TAZ: exploring emerging scenarios through performative fiction

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote about my final project process. During the past weeks I have been trying to take action and get out of the theorizing loop. This is one of the main learnings I am doing process-wise. I tend to get too hooked up into the process of  meaning making and theoretical scaffolding. Funny that one of the most repeated advice that I give to students while tutoring final projects is difficult to me to overcome. That’s why I am trying to bring into the world different actions and pre-totypes in order to explore, from different contexts and grammars, the dimensions of my research topic.

As I already summarized in a previous entry to this blog, I am exploring the possibilities of developing alternative aesthetics and politics of self-organization in social systems. Last month I found an open call from an emerging artists art congress in Vitoria-Gasteiz around the art of the future and the future of art and decided to apply. One of the hypothesis we’ve working with in the Performing Transitions research work is that inoculating bodily practices into art and design could set a richer, deeper and more meaningful arena for exploring alternative imaginaries of the future. That’s why, given the topic of the congress, decided to test the hypothesis through performative action and, incidentally, explore some of the topics of my project. 

Along the research phase I have been exploring different frameworks, tools, concepts and practices around political participation and decision making. One of the ideas that popped out couple of time was that of Sortition, or randomized democracy. Although it’s a pretty old idea (already put into practice, among others, in old Greece and also in different present experiences such as in Canada, Ireland, Iceland…) it has gained some recent momentum given the exceptional times we are living. Paradoxically the congress coincided with the opening of the COP 25, one of the living examples of the inability of political power structures to deal with the complexity of climate change by bringing forward the radical action needed to confront climate change. 

The main goal of the action was not too much to explore the pitfalls and potentialities of sortition but to explore arts as a medium to prefigure potential presents/futures. It was a pretty short action but already brought some interesting learnings around how to design this interventions (many of them informed by the prolific history of LARP movement around the world). 

The action

TAZ (Temporarily Autonomous Zone) is an action-exploration of the potentialities of embodied intelligence (mind-body-space) and performance as a support for citizen futurization practices. In a historical and social moment of “slow cancellation of the future”, in which the climate and socio-economic model crises highlight our inability to socially imagine alternatives to the official future, we want to reaffirm the potential of art to foreshadow emerging futures. 

The history of art (and magic), as a third space alongside science and religion, has left us an infinite number of fictions, some of which have been politically sublimated as our current realities. It is precisely the enchantment of art that, through the suspension of disbelief, activates the narrative, political and economic machinery capable of crystallizing these fictions. Because of this, the control of the imaginative (or narcotic) force that art supposes has been a battle horse through which power has tried to sustain its self-fulfilling narratives and prophecies. The neoliberal project and its rhetoric anchored in the technoutopian and singularist myth perfectly exemplifies this force of colonization of our imaginaries. 

Today more than ever we need to reoccupy the space of art in order to confront the disfiguring processes in the making through social learning and a resituation of art in everyday life that allows us to be better equipped to imagine and prefigure worlds that are worth living. In the face of the great totalising narratives that try to turn the map into territory, we believe it necessary to explore the immense folded extensions of the map. Transit the possible eutopias. However, the reconquest of these mechanisms at the service of the common good must also imply an overcoming of logocentrism in which somatic and performative practice as well as incarnated and interpersonal forms of understanding reality are configured as new centres from which to think about ourselves. 

This intervention is part of an ongoing research led by HOLON which, since 2018, has been running an action research laboratory called Performing Transitions (PT) to explore the potential of art to participate in the much-needed socio-technical transitions we face as a civilization.

PT interweaves embodied intelligences, somatic practice, performance and play with design and art to offer a critique of the present from multiple points of view in the imagination and action of history(s), present(s) and future(s). The project aims to consolidate and produce knowledge in the complementary but often contradictory behavioural, social, technological, political and cultural developments to inspire and stimulate collective and individual agency towards preferable visions of socio-economic and cultural transitions. PT presents us with the opportunity to play in the dark and embrace the unknown. It provides us with a means to explore new frontiers of performance, collective imagination, mythology and worldviews that illuminate the transition paths to alternative and more sustainable futures.

Elements in place

  • Narrative elements: narrated contextualization of the situation through music and written text.
  • Character-role exploration: we used an adaptation of Jung’s archetype both as a playing element and a critique of the simplification that can entail a poor/bad/superficial social group representational strategy in sortition processes.
  • Video animation: representation of power structures and agency using the urban infrastructure as a visual metaphor and irony.
  • Randomness and power of the algorithm: using bingo game as a cultural icon.

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