21 Tracks for 2120

Dear 2120,

As 2017 marches on relentlessly, providing shock, awe, frustration and disbelief in equal, abrupt measure, Regular Joes like me are left in the dark as to what kind of world we’re entering. The nature of truth seems to be in a state of flux. In the age of social media, it’s clear that the age-old axiom: ‘there’s two sides to every story’ is becoming increasingly irrelevant on an interconnected planet where people are flocking, fugue-like, to the internet to give their two cents on anything from a man getting kicked off a plane to Trump’s intervention in Syria.

Adding to that, powerful and persuasive propaganda machinery is working overtime to sway the hearts and minds of the global population, creating more confusion, less transparency and a consistent blurring of reality. There isn’t necessarily two sides to a story; there’s around three billion of them – all piled up on Facebook Twitter, Instagram, etc., in angry, sad, elated, euphoric and ultimately conflicting, little soundbites empowered by technology.

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A strategy of coming to terms with this overwhelming, new uncertainty and its byproducts of paranoia, anxiety, apathy and moodswings, is attempting to grasp the elusive, incomprehensible hyperobjects governing our reality, so that they can be expressed, communicated and felt in immediate, comprehensible ways. Condensing your reaction into music is one way of going about this. What’s more, not only does music resonate and speak to the visceral complexities of the present, it has the added benefit of hinting at the future, as French theorist, Jacques Attali, so boldly points out in his book: Noise: The Political Economy of Music:

Music, an immaterial pleasure turned commodity, now heralds a society of the sign, of the immaterial up for sale, of the social relation unified in money. It heralds, for it is prophetic. It has always been in its essence a herald of times to come. Thus, as we shall see, if it is true that the political organization of the twentieth century is rooted in the political thought of the nineteenth, the latter is almost entirely present in embryonic form in the music of the eighteenth century.

In the attempt to traverse the insurmountable barrier of time and communicate with you in a language you’ll experience more directly, the language of music and emotion, we’ve compiled a playlist that echoes the tumultuous now while potentially hinting at things to come.

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Obviously, a list directed at you guys living a hundred years from now, needs to be edgy and forward-thinking AF (Translation: As Fuck), which is why I’ve enlisted the help of my good, knowing and capable friend Tobias who DJs and also works at Vice, a company specializing in being down with the cutting-edge kids and their next-generation-shenanigans.

So, from the downcast soundcapes of Kuedo, Sd Laika and Actress to the grand lamentations of Arca and the frenzied, celestial trance of Lorenzo Senni, we hope you’ll dig the Letters to 2120 selection when you have a minute to disengage yourself from whatever futuristic activity you’re currently involved in.

Erosion Flow

Dear 2120,

If you have a moment to spare away from the futuristic sounds being channeled into your technologically enhanced ears via your retinal interface, I’d like to introduce you to a thoughtful young man from Copenhagen instilled with a prodigious talent for making evocative, electronic music filled with history, memory and uplifting melancholy.

Henrik Koefoed Petersen is a producer/musician who calls himself Erosion Flow; a name that succinctly communicates how he captures the restless flow of the moment in the face of the inevitable, and transforms it into deeply personal, uncompromising dance music infused with spine-tingling flourishes of rave, bass music, house and IDM.

This futurist is of the opinion that Henrik has the required talent, vision and technological wherewithal to create a new musical legacy, and, as the title of my blog  implies, I think it might just remain relevant in 2120. Hell, he’s only 23. If scientific research into cell regeneration doesn’t get derailed, he’ll probably be around when you read this message.

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Make no mistake, Erosion Flow is the sound of 2017. And yet, part of the reason that it feels so unequivocally now is its flagrant disregard for the majority of musical developments and trends happening right now. With a deftly calibrated balance between the opposing forces of past, present and homegrown idiosyncrasies, it resonates a moment time in its stubborn, intuitive inconsistency. Also, I probably don’t need to tell you this, but owing to a certain president, culture tends to get politicized in this day and age. Henrik, however, has chosen a different path. A reflective sensibility with an inherently skeptical approach to politicized intent in popular music – despite keen awareness of his privilege and the global music scene’s uneven power structures. Currently signed to Martyn’s 3024 label, the output is, in the rising producer’s own words, ‘music for the people.’ Freed from gimmicks and actively opposed to religious, political and ideological agendas, it is, simply put, very no-bullshit and pretty great.

