CRITICS

Title: At The End of The Future
Author: Valerio Dehò
Year: 2014

“Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question.”
(Samuel Butler, Erewhon: or, Over the Range, 1872)

“…Nobody really writes about the future. All we really have when we pretend to write about the future is the moment in which we are writing. That’s why every imagined future obsoletes like an ice cream melting on the way back from the corner store. It’s going to almost immediately acquire a patina of quaintness; that’s just part of what imagining the future in fiction is about.” (from an interview in Wired, 10 September 2010)

A prehistory
Already in 1920, the Czech playwright Karel Čapek envisages some strangeness in the man-machine relationship, the insurrection of the masses of robots (the Czech word that means “worker”) against their creators, announces not only the insurrection of the masses that railed against the power of anonymity, but it is part of the “revolt of the things” that many writers were telling their envisaged version of the future. Said the bohemian writer: “While I was writing, I was struck by a terrible fear, I wanted to warn against mass production and dehumanized slogans and suddenly I became anxious that it could happen, perhaps soon, that I shall not save anything by my warning, that the same way as I, the author, led the powers of these dull mechanisms where I wanted, somebody else may lead the ignorant mass man against the world and God.”

In Metropolis (1926) by Fritz Lang mechanization reduces man to his own creation ready to be devoured by totalitarianism. In 1931 Marinetti proposes in “The futuristic landscape and aesthetic of the machine” its full confidence in the industrial dynamism, and love for rattling steels and dark diamonds and virile airplanes. The socio-political climate warrants, or could do so, an optimistic view of the man-machine from a totally negative one. Control over things belongs to the certainty of the superman to whom nothing can escape his control, no golem who can fool him. The machines, even those advanced technology cyborgs, bring with them totalitarianism, the end of freedom, the Big Brother or Great Brain who cancels individuals and programs them to work, to slavery, eternal anonymity in the name of total control over their minds and bodies.
There is nothing after man, as there is nothing before. If something changes, in appearance, it is from an epistemological structure that descends from Aristotle. A way of thinking that needs to objectify alternatives to grow and develop: the machine is one of them. The tension of knowing that’s all we have, the philosophers who are afraid to see its role compromise by the omnipotence of electronics and telematics, are simply deluding themselves. As Jean Baudrillard constantly maintained defensively: “Telecomputer Man is assigned to an apparatus, just as an apparatus is assigned to him…the machine does what the human wants it to do, but by the same token the human puts into execution only what the machine has been programmed to do.”

So it was, cyberpunk who announced a gloomy, rainy future, where machines are generated by tentacled Corporations more or less hidden, while we wait for this future we do not know if this has already started or has already finished. Realizing it is not easy because consciousness is something more that needs to be hidden somewhere or inoculated with pleasure and duty by the puppeteers of the interplanetary societies, the space even for technoanarchy is restricted as we know from all major literature and cyber filmography. The happy hypothesis of telematics in favour of the removal of fences and horizontal communication in the projections of the worlds to come is just a nightmare. The exchange of immaterial goods needs a different sensibility and does not see why art should increasingly take refuge in artificial paradises, rather than trying to expand in the interzone.

It is happening even in the arts that the communication of the system of art is becoming more and more suffocating. The closing of the market games (the axis between Germany and the United States for example) reveals the limits of everything new and unexpected. The universality of values ​​that lends itself to too many misunderstandings, it opens the universality of communication. For this reason, even the most remote cultures of the Western Empire now appear protagonists of this, more vivid and true Europamerica that misses the point of balance between history and the market. If as stated by cyberpunk Valmerz “it is perhaps the first poetic-aesthetic category able to fully overcome Romanticism”  This is due to the understanding of the limits of individualism, the affirmation of the trans-nation, the crisis of optimism, of a return to humanity through philosophical and not economic speculation. The return to the roots of cyberpunk mixes hip hop street culture with technology, the need for direct human-human communication with the programmed alterity of the computer. The indifference of the information is surpassed by the participation in the communication, the return to yourself is not lost in the undulations of the memory among the fumes of the ego. The planetary exchange assumes that the passion and intelligence of man living with the programming of the electronic machine, with his being the child and the father of himself. Why is it that since 1947 that when we talk about cybernetics and automation it is scandalized? And if the world neuronal network is increasingly being crossed by libidinal energies rather than the stock exchange, perhaps it means this is something that has already happened. The images travel, from man to computer and vice versa. The place in which it occurs is not certain, the time is now. They are all true like an insult, because there are virtual. Welcome to the iconosphere.

Over twenty years ago, Abraham A. Moles writing of sociology aesthetics in the era of electronic processing attributed mundane tasks to the computer in addition to reproduce and switch between variations of works of art via an unpopular and long realization. In practice, the assumption that “art is programmed sensualization of the environment,” the computer would have work to provide “and promises of new tasks to be executed. It is written here – by the French philosopher – that we must try this transcendence that is the aspiration of the philosophers.” If you subtract the virtual reality from the rules of the show, leaving the crowded loneliness of the interior space of Ballard, there is no doubt that the opened prospects, especially epistemological and aesthetic, are not negligible. A future society of mystics electronically advanced producers of art and interactive culture incessantly exchanged electronically; it may be preferable to total enslavement exchange values. The danger of the virtual self-refenciality of iconicity seems avoided by the virus of the interaction between the machine and the actor-spectator-operator. In some cases the diseases heal.

