17.02 – 02.04.2023, INDECIS artist run space, Timișoara
Ștefan Tiron, V. Leac, Sergiu Sas
Ion Dumitrescu, Ing. Nicolae Stăncioiu, Alin Răuțoiu, Carolina Vozian, Centrul Dialectic (Mihai Lukȧcs & Bogdan Popa), Jean Lorin Sterian, Marius Lefterache, Cătălin Ghercioiu, Koter Vilmos, Irina Gheorghe, Laika, Timotei Drob, Kaps Crew, Mimi Ciora, Linda Barkasz, Silvestru Muntean,Declan Clarke, Alexandru Ciubotariu, gH. [ d s l x ], Mihai Sava, Vlad Cadar, Felix Petrescu.
NEW TEMPOREALITIES: The Xenogeneses of SF INDECIS, Timișoara 2023
What happens if what is supposed to happen doesn’t happen?
No prehistoric monsters and radioactive mutants such as Godzilla trample our cities and chew on their electrical power lines, like the one Ishirō Honda’s unleashed in his classic from 1954.
No villainous exploitative extraterrestrials trying to xenoform our Earth and suck dry its precious resources, after they finished devastating their own mother planet, like in Emmerich’s Indepedence Day from 1996.
No parasitic fungi contaminating the last human minds, while using human bodies as compost after a global outbreak while manipulating our behavior, like in the latest HBO series The Last of US, 2023.
Apparently, the full gamut of pop cataclysmic SF tropes cannot prepare us for the crude realities of investments and divestment, of out-of-control prices and unstoppable inflationary forces, scorching summers and the state of unpreparedness in front of a global pandemic. It cannot prepare us for the blatant militarism and neo-imperial wars compounded by vested interests and carbon ideologies. It will not appease or diminish those real fears that feed into anti-democratic fascistic ethno-populism, encouraged by long-term fragilization and ever widening inequalities.
What happens when these enormities and impossibilities will not easily dissipate like a bad dream, and will start dictating the rhythms and spasms of capital in a definitive and inevitable way?
Swept away by these evidences, how can we endure after the aesthetic and political-economic bludgeoning of implacable and self-destructive “entities”, that still haven’t found their place in SF, be they crushing world championship, Olympics and other prestige garnering mega-events with an immense and maybe immeasurable carbon and social footprint.
What cultural work do science-fictional arts accomplish and how do they uncover the subjacent fragility of the worlds? What alliances do they weave and in which communities, in what planetary and exo-planetary practices do they find inspiration and learn to navigate from? Who’s coordinating perspectives will attend to the needs of the ones left back on the ground, without a ticket on the spaceships of multi-billionaire inventors?
Today, we cannot carelessly march towards a total future that was cruelly built on the backs of others and on the depredations of the Global South and that recognized only a single ascending progression, willfully ignoring other temporal dynamics, other populations, other beings, sentiments, experiments and experiences.
We will enjoy a common future, only if competition and domination will be subordinated to care and nurture at the greatest scale.
So we are less interested in the old anticipatory function of SF, its creative-predictive effort and output, that has been deemed a characteristic of a literature that was defined (even in the Romanian context) as the genre of anticipation literature (literatură de anticipaţie). Nor can such a significant definition of XX century SF by Darko Suvin as the literature of cognitive estrangement any longer give due credit to these enfolding SF Temporealities. Instead, we should maybe continue learning and understanding from its speculative and fictional (ştiinţifico-fantastic) flights so that we may sometimes galvanize our affective, scientific, imaginary and even metaphysical dimensions with intensities and elements that elude both human prediction and computational methods to predict a future event or outcome.
Almost without deciding on it, SF forces us to face what is the unthinkable and unanticipated, exposed as we are to the extremities and enormities of tomorrow. “We are living in SF times” – is not enough any longer.