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Central to making music is memory. Interestingly, Erosion Flow works in a giant, collective memory bank. Like a younger, dance music version of the BBC archive-dwelling, documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, the Copenhagener works part-time in the musical archive of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation where he digitizes formats of old while soaking up the dusty, analogue vibrations of the DBC’s vast, inanimate music recollection.

One sunny Friday in March I went to visit Henrik with our photographer, Anton, in his two music lairs. Starting out in the archives of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, we had a chat about musical memory, the ethics of sampling and inspirations and influences, finally ending up in his Nordvest studio for a talk about the Copenhagen scene, the politics of contemporary dance music and intuition in the creative process.

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So here we are in the musical archives of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation – what’s it like working here as a producer/musician?

Working at the archives really has made me much more humble. Going through all of the different music has put a lot of things in perspective, especially when it comes to credits on music. That’s also why I don’t sample any of the records here either. I think working in the archives has matured my take on music. And the sampling debate, which has been a hot topic for some years, especially the implicit issues of cultural appropriation, had added to that. All that stuff definitely had an influence on the way I now source my sample material, and has made me think a lot more about my personal relation to the sources I draw upon.

That’s why I’m pretty focused on trying to only use sounds that are of a certain personal significance to me. I still think sampling is great, but I’ve just come to a point where there’s no sense in sampling random stuff; there has to be a connection to the sounds I use. Lately I’ve been running my iPhone through synthesizers, and I’ve found a lot Youtube-clips from stuff like the And1 Basketball Mixtapes and video game interludes, which traces memories back to when I was growing up, so it creates a nostalgic aura in the tracks. Even if it just floats very subtle in the background, it still evokes a lot of emotion for me.

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Did you follow the appropriation debate around Jamie XX and Romare and their use of samples?

Yeah, I did read that stuff. I must say, that I’m in no way the right person to judge, since I don’t know either of their personal relation to the music they’ve sampled. But those incidents, definitely made me reconsider how I personally went about sourcing sounds and samples for my music.

The thing is, that most of the people I know making club music today are, like me, from Caucasian, middle-class, suburban backgrounds. And when I started out making music as a teenager, I didn’t have the knowledge about where the records I sampled were from, or what the history behind them were; I only went after the sound and to see if I could add something extra to the track I was producing. But today I feel very different, and I wouldn’t let myself source anything directly from another artist, to benefit my own music.

I think it’s important that the people doing that also stand accountable and acknowledge where the original comes from.


Does the kind of music you work with here at the archive influence you?
It’s hard to say if there’s a direct influence. I think it’s more of a subconscious thing. It’s inspiring in the way that you’ll stumble across stuff that has a completely different approach to music, than that of my own. For instance I have been digitalizing a lot of the Folkways Records music, which is an American, state-subsidized initiative from the late 1940s created to record and preserve music from around the world, especially tribal music from lesser technologically advanced places on earth. That thing really blew my mind, as to how you can look at music so differently, due to your cultural background and heritage. And even though local hotbeds around on the house and techno scene still exist today, in a broader picture, there is so much stuff you can’t differentiate because everyone is pretty much using the exact same soft- and hardware.

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In the studio.

If we talk about different formats a bit, vinyl has experienced a resurgence, and other obsolete formats like cassette tape are rearing their heads. What’s your take on that?

It’s great that people are pressing vinyl and that the pressing plants are keeping busy! I hope that more will follow to open and that it’s not a short-lived resurgence. But for me personally, it’s never really been about the formats, though. I enjoy playing vinyl when out DJing, but my own releases have always been available digitally as well, and I will continue to make them available. I want my music to be accessible to everyone with an interest in it. And I guess I believe too much in technological determinism to only release stuff on vinyl. I do have a proclivity for nostalgia, but that’s much more about personal experiences. That’s also why I think it’s interesting to use the contemporary, digital hell of Youtube and stuff like that for sourcing sounds, even though many would argue that the sound quality is much better through vinyl- or tape compression. But I think it’s interesting to use current technology, and not romanticize the sound of now.

Youtube is an interesting topic. In his book Retromania, Simon Reynolds makes the case that the platform has played a central part in creating a generation of creatives obsessed with the past by enabling them to make 1:1 copies – by looking at videos as opposed to the creative output that comes from misremembering influences. What’s your take on that?