The best description of the prototype of all computers designed by English mathematician Charles Babbage in 1833, was given to Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, “the only daughter of house and heart” of the poet George Byron. “The machine was once such that it did not require human intervention, now it is man who requires the intervention of the machine without which his own neuro-psychic ability is impaired.” It is as mundane as a phone call, but we cannot detach ourselves from the machines otherwise we have to reorganize our whole brain activity, inevitably linked to the rhythms and high inter and intra communication.

And the art? It must extend to human telematics, that awareness that we have already found in the history of art: an unaware art cannot exist, because it is not art. The same observer must learn from the object, and it is not clear why it should not be against the art produced by virtual reality. The change can be made with the preparation of an aesthetic environment that provides opportunities for global communication between individuals: an extension of the computer networks that expand the sensitivity that democratizes the use extending it to the interactivity of both the mind and body. Is it possible to “make art” without dissolving into global communication? Without that as Jean Baudrillard wrote in “The Conspiracy of Art” written in 1996, became only a part of the world, an appendix, an object, doing away with any illusion, doing without the representation and hence the point of view. “Therein lies the duplicity of contemporary art: asserting nullity, insignificance, meaninglessness, striving for nullity when already null and void. Striving for emptiness when already empty. Claiming superficiality in superficial terms”.

What has been lost is the sense of utopia, the nothingness in the art should be born, and result from “something” from signs, by the will of the artist: it was not an external transaction of putting it on the same plane of reality and symbolism, which we call iconicity. Technology had instead participated in an expansion of consciousness, a sharing of, the core in the body art and those who were, and partly still are, the vanguard of virtual reality and interactive technologies, converged in a sort of neo-humanism in which the cyberpunk provided a possible scenario. For example, the “reactive environments” designed and built by Myron Krueger in the seventies have similarities with both the performance art that the utopia of science as a paradigm of art, expressed by groups like “0” in Germany or “N” and “T” in Italian. It emphasized interactivity and tried to leverage technology to bring complex experiences to life in the participants in which the virtuality of sensory stimulation was compounded by the physical relationships that were determined in the group who participated in the experience. “The interactive environments”, such as Krueger envisioned and built them, were not the type of product or performance that artists were accustomed to consider art. They were not paintings that can be reproduced, or even musical compositions that can be identified by their composers, but genuine artificial realities that present invisible social rules and communication opportunities, encourage certain types of behaviour and discourage others, amplify certain aspects of the mind and human behaviour and overshadow others…in the words of Krueger: “the traditional canons of art and beauty were set aside. The attention was focused on the interaction itself and an awareness of the interaction of the participants.”
At the bottom of this prehistory of the mind that we have to go back and look at, maybe making it through with optimism and/or pessimism to still look to the future as something possible. And if the future is already finished?

