Future I


Are our ideas of what the future will bring limited today to the next generation of iPads and 3D television sets? Apart from dystopian scenarios (global warming, total surveillance, ...), grand concepts of the future command little political or media prominence these days, while engagement with utopias and radical social blueprints does however constitute an important theme for contemporary art and theory. Indeed, the thesis is often put forward that the utopian has left the realm of the social to find its way into the cultural arena. This premise is the point of departure for our program »Future 1.» The program presents artistic practices and theoretical approaches that examine future and utopia within the context of the conflicting priorities of political realities and aesthetic propositions.
          In the exhibition »Atlas of Fantastic Science» we present an excerpt from the Július Koller Visual Archive. Július Koller (1939–2007) was one of the foremost artists of the latter half of the 20th century in (Czecho)Slovakia. Starting in the 1960s, Koller amassed a huge one-of-a-kind archive of pictorial materials from diverse print media, which is today administered and handled by the Július Koller Society. Koller documented in this archive both the culture of popular imagery in socialist society as well as his own idiosyncratic relationship as an artist to the function of art in such a society.
By collecting, organizing and commenting on mass-produced imagery from newspapers and (popular) science and technology magazines, Koller pursued a critique of the ideological manipulation of the populace through media, while at the same time using elements in the archive for his own artistic work. Characteristic of Koller’s practice are his critical, experimental and ironic pieces that straddle the boundary between reality and fiction. His concept of »cultural situations» is central here. A lecture devoted to this topic will be held by the Slovakian art historian Daniel Grúň, who is currently working on a research project about the archive. Koller’s (con-)fusions of everyday realities, state-mediated faith in progress and technical euphoria, as well as elements from pop culture, allowed him within the scope of his »Universal Futurologist Operations (U.F.O.)» to question both the role of the media as conveyor of (invented) truths as well as that of the artist as visionary.
           A different connection between communist policy and a radical aesthetic approach is treated in the film »The Future will not be Capitalist» by Viennese filmmaker and artist Sasha Pirker. In the early 1970s the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer designed a headquarters building for what was at the time the still-prominent Communist Party of France. Pirker’s film looks at how this building with its futuristic qualities relates to the present-day crisis of left-wing political projects, as well as the efforts made by the CPF to arrive at a pragmatic way to handle its architectural heritage and political ideals.
          The philosopher Boris Buden pursues in his lecture the question of what »post-communism»—beyond its function as unsatisfactory descriptive formula for ­former socialist states in »transition»—means for our present-day concepts of future and society. Buden develops this line of inquiry along the provocative alternative of »either a society without a future or a future without society.»
          In the second exhibition this summer semester, Inge Vavra ties findings on human awareness of time and on memory and forgetting from the realm of perceptual theory together with reflections on the practice of art production. Situation-related interventions in the structure of the art space form the physical framework for an engagement with media and personal images in which subjective meaning is produced by way of selection and exclusion of sensory impressions or information. In her basic aesthetic research Vavra investigates how people react to images and process them in their imaginations. She is also interested—with respect to the inherent potential of artworks as well—in the question of reception, specifically in what the necessary conditions are for a productive connection between external impressions and subjective experience, whose memory traces help to shape ­people’s emotional reaction to what they perceive.

Christian Kravagna, Hedwig Saxenhuber