For sure! YouTube is an extremely efficient portal when it comes to tracing down the ins and outs of any type of production, and it has also been key for me when I started making music. But I agree that there’s definitely a flipside to that. There’s so much music simply trying to recreate the past that is being put out, especially within house and techno. But regarding that, I also think it has a lot to do with the origins of the genres being so closely connected to specific hardware. Like the fact that you could easily create a simple Chicago/Acid House track if you were to get your hands on a 303, 808 and a M1 or even if you found some reasonable digital duplicates of those machines and then found out how to make the “correct” rhythmic patterns, chord progressions, etc.

That thing is definitely hard for me to see the point in; not wanting to risk anything and simply putting the least amount of personality into the music.

In your own music, you sometimes use elements that could be considered classic. What do you get out of that?

I’ve pretty much grown up using what I have had at my disposal. I’m very fortunate to be in a studio, where some of my friends have a lot of vintage gear I can use as well. But it’s never about recreating certain sounds I’ve heard before, it’s much more about digging a bit deeper by blending different sonic textures both digital and analog, and trying to create something unique that also captures the vibe and the feeling I’m having when in the studio. In that way I like to see it as a reconceptualization of various elements from club music’s past, put into a new context.

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How would you describe the scene in Copenhagen?

To be honest, I’m probably not the best at participating in it – but from what I see, hear and the parties I go to, it seems like it’s pretty healthy at the moment!
For me it’s always been about creating my own bubble. This bubble pretty much only includes my close friend Andreas (producer for Saint Cava – ed.).
I’ve learned that if you let too many in, you might lose your focus. It can end up taking the wind out of your sails, and you can loose track of the vision you had from the beginning. I think it’s about creating a balance where you are in a comfortable environment to create independently, but remain susceptible to impressions with a critical sense, so you can actively select the ones that are useful and inspiring to what you’re doing. Growing older and getting more mature has definitely helped me establish the right balance.

There’s seems to be a carefully tuned balance between melancholy and euphoria in your music. I guess you could call it uplifting melancholy? Is that something you actively strive to work into the music – is it something you’re aware of?

That’s a very hard question. Because it’s down to the feeling I have and the atmosphere I’m in when I write the music in the studio. Something I’ve learned from working with Martyn and releasing on his label was that energy is paramount when it comes to club music. But regarding the melancholic elements, I guess it has become a defining characteristic of my music – it’s just the vibe I’m into. I realized that when I made ‘Syvv’ last year; But I like to think it’s more of a withdrawn, reflective kind of euphoria. I think that’s pretty close to my personality. I’m more the reflective type and I need some kind of emotional triggering in music, otherwise it’s quite hard for me to respond to. Making techno tools, even though I love playing them, just isn’t for me. I need to cram as much personality and emotion as I can into my music.

Does the melancholy thing have anything to do with the general state of the world? Do you get influenced by what’s happening around us?

That’s the kind of question that everyone wants to say yes to at the moment, I feel. I mean, of course I’m aware and I definitely think that those emotions are in everyone’s subconscious. But personally, the only political agenda I have is to get my music as far away from politics as possible in a sense. My music is for the people; it’s really not about politics. It’s created as a free space, where all of that can be forgotten for a moment as cliché as that may sound.

Personally I’m quite opposed to religion and ideology, but I respect people living their lives how they want, of course. I’m just personally more into technology and I think that plays a much more important part in affecting positive change for the future.

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Why are you called Erosion Flow?

After loosing my old laptop and all of my music after a burglary, I kind of shifted into a different mindset regarding music. There needed to be more focus, instead of just making tracks with no purpose or no personality. This was around the time when I went out quite a lot in Copenhagen. While we were out, I suddenly started thinking that I’d like a name, which reminded me of that fact that I needed to roll on and keep things fluid somehow. It’s actually the closest thing to a spiritual mindset for me, I guess. If I have any kind of religion I follow, that’s it. So it became Erosion Flow. Erosion is a naturally occurring phenomenon that just happens, and I juxtaposed it with flow, which has these technological connotations – like media that just keep going. It’s not because I want to make it into this huge thing, but it has actually given me a lot in terms of creativity and perspective. In the end, I try to make music in a flow without getting caught up in minor, unnecessary details.