Journey to Sendai City
The cyberpunk imaginary city is the place where everything happens. But what is the city? This is not the Greek polis of all order and rigor, it is contrary to Kaos, an area without apparent hierarchy, a world controlled and claustrophobic despite its size. The city is also a macrocosm, a planet, a “world” with which others can interact through force or alliance. Marco Bolognesi with his legendary B.O.M.A.R. Universe studio has created over time a people, he photographed them, described them with sensational images and now has created their environment, a cyberspace in which to live. From “Woodland” (2002) to the short film “Black Hole” or the photographic collection “Dark Star” (2008), he built a precise imaginary so cleverly constructed, in which he reinterprets the history of cyber culture in the light of the influences of fashion, the memory of the seventies Italian film from Bava to Margheriti, evolution itself of a culture of images that overlap themes continuously in a superimposition in which the before and after merge.
Basically all his previous work has been a slow build up to Sendai City, an interstellar journey to search for a provisional summary that hit the dead zone of the present society. Bolognesi’s work opens up the scenario of a post future that overrides everything in space and time determination and firms the dystopian cyberpunk with the simplicity and ingenuity of an imagined future and lived in a B-movie. The saga of B.O.M.A.R. Universe is conceptually a mash-up, a mush, in computer jargon term that delineates a site or a hybrid web application that uses different sources to create a new product, and creative. But the mash-up (or mashup) is a term that defines a genre in which you seek pre-recorded tracks, mixes of tracks to sound different, overlapping tracks from different sources. Music and computing are two elements essential for understanding not only the method but also as the work of Bolognesi Sendai City takes shape from earlier forms, from the stories that preceded it, inserted like screws into other lives, from spaceships which are formed by elements pre/existing, especially toys, objects and distinct forms that generate other forms that have other functions. For this, the city in this case is a universe in continuous regeneration. The future loses its linear sense, progressive, is not what one would expect at the end of the story is that instead we lived. But in another time and in another way. It is not the Nietzschean eternal return it is the return in different forms of existence. Time is not a ladder that you have to climb, but a black hole in which to find what we were and what we had, crushed by the gravity that has changed not only the appearance of things, but fortunately it has created new ones.
For this reason, everything that happens and is seen in the city appears to have been already seen, full of history even if it is concealed in a post future pulping memory returning it as an indefinite sensation. Sendai City, its rigid structure of hierarchical social organization, is linked to Genesis, beginning 2341 years after the birth of the universe. The year of Sendai is 289, the city is the creation of Sendai Corporation, a multinational corporation, a Zaibatsu, surviving the Great War that destroyed the planet, hovering somewhere in the universe. When the waters have calmed down it returned and decided to rebuild on the planet in the form of city, now known as Sendai. Of course, it entrusted the project to the Great Brain, the imaginative evolution of a biological remnant advanced à la Dr. Frankenstein. It is powerful, evil in equal measure, but technological. It designed a world in which the humans have been recreated, but under the strict control of the Corporation. They live in a controlled existence, receiving consciousness from the Great Brain at will and only for things that they are supposed to do. They are not autonomous, they do not even see Sendai City, the heavenly city that floats over their heads which is invisible and unapproachable.
We are still in the updated logic key in a cyber Metropolis, there is so much pessimism about humanity and what it was capable of doing. Paradoxically, but even so, the possible salvation or something similar, it can come from organized gangs of hackers bound by an evil pact of revolt. Again Spartacus is to give a name to hope, the Yakuza organized in cells rebels to the power of the Great Brain who were once sympathetic to the Zabaitsu, perhaps waiting for a Jena Plissken to drift away, maybe there and we will meet him at the appropriate time. Imagine the revolt, not the organization of a revolution too complicated, it is a sign of vitality that persists in the rain or dust that underlie the world to come.
There is no trace of humanity if there is nothing residual, clandestine, there is not even trace of nature if not fictional. The artificial dominates everywhere. Remember the phrase of the Matrix: Morpheus to Neo “You think that’s air that you breathe?” The same goes in Sendai City which is not cinema, but provides viewers with a closer look into the B.O.M.A.R. universe through items, overlays, installations, photos, like a light box in an antiquarium. We can see the individual sculptures that have been created and then entered also in the great collector of ideas that is the video. Marco Bolognesi shows the disassembly of the machine that he has developed with his collaborators. The insertion of augmented reality in the vision of the city provides the viewer with the virtuality that any vision of the future must have. This is the current technology, the bodies that inhabit the city, the ships that cross it, the blue colour spread as if there are always emergency lights lit somewhere: There’s also a dark spaceship like a superfluous plaything, within which can be seen clips of Italian B-movie blobbed in key documentation of extraordinary insights made ​​with the size of the media and then with the ingenuity of those who still want to invent the future.
All this is perfectly represented in a unique design for amplitude, timing, achievements, and quality. All this to tell and narrate the story of the stories, the sum of all the literatures of anticipation, in the form of an art project that raises a hypothesis horizon for humanity and for what it will remain. But what kind of future are we talking about?
We are thinking from the work of Marco Bolognesi about something that we recognize but do not know. The thousands of utopias of the world to come they have always and completely pissed off the timing. So much so that “Matrix” made ​​in 1999, preferred to skirt the issue on the subject and put the date of its occurrence to 2099 or 2199 but warned that since the matrices were different, there was no certainty about the exact date of when the events were narrated. For the rest the prophecies will never come true. In 1981, John Carpenter invented “1997: Escape from New York”, cloned in Italy shortly after by “2019 – After the Fall of New York” by Sergio Martino. Even the legendary “Blade Runner” (1982) by Ridley Scott was set in Los Angeles always in 2019 and let’s not forget that the unique “2001 – A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick of course, in 1968, he imagined big changes for the start of the new millennium. All of these prophecies were wrong and not by a little, we expect 2019 with trepidation but we doubt we will see the things that made ​​the various fascinating literary and cinematic Cassandras predicted. Moreover, already Orwell had accustomed us to these failures because with “1984” written in 1948 (note the elegant inversion of the two final numbers) expected a super company controlled by the usual invisible superpowers, and yet 17 years later (coincidentally in 2001) “Big Brother” has become a television broadcast. What is certain is that we are all spied on through our phones, we are controlled by the thousand cameras unleashed in the cities, but also the control are aspects of safety and crime prevention. The future is never just a sense.
It is no coincidence that in 1983 Bruce Bethke uses the term “cyberpunk” in his story. Over 30 after Sendai City, the mega project of Marco Bolognesi and his Bomar Studio, clarifies how things went, summarizes the infinite solutions for a future that fascinates and worries, especially for the birth of a creature half man and machine, biological and artificial, living giving birth supermen and/or supermachines like “Terminator”, coincidentally this film was also made ​​in 1984.
The Sendai City design gives us a utopia and a nightmare: the dream of man to free himself from his carnality and from the clutches of time and the fear of not being able to use our consciousness to distinguish ourselves from robots and machines in general. But to really know, to really understand if the crumbs of these stories will become our history, we must wait until the end of the future. Only then, perhaps, will the present begin.

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