The lack of preparedness that was exposed by the Covid19 worldwide events or by the Fukushima Nuclear Plant’s collapse open up larger socio-political questions that both as an artist and curator I feel I should ask:
- How long will it take populations to understand that there is and there always will be a need to prevent disaster and that, particularly now, politics should change?
- Is it not yet clear that the European Union project has to either evolve in a fully functional federation or disband, since in its current form of selfishly absorbed nation-states it is unable to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century?
- How long will it take US citizens to understand that public services cannot be privatized because the private sector’s short-term interest in cashing in does not align with the public’s general interest to ensure the development and success of a nation?
- Also, will nation states ever be able to convince their bureaucracies that local autonomies and local specific needs are not in direct contrast with an idea of a centralized nation state?
- And finally, I expect that many art organizations will start now to ask what is their role and the role of the artist in a time of pandemic, social, financial, or climate crises. Will art organization be able to develop programs of research and cultural development rather than superficially responding to fashion fads?
The last question is one that I can answer: the mandate of art institutions and of the artist should be that of having the courage to shape cultural and aesthetic agendas ahead of time by anticipating the future and presenting projects that are challenging, unusual, and thought-provoking and able to provide the viewer with multiple scenarios of aesthetic thinking and knowledge. The role of art institutions and artists is certainly not that of running after fashions, corporate dictates, and pandering to and entertaining audiences, like most art organizations have done in order to demonstrate their success. A different aesthetic model — one that is more in tune with and more inclusive of contemporary social, financial, and environmental issues — should be put in place.
In my biennial proposal, Living After the Apocalypse, I wanted to institute a prize named after the former mayor of Fudai in Japan, Kotoko Wamura, who out of sheer vision, memory of previous historical events, and unwavering foresight initiated and supported the construction in the 1960s of a 50 foot sea wall that was able to withstand the force and waves of the 2011 tsunami. His vision, at the time, was considered a folly. Nevertheless, he completed the construction of the wall, saving the lives of 3000 people in 2011. Sadly, he was no longer alive when his foresight saved the very people who had considered him mad and ostracized him for the amount of money that he spent on a wall that they thought useless. This proposed prize conceived for the unrealized biennial, Living After the Apocalypse, was to be awarded to the most daring and visionary idea coming from artists, architects, designers, and engineers.
LIVING AFTER THE APOCALYPSE (The Original Proposal 2011 © Lanfranco Aceti)
Living After the Apocalypse started from the assumption that humanity is no longer able to avert environmental catastrophes: harsher weather conditions, rising sea levels, pandemics, earthquakes, tsunamis, and human made disasters. Therefore, how could we redesign, build, and create communities that are able to survive the collapse of a centralized and inept (at best) system of management of services and production?
The proposal for the [name withheld] biennial, Living After The Apocalypse, embodies a message strongly focused on human agency, following cultural traditions of pro-active and farseeing engagement, in opposition to visual imageries of mere survival — as in traditional dystopian visual representations that only offer and fetishize visions of collapsed and dysfunctional architectural, urban, and social landscapes.
The curatorial concept for the exhibition and the conference, the two main outputs of the biennial, proposes to launch an international message of positivity, empowerment, and human agency. By stressing the word ‘living’ the exhibitions, conference, and art/cultural events will place emphasis on contemporary art, architecture, design, and engineering as the key factors that — by envisaging the future landscape and focusing on retaining living standards in the face of contemporary crises (economic, social, political, and environmental) — will make the difference between succumbing to disaster, mere survival, and living after the apocalypse.
The biennial will launch the message that foresight, advanced thinking and planning, research, and creativity can lead the way in pre-empting future crises and developing new architectural models, service systems, cultural frameworks, aesthetic thinking, and technologies that can ensure living standards even after the apocalypse.
The biennial will reject the idea that the apocalypse is a disaster that communities have to succumb to or that cannot recover from. It will launch a series of initiatives (research groups, project incubators, exhibitions, and cultural events) that by uniting the creativity of contemporary arts, architecture, advanced technology, new scientific thinking, and innovative social models can provide alternative solutions to the traditional representations of inevitable disaster and doom.
The biennial will acknowledge the foresight and planning of visionary artists, architects, designers, and engineers who are able to imagine and present a future for a quality of life in spite of pending theories of doom. The biennial will seek to empower these visionaries and at the same time acknowledge the possibility that humanity, as a collective global force, will not be able to avert the current environmental, social, economic, and political crises that mark the current post-postmodern world. Therefore, those who can should think, invent, create, and act.
Focusing on the spirit that characterizes the hosting country and allows it to present itself as a safe haven, the theme of this curatorial proposal is to present the hosting city and the hosting country as the locus where art, architecture, design, science, media, and technology meet in order to deliver a positive message of future sustainability and resilience despite and in spite of current global representations and incidents of doom and conflict.
The images in the post are from: Elysium, directed by Neill Blomkamp, 2013.
The images in the slider are two sketches of Anemone: The Data Gate, Lanfranco Aceti, 2011.