IMG_2133 Erosion Flow artwork by Andreas Vasegaard

www.soundcloud.com/erosion-flow  

Tokyo’s Futuristic Underground Drainage Tunnels

Dear 2120,

This is guesswork and conjecture, of course,  but I have a feeling that the old, Modernist dictum ‘Form Follows Function’ will still be around in your time.

Based solely on the fact that it’s lasted this long, and my own highly speculative gut feelings around architectural development, I don’t see why it should stop being relevant anytime soon. To me, it just seems to make perfect, holistic sense. You guys may use bioengineered, hyper-adaptable, intelligent seaweed instead of concrete, plastic and steel, but ‘Form Follows Function’, as in design driven by function instead of form – in other words, objects or architecture, stripped of all unnecessary ornaments, leaving only the essential functions – has always struck me as intrinsically honest, universally applicable and aesthetically sustainable.

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These tasty tidbits of candy-coated insight are bequeathed to, my esteemed future reader, because I came across a series of photos by Christopher Rudquist documenting Tokyo’s vast, monolithic and extremely inviting drainage tunnels built to prevent the flooding of metropolitan Tokyo during monsoon season. Design doesn’t get much more function-driven than that. And the functionalist architecture is, to me at least, totally mesmerizing in its timeless, utilitarian splendour. The architects of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Tunnels, don’t fuck around, to use the parlance of our times.

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If Japan doesn’t flake on us, the monumental tunnels should still be there in 2120. But even if they get a little lazy and the construction starts to decay and fall apart here and there, it’ll probably still make for a pretty decent outing just outside your  Tokyo megalopolis. Why not bring a date and serve them a glass of synthetically generated, hangover-free wine in the boundless, cavernous, underground space? If that doesn’t get you laid, I’d say you’re a lost cause.

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Control room.

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A shoeless, yet impeccably dressed employee at the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Tunnels gazes into 2120.

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Via WIRED.

Remember the Time

Dear 2120,

Hold on to your quantumhelmets, it’s about to get psychedelic up in this blog.

Did you notice that most of what I say here rests on the assumption of linear time? Writing messages to you inherently presupposes my existence within a temporal arrow, moving in a constant, straight line from the present towards the future. Where my existence stops, yours is roughly about to begin. Recently, however, I’ve come across new ideas, making me recall other ideas hypothesizing that the strange and malleable entity that is human memory could mess ever so slightly with linear time.

Honestly, though, why am I explaining this to you like you’re some future dumbass? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that you’re smarter than me? As a self-proclaimed, incorrigible optimist, that’s what I have to believe. Especially because you’re the offspring of a generation that made it through the manifold hazards and general whirlwind of excrement that is the anthropocene. If that doesn’t take an army of seriously cerebral nerdheads, I fail to see what does.

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Truth be told, I think I’m explaining so much because I want to make it clear that we think about things. That we’re not as dense and uptight as you might think we are. In light of civilization’s developmental trajectory over the last 5-6 thousand years, I think an inferiority complex is to be expected on my part. Anyhow, here goes:

First of all, you could make the case that existing in linear time constitutes a choice. Arguably, it can be considered a state of mind, circumventable through intellectual and creative effort. In an interview with FACT magazine from 2010, this is precisely what psychedelic electronic music producer Daniel Lopatin AKA Oneohtrix Point Never is saying:

I think that maybe people are tired of linear time, and psychedelic music is as good a strategy as any for living in sacred time (…) Psychedelic experiences deny linear time and hint at sacred time.”

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Oneohtrix Point Never – ‘Zones without People.’

‘Sacred time.’ An interesting term in this context that evokes ancient, tribal, circular conceptions of time (as well as a fair bit of contemporary new age-ism). Now, I don’t mean to toot my own heckelfon, but a few years back, I did an interview with Sougwen Chung for Dazed & Confused where I think she touches on similar motifs, visually and theoretically:

‘I think my process lends itself to a sort of natural and trend-agnostic expression. Timelessness is the goal isn’t it?’

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By Sougwen Chung

Notice a theme? To these artists, sacred time and timelessness is preferable to the relentless progression of linear time. Both creatives, I think, create strategies for eloping the straight line of time, maybe as way of making their mark or producing singular works of art. It makes sense when you think about it.

