rossi's We need a new way to understand this moment is a notation of the journey undertaken within PILOT, a collective 'black box' recording that functions as a map in reverse, emerging from piecing together the floating way-finding markers accumulated throughout the course as an offering of its own value and a legacy.
It is an acknowledgement of the presence of multiple voices in this space, the utter necessity of their layered contributions and those shared experiences understood through the emotional device of "The Overview Effect", the kind of "strange, near-spiritual experience that astronauts report when they look down at Earth from space".
And just like in space travel – when time is experienced and lived differently – Nadia’s edited logging of PILOT records some fragments from the different time experienced in the PILOT space capsule, the floating components of a "non accumulative knowledge transfer device", intersected by the actual events crossing the territory that this map wants to describe: "I’ve only got 5 percent charge left on my laptop...I go to find my charger...My baby wakes up". There’s no holding of a linear temporal narrative in steady shape, and that’s how it’s meant to be.
Autograph's online course will be running for a second year. Based on collaborative learning and working together through issues of rights, care and future, this course and platform offers exchange, mentoring and development for artists in times of uncertainty.Find Out More
Alberto Duman takes us on a speculative journey to reflect on 'the future'
Course tutors Ali Eisa and Alberto Duman on building an alternative arts course in a pandemic
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