Jeu de Paume (online), Paris – França, 2020
aarea.co (online), São Paulo - Brasil, 2020
October 21st 2020 to 5th January 2021
Click here to see the work
From 21st October 2020 to January 2021 aarea occuped Jeu de Paume's Espace Virtuel with Le Futur d'avant, a curatorial project that presents a series of commissioned works that debuted over the months, starting with Leticia Ramos (Brazil). The program also featured works by Marguerite Humeau, Jota Mombaça, Catherine Dufour and Jean-Marc Ligny, among others.
About Le Futur d'avant
Le Futur d'avant departs from the genre of science fiction to remind us that we have the power to formulate other possibilities for the future. If the future is a projection, or a fiction, what kind of narratives do we want to project in order to imagine a future that is more engaging than the uncertainty of our present situation? How can art help us to envision them?
In her essay The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (1986), science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin analyses the recurring story that is told about the development of mankind and explains that, being an aging woman, she feels no connection with the heroic figure of the “mammoth hunter”. However, there is a narrative for her and for the many other people who are excluded from this brave myth: from the Palaeolithic to prehistoric times, humans mostly ate foods gathered in nature (plants, seeds, small animals, etc.), not the meat of large prey that involved hunting. Le Guin then asks why we don’t recognize and tell more stories about the invention of the bags, containers, baskets and bowls that met the primary needs of carrying and storing food. This story, however, may not be as exciting and engaging as the male narrative of the adventurous hunter. In her writing, Le Guin set out to write science-fiction novels that work as a kind of “bag”: one that not only contains the myth of the bold hero, but also beginnings without ends, spaceships that get stuck, missions that fail, more tricks than conflicts and far fewer triumphs than snares and delusions: “Finally, it’s clear that the Hero does not look well in this bag. He needs a stage or a pedestal or a pinnacle. You put him in a bag and he looks like a rabbit, like a potato.”
In most of the classic works of science fiction the same power structures present in our current society are replicated. Their narratives are centred around the male who explores, while women and persons of colour relegated to secondary roles – they are not the ones building new cosmologies and developing technologies. Looking at science-fiction that is written by multiple voices might provide an opportunity to imagine other future worlds that do not reproduce the same structural traps in which we find ourselves today.
Octavia Butler’s Parables books, for instance, provide a provocative counter-narrative for thinking about the current commercial exploration of space promoted by the heroic “mammoth hunters” of our times, capitalist billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Butler’s space mission is founded on a collective dream so radical that it must be projected in space.
What kind of world-making do we want to take forward? The artists engaged in this reflection on science-fiction do not neglect the past when seeking clues for thinking about the future. They see technology as a tool for the preservation of ancestral knowledge and the imagining of alternative realities.
About Leticia Ramos's Null Island
The Future d’Avant programme of Jeu de Paume’s Espace Virtuel opened with Letícia Ramos’s Null Island, curated by aarea.
Null Island is located at 0°N 0°E, where the prime meridian and the equator cross. The location is marked by a buoy in the Atlantic. This hypothetical place exists only in mathematics and cartography: it was created so that other places could be indexed on a map.
At a weather station in Antarctica, a scientist and a robot talk to each other. In Letícia Ramos’s Null Island, science is the backdrop to a story that speaks of isolation and loneliness. We follow the scientist’s perception of a strange phenomenon that appears in the polar landscape: a metallic sphere that cannot be captured by cameras and is visible only to the organic eyes of humans and animals. The robot – a form of artificial intelligence that controls the cameras and has been living there for a long time – cannot detect the sphere and this disagreement about what is being seen triggers more subjective and existential conversations between scientist and robot. The temporality in Null Island is fluid, going back-and-forth; present and past refers to a hypothetical future that depends on the viewer’s interactive choices. The current time appears in the work through data produced by a live streaming seismograph, telling us about the state of the ground where we live.
Null Island was constructed using appropriated images from webcams located in the Dark Sector of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. There, live cameras provide one photograph every 90 seconds, which Ramos spent months capturing and then compiling into a stop motion animation. The natural phenomena that occurred in the landscape were then condensed: hours of film turned into seconds, revealing natural phenomena that would be invisible to the human eye because of the extended temporality. Null Island also contains footage taken by Ramos in Antarctica, together with images produced with models in her studio in São Paulo during the lockdown.
www.aarea.co is an online platform founded in 2017 to showcase artworks created specifically for the internet. aarea's website doesn't feature fixed elements such as logo, texts or links that are not a part of the artist’s work. Each edition presents a single project and the featured artists have all been challenged with creating a work whose only vehicle is the internet, most doing so for the first time. aarea’s activities extend beyond its website, promoting a broad public program in partnership with other institutions, doing curatorial projects, seminars and other projects.