In the name of futurist defiance of good taste, I’ll go further out on a limb here, and make the claim that there’s a special kind of tyranny involved in existing in linear time; in producing and being something that can be nailed and neatly compartmentalized into a specific era. It implies a determinism that paints all of humanity with the same brush, entailing that every generation is born, does their thing for a while, then dies. You lose your individuality and become part of the grey mass of zombies that time forgot. Out with the old and worm-ridden, in with the new, bright, young things. You’re it, then you’re literally nothing and so on.

On the face of it, it seems impossible to change. Time travel is truly a futuristic prospect. But what if you could find ways to challenge the ceaselessly moving train of time? Or at the very least put a small dent in the smug conductor’s ostentatious hat? In the larger scheme of things, it would seem a futile, Sisyphean undertaking. But there are certainly ways to rage against the dying of light with skill and dignity. Ways that could even offer wayward glimpses and cracks into the kaleidoscopic light of nonlinear time.

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Still from ‘Arrival'(2016). 

One of last year’s biggest blockbusters was a science-fiction epic featuring a female lead, a couple of gurgling, grunting, clicky-noise-making heptapod aliens and a creatively relativist approach to time. As Jóhann Jóhannson’s bittersweet, neo-classical soundtrack opens our senses to the ensuing plot, the lead character presciently sets the tone of the story by saying: ’Memory is a strange thing…’ indicating, we later come to realize, that the convergence of memory and time can produce time-relativizing results. ’ SPOILER ALERT: if you were planning on checking out the movie on your 2120 biotech device, look away now.

Towards the end, one of the aliens gives Dr. Louise Banks the gift of existing in nonlinear time. Fortified with her new ability, Louise is seemingly able to see her past, present and future simultaneously, and she subsequently prevents conflict on a global scale in the present because of the alien gift. Certain critics have described Louise’s intervention as time travel, but to me that seems like a simplification that diminishes the intent and ambition of the message while missing the point to some degree. The point being that the convergence of time and memory create relativity.

Arrival’s idea of human memory creating nonlinear time may be framed within a fresh,  original and deeply affecting narrative, but it’s certainly not new as I’m sure scholars and academics can attest to. For my own part, I can’t really refer to academic theory in this instance, but that’s just as well because I’ll go a head and be so bold as to claim that the director, Denis Villeneuve, has pilfered the idea straight from the pilot episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

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In the first episode of the third successive series of Star Trek, the Captain of the space station Deep Space 9 encounters a sacred being relating to the planet Bajor. The alien has special powers and it’s curious about Benjamin Cisco’s existence in linear time, causing it to force him through physically revisiting significant events in his own memory. He’s then confronted with meeting his wife for the first time, her subsequent death, having life-changing conversations with his son and other memorable milestones in his turbulent life. Eventually, it makes him realize that he exists in all of the revisited points in his memory. A sentiment, which is, in my opinion, very similar to the idea expressed in Arrival.

Taking a broader view, it’s also kind of related to one specific concept in an abstract poetry installation created by artist Robert Montgomery:

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Call me an old melodramatic softie if you must, but I have to say I think the latter is an extremely intriguing and engaging proposition. If it’s a proposition we accept, then we’re somehow all able to exist nonlinearly by accessing living memories.

At the center of all of these nonlinear strategies, there’s a bittersweet, fleeting, elusive quality just out of reach, but somehow still present; you can’t really prove or disprove it. In the end, it’s down to what you believe and that’s part of it’s life-affirming appeal. If someone believes that their dead mother exists in their memory, that the connecting neurons transmitting her image resonates part of being, who am I to tell that person otherwise? A jaded asshole that’s who. likewise, if you choose to exist in your memories from time to time in nonlinear fashion, I won’t be the smartass wagging a finger in your face, telling you how naïve and sentimental that is. And you know what? There are undoubtedly so many things we don’t yet know in this world. A hundred years ago, contemporary telecommunication would be likened to magic in most the civilized world when it was just unknown science. What if there are game-changing, paradigm-shifting discoveries to be made at the intersection of memory and time? What if our experiential conception of time is still in the dark ages?

I’m hoping you’ll read this, utter a little, empathetic, future chuckle and think something along the lines of: ‘If he only knew.’