Lacking the techno-scientific arrogance of the XX century, a XXIst SF will not suppress the complexity, the materiality and abstraction of the worlds we live in, and will be more and more attentive to the value and solidarization of worlds. It is a SF interested in human societies and human consciousness as only an instance out of many alien and non-human majorities, endowed or not with a consciousness of their own, artificial or not, most of which do not overlap with what was long considered to be a neurotypical mind. Leaving behind such a narrow restrictive sensorium and limited experiential range has been the unspoken aim of much contemporary SF that has finally managed to consistently describe with meticulous care the long-overlooked neurodiversity and pluralism of inter-species corporeality.
SF stopped being just a nostalgia compass for groups of middle-aged boys – and became a phenomenon harder and harder to encompass and totalize, because its vision is now decidedly more cosmopolitical, cosmo technical and cosmopolitan than ever before. As such, it is now visibly and understandably non-Eurocentric, non-Western, and quite often intersectional and decolonial. Even if our exhibition does not reflect this variety, it searches for the inklings of such a premonitory light – a Vorschein that in the words of Ernst Bloch announces the new and prepares the futural.
In 1988, as the French philosopher Guy Lardreau was searching for the legitimacy and metaphysical necessity of fiction – he leaned on the work and thinking of Leibniz, finding in SF an important relay at the time when neither philosophy, nor religion, nor science seem to be able confront the ultimate consequences of their own ideas. For him, while philosophy can not negate the findings of science any longer, fictions and SF by extension, will still allow us the speculative acrobatics needed in order to go where science cannot go and may never go. That is because SF is sensitive not just to the realm of possibile but more about the compossibile (*in a Leibnizian terminology) that permits other possibilities to coexist and cohere.
NEW TEMPOREALITIES: The Xenogeneses of SF was an exhibition from the year 2021, developed as “an open invitation to traverse various timelines of newly imagined histories, brimming with speculative worlds”. At that time, together with Alexandru Ciubotariu and Vasile Leac, we wanted to “imagine and explore together the modalities and material conditions that allowed such worlds to thrive, multiply, support each other, become permanent and eventually fall into ruin” and “partially try and follow such aspirations, consequences, deviations, specific to the Sci-Fi phenomenon, while highlighting accumulated side-effects that tend to spill over well beyond such speculative world building sites.”
We never wanted and never could teleport the already-existing materials from a show that was carefully nested and spread inside the Residency 9 space in Bucharest to Timișoara, at the INDECIS gallery. Emboldened by the new, by processual incompleteness and a certain partiality, we tried to be open to the situatedness of a Timisoara SF. Our xeno-curatorial approach attempted, with the help of Indecis and Rezidenta Scena9, to follow up on some of those initially sketched lines of flight.
Thus, we also tried to understand why around 1989 African American author Octavia Butler finished her ground-breaking trilogy Xenogenesis, also known as Lilith’s Brood, who’s importance for the trajectory of planetary SF we are only nowadays starting to appreciate. Also what remains to be appreciated is the contribution of the Romanian eco-socialist Return to the Blue Planet SF anthology, also published around 1989, shortly before the Romanian revolution. We could say that, with the Xenogenesis of SF in Timișoara, we have tried to bridge over these two end-points, separated by space-time but entangled by their open, philosophical and xenophiliac vision.
NEW TEMPOREALITIES: The Xenogeneses of SF is an itinerant project in Timișoara at the INDECIS space.
The exhibition was produced in 2021 by the Ephemair Association, together with Fundația9 and presented at Rezidența9 in Bucharest with financial support from BRD-Groupe Société Générale, AFCN – Administration of the National Cultural Fund and Goethe-Institut Bucharest.
In Timișoara this project continues in partnership with Foc & Pară Association, of the INDECIS collective and is part of the Cultural Program “Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture” financed by the Municipality of Timișoara through the Project Center, co-financed by BRD-Groupe Société Générale, Fundația9 and the Ephemair and Indecis Association.
Partner: The National History Museum of Transylvania.