Life, life support and the afterlives of (im)possible worlds


Stories, scenarios and situations. They can be tools, techniques, or ways of testing assumptions. How to bring to life the stories of worlds around us? How can scenarios help us prepare for their externalities, for everything other than a scenario? Incessant adaptation to uncertain situations and the inexplicable present is becoming an essential survival skill for most contemporary humans, whether by choice or necessity. Tumbling from one urgency to another, acting with incomplete information, engaging with wicked problems and dealing with unintended consequences is just as much a personal and social circumstance as it is the purview of governments or institutions. How to develop capacities to cope with increasingly complex uncertainties in our daily life and in the worlds we inhabit? How to enhance our sense of agency amid chaotic external circumstances or internal transitions? How to bring futures to life for individuals and collectives dealing with problems caused by chronic (un)certainty?

Some suggestions we propose include ways of examining and diagnosing the most critical uncertainties. Along with scenario building, future prehearsals, and RADMIN interventions we might resort to strategic unplanning, VUCA therapy or targeted situational awareness to reduce acute symptoms. The time-honoured techniques of running away, hiding, and giving up are also presented as viable options. In situations of global instability (such as a war or pandemic), we may need to apply palliative, rehabiliatory or emergency approaches to becoming comfortable with uncertainty. When circumstances become too hostile, we might need a sanctuary (or sanatorium) for alternative futures, the unattainable, the unwanted and endangered futures that can not exist in the present. A seedbank. A refugia. A nursery for propositions to germinate. Sometimes, bringing futures to life (or back to life) can benefit from a position of remove. Sometimes, our possible futures may need a refuge from the world. Sometimes, they may need another world.

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Video adaptation of the lecture-performance by Maja Kuzmanović and Nik Gaffney at the Futures Brought To Life symposium hosted by Time's Up in Vienna, Austria on the 12th of May 2022.

Visual material is generated using Disco Diffusion ("a frankensteinian amalgamation of notebooks, models and techniques for the generation of AI Art and Animations") from text prompts designed for the archetypal deck of Superject, a card game grounded in the speculative philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

Final edit made with Shotcut.

Soundtrack is a remix of FoAM's album "From that historically brief quite opaque moment, came the chaos of our material history, an anarchy of chronology, of mismatched remnants…" available through bandcamp.

Voice over is adapted from FoAM's live reading of text written for Certainty Ltd. and the Anarchive, with quotes from China Miéville, Agnes Chew, Alvin Pang, Gan Kim Yong, Italo Calvino, Srećko Horvat, Lee Hsien Loong, Valery Kaur, John O'Donohue, Wayne Ree, as learnt and repeated by a textgenrnn Neural Network.

Soundtrack edited with Audacity.

Screen-grabs available on flickr.

Thanks to all the animate, inanimate and partially animate entities who contributed to the making of this video.