6 Things from 2017 That will Still be Around in 2120

Dear 2120,

Make yourself a nice bowl of synthetic ramen and cosy up in the sentient furniture of your floating, permutational dwelling, because this week’s post is of the lighter variety. After last week’s negativity-fest, I think it’s time to buck up, trust in human ingenuity, and have a bit of faith that we’ll get through this unfortunate moment in history relatively unscathed. Besides, carrying the weight of the interconnected world on your shoulders at all times gets pretty exhausting, if not anxiety-inducing to the point of all-out mental paralysis.

Let’s say, for the moment at least, that we turn the ship around in time by reducing carbon emissions dramatically, leveling inequality, rendering Trump and his cronies harmless and accomplishing all that other stuff, which would get us back on a sustainable track. What kind of world would that produce? And what things from our time will still remain relevant in your time?

As a means of answering that question in a colorful, roundabout way, I’d like to introduce you to the character Eugene Lindsay from Douglas Coupland’s late 90s novel, ‘Miss Wyoming.’

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Still from Thelma & Louise (1991). This is how I picture Eugene. 

The scene: Eugene Lindsay, Ford dealer extraordinaire, is alone in bed making a list in small notepad. Trying to persuade himself that he’s living in a miraculous world in a miraculous time, the former child beauty pageant judge is writing down a range of things, which would astound someone living a hundred years before him:

No. 63. You can get almost any food you want any time of the year.

No. 64. Women do everything men do and it’s not that big a deal.

No. 65. Anybody on the planet can have a crystal-clear conversation with anyone else on the planet pretty well anytime they want to.

No. 66. You can comfortably and easily wake up in Sidney, Australia, and go to bed in New York.

No. 67. The Universe is a trillion billion million times larger than you ever dreamed it would be.

No. 68. You hardly ever see or smell shit.

Now, seeing as this is a futurist blog, I’m going to focus on the future (surprise) and create an inversion of Eugene’s ingenious idea by writing a list of things from 2017, which I think will still be relevant in 2120. In other words, instead of making a list for someone living a hundred years ago, we’re going full 180 on Eugene’s concept by making one for you, the people of the future.

Based on various plausible and implausible sci-fi scenarios, random shit I read on the internet and my own assailable flights of fancy, in no particular order, here are:

6 Things from 2017 That will Still be Around in 2120

1. Quantum Computing.

quantum4Technically, the inclusion of quantum computing could be considered cheating since we haven’t really managed to nail it just yet. However, the good people over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seem convinced that the game-changing advance within computing will be available within the next 4-5 years, so I’ll make the case that’s this is contemporary technology. A technology with the far-reaching potential to make it to your time. After all, according to MIT:

‘Quantum computers could be exponentially faster at running artificial-intelligence programs and handling complex simulations and scheduling problems. They could even create uncrackable encryption.’

2. 3D-printing, Virtual Reality, bio-engineering and the Internet. But mixed up and merged to create tangible, holographic simulations.

Once again, I will evoke the effortless genius of my man, William Gibson, whose visionary contention that the capital F ‘Future’ becomes the lower case ‘now’ is particularly pertinent to the second point on our list. What it means is basically that some of the scenarios that we consider highly improbable if not impossible, borderline magic from the future, inevitably becomes real only to turn into hum-drum reality over time. If technology’s current rate of innovation keeps a steady trajectory, our irrepressible thirst for entertainment and connectivity, will see to it that today’s cutting-edge of wonder becomes tomorrow’s boring, old technological clusterfuck of the mundane.

3. Physical Sex.

This may contradict the second point on the list slightly, but considering how much of civilization in based on sex and procreation, I refuse to believe you guys won’t be going at it like the horny mammals you that you presumably still are. The real thing can’t be beat. (Unless you’re living in The Matrix, of course). On many different levels, sex is what keeps us away from death as the terminally ill Sarah from the movie My Life Without Me concludes in a moment of weathered clarity. Unless you’ve found a way to extend life indefinitely – and I personally don’t think that’s on the cards anytime soon – I bet you’ll all be fucking your blues away just like your ancient relatives here in 2017. (In spite of the curious wave of celibacy, which was all the rage in Japan a few years ago.)

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Photo: Ren Hang 

4. Fictional Narratives.

The inescapable truth about the human condition is that it gets pretty boring. Everyone needs distraction from time to time. Escapism that makes us feel like we could be idealized, unrealistic versions of ourselves. Or maybe we just want entertainment. In any event, whatever technological shape or form the consumption of narrative will take, my bet is that you guys will be reading, listening and binge-watching just as much as us. Maybe binge-immersing?

5. Transhumanism.

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‘the transfinite’ by Ryoji Ikeda.

This is kind of a big deal in 2017. As a generation, we are still very much caught up in the notion harking back to Romanticism that humans and technology are mutually exclusive, oppositional entities. Despite that fact we live in a closed system with no external input, technology being an extension of ourselves that we created. Certain forward-thinking futurists and daring technology fetishists are thinking up extreme ways (by our standards) to blur the nature/technology divide by operating technology into their bodies. It’s all very primitive and proto at this point. You probably don’t call it transhumanism and it’s likely a harmless, run-of-the-mill procedure to you, but I can’t help thinking that this kind of thing will still be around in your time, albeit in a vastly improved, less messy form.

6. Electronic music.

Admittedly, this more of a hope than a rational proposition. The thing that always attracted me to electro, techno, disco and house, its many offshoots and bastardizations, is its timeless futurist sensibility. Its innate, yearning, melancholy understanding that technology is a double-edged sword with the binary potential to set us free or cause our downfall. I realize that this is a long shot. When I listen to most music from a hundred years ago, it takes a lot of effort not to zone out. Still, how can any human being not be instantly mesmerized when confronted with the reverberating sounds of the 808, the squelchiness of the 303 or the undisputed might of the 909?

No Future by Moiré

Dear 2120,

Starting off a post on a futurist blog with the words No Future might seem counterintuitive, but It’s getting prettty intense here in 2017. Unless history has been rewritten and/or altered by some totalitarian overlord in your time, you’ll know that we currently find ourselves teetering on the brink of global upheaval.

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The environment that sustains us is being pimped out by crypto-oligarchs in the name of short-sighted greed; our civil liberties are eroded through omnipresent digital surveillance; the wealth and dwindling resources are concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, creating widespread instability; populist xenophobia and poisonous ideology are sweeping a sizable chunk of civilization; and in the midst of this deeply unsettling slippery slope of counterproductive irrationality, Donald Trump, the reality TV star turned President of the USA, the spray-tanned Commander-in-chief with the world’s most powerful military at his disposal, is getting increasingly irate and unpredictable, declaring war on the free press while orchestrating  boneheaded tweets that reveal his thin-skinned egomania and alarming lack of statesmanship.

Usually, I’d find some way to make light of a messed-up situation, but the state of the world is so goddamn depressing that my optimism has taken a dystopian beating. The future – Your future – is looking pretty murky from where I’m standing.

The good news is that people are starting to wake up from their apathetic, apolitical slumber. Activists from across the spectrum are making their voices heard  and art, creativity and popular culture are finally stepping up to acknowledge their influence and responsibility. Take Moiré, a gifted London-based producer, making experimental techno.

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His latest album ‘No Future’ (Ghostly International), resonates the creeping fear and disorienting  paranoia, enveloping the 21st century metropolis, following the unsightly side-effects brought on by the neoliberal dream of market-driven globalization and the steady descent into economic and political turmoil.

Armed with a potent arsenal of production skills and a refreshingly warped take on house and techno, the former architect effortlessly immerses you in a bleak, yet strangely uplifting wasteland of urban decay and gritty melancholia. It’s somehow always raining on tinted, opague windows in Moiré’s dense, beat-saturated dystopia. While it is in no way a call to arms or a manifest urging us to fight the power, it does in certain ways feel like a first, tentative step towards a kind of redemption. A way of overcoming our fears by naming them. Of solving the problem by shouting it from the rooftops, the shouting packaged in dark, compelling machine-funk.

moiresI’m under no illusion that a techno album will solve the world’s problems. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that we have to start somewhere? To me at least, this feels like some kind of beginning.  If nothing else, ‘No Future’ makes one hell of a soundtrack for dancing into the fire – to paraphrase (the distinctly apolitical) Duran Duran.

Theorizing on the transformative nature of globalization, the recently deceased sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, once claimed that ‘one cannot stay put in moving sands.’ I’d argue that this particular musician has grabbed hold of a bold, illuminating torch to shine a flickering light on the darkened quicksand that we’re all, stunned and robot-like, sinking ourselves into. Whether or not the LP is emblematic of movement, change or mobility remains to be seen.

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Actually, If I’m honest with myself, it feels as if you’re gradually sliding out of view. Like that time in Back to the Future when Marty sees the McFlys fading from the family photo. I don’t mean to sound impotent or feckless, but if you have a time machine, now might be a good time to drop by for a discreet little intervention.

Arabian Nights on Mars?

Dear 2120,

I have to admit that I didn’t see this coming. The United Arab Emirates are now self-appointed contenders in the interplanetary space race, aiming to establish a UAE settlement on Mars by 2117:

The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality.

With little to no space-faring capabilities (to the best of my knowledge), the UAE could be biting off more than they can chew.

Then again, maybe this is very literally old news to you? Maybe you’re actually on Mars speaking Arabic in a UAE settlement as you’re reading this? I can tell you that this seems an exotic if not unlikely turn of events here in 2017. Still, stranger things have happened, I guess.

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In 1955, it was pretty much unthinkable that Japan would overtake the rest of the world in technology and become what sci-fi author, William Gibson, calls: ‘the default setting for the future.’ Back to the Future, a corny but enjoyable sci-fi movie, illustrates the surprise of the power-shift perfectly when time-travelling Marty McFly tells an incredulous Doc Brown that, in the future, Japan is ‘where all the best stuff is made.’

Who knows, maybe it’s time for Elon Musk to eat some Arabian space dust. In which case: peace be upon the United Arab Emirates Mars settlement of 2120.

Hope you’re enjoying the view. Trying hard to contain my jealousy here.

The Lobster

Dear 2120,

I’ve always been obsessed with the future. Obsessed with you, in other words. One of my biggest concerns is how you’ll perceive us. Will you think we’re as stuffy, naïve and unaware as we tend to think the ladies and gentlemen with funny hats and whimsically timid demeanours in Youtube clips from a 100 years ago can be? That we’re as snared by unseen reins and caught up in outmoded conventions as our fuddy-duddy ancestry?

I’m asking for a very specific reason. You see, I think I might just have been offered a  distorted glimpse of the future by way of an absurdist, dystopian comedy called The Lobster. In any event, it’s managed to mess with my 21st century head.

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Featuring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and Lea Seydoux, it turns ingrained, contemporary assumptions about marriage and coupledom on its head through exaggeration, transposition and surrealist distortion of reality; people unable to find a partner will be turned into animals, those unable to stop fighting will be assigned children (‘it usually helps’) and the poor saps incapable of functioning within this love-tyrannical paradigm are left to the woods with the other ‘loners’ where they are hunted and turned into animals if caught by a fateful tranquilizer dart. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re also ruled by a totalitarian leader with a proclivity for mutilation if people step out of line.

the-lobsterAs a comment on the institution of coupledom, I think it works extremely well by laying bare deep-seated norms and convictions via its absurdist, alternate universe where social dynamics are inverted, uncanny and farcical. It’s the old holding up a mirror to society-trick made new and done overwhelmingly well. Critics tell me that the movie has traces of Luis Bunuel. Having never seen any Bunuel, I’ll have to take their word for it. For my own part, I think there’s a definite Orwellian influence as well as a certain expressionist bent with some contemporary comedy followed by dark, visceral intensity.

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It’s serious, yet funny, stupid but smart, conceptually radical, yes visually conservative, constantly surprising and satisfyingly difficult to pin down. There are lucid themes, but no clear-cut message. With the just the right balance between message and ambiguity, we’re left to figure things out for ourselves.

Although it does lose a bit of steam towards the end by disappearing up its own zaaaaany backside (the shock of the new invariably becomes its own kind of permanence), on the whole, its dissection and questioning of our obsession with finding a partner becomes an intriguing, eye-opening experiment that takes a good long while to process. It’s certainly got me scratching my own early 21st century beard in bewilderment.

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The question I’m getting to is if this is any indication as to how we might organize ourselves socially in the future. If marriage and pairing up are oppressive institutions, what does the emancipation from said institutions look like in your time? Massive orgies? Relationship clusters consisting of up 20 people? Fucking and loving the entire world in your beefed-up version of virtual reality? Will you view our constant coupling as backwards and oppressive – a socio-cultural status quo you couldn’t possibly see yourself living in?

Obviously, I don’t know. Quite frankly. I’m jealous that you get to experience it. Whatever ‘it’ is.