How do we speak to the present from the future? Why do we feel the need to speak from the future to the present?
This issue of ArteZine stems from a larger project we have been working on together over the past year. In October we presented Love Letters to Mars as a collaboration with four artists (Dirar Kalash, Maha Maamoun, Gerard Ortin and Young Hae-Chang Heavy Industries) where we wrote letters to Waad, our friend who left for Mars on a one way trip in 2024. We invited the artists to interject, respond, and interrupt those letters to the future (or from the future) and each made a work further complicating the possibility of starting anew on Mars, all the while acknowledging that we might actually already be in this future at present. With this ArteZine issue we extended the questions to writers, thinkers and curators who responded to our confused inquiry about speaking from the future to the present.
We realized only recently why this anachronistic act might be necessary: perhaps it is because this distance in time makes the present obsolete. It de-functionalizes the present, as the future promises death, and a certain discontinuity of the present. By positing ourselves in the future we could see the present as a dead, still object. It means we might be able to see regimes falling, technology crashing, power relationships changing; The present becomes a corpse onto which we can gaze, from the vantage of the museum glass encasing.[i] It’s perhaps not a coincidence that in Haitham Al-Wardani’s text Disaster the first paragraph conjures the image of Klee’s (and Benjamin’s) Angelus Novus, whilst in Aneta Rostkowska’s text Malevich’s suprematist paintings are central, both modern art works that invoke the destruction of the present.
The authors have contributed texts that are various both in form and content, responding aptly to our only condition that they join our experiment in thinking from the future: Reem Shilleh rewrites a closing scene of a film; Aneta Rostkowska authors a sci-fi short story in epistolary form; Ma’n Abu Taleb writes an academic essay on Trajic pop; and Haitham Al-Wardani sends us notes on disaster, where he poignantly points out that a letter from the future, were it to arrive, might not be at all legible.
Aneta Rostkowska concocts a fictional narrative in Object Number 2299 through a series of letters found in the year 2223 and which are now part of a museum archive. The letters are sent from the Malevich Colony on Mars in 2214 to a dear colleague she’s left behind on earth, though the replies from earth are not found. These letters chronicle the settler’s new life on Mars, the journey, and her thoughts around leaving earth along with other artists to establish a ‘constructivist dream colony’ on Mars.
In On the Origins of Martian Tragic-pop, Ma’n Abu Taleb retrospectively examines the fall of ‘Martian Traj-pop,’ a musical genre developed in Mars sometime in the future, refuting the common view that the reasons for its demise are commercial, arguing rather that it is the genre’s involvement in politics rather than a continued practice of pure aesthetic concerns that brought about its own demise.
In The Closing Scene for a Film Already Made, Reem Shilleh rewrites a scene that is a two-fold projection into the future. The rewritten scene is for the film Off Frame, which the author is co-writing with the director. The film traces and asks questions about image production during the Palestinian revolution. Off Frame is in post production, and its narrative is still uncertain. So this scene projects itself as the ending of a film yet to be finished. Shilleh poses the scene as a projection because there is no possibility for it to actually become the ending of the film, due to the very different perspectives of the author and the director. However, when it was written, the author positioned herself some 10 years in the future and looked at Off Frame as an already finished work, as something that has had a long life up to that point, but for which she would have liked to see a different ending.
Notes on Disaster by Haitham Al-Wardani is a constellation of thoughts and unfolding doubts about our questions. Haitham questions new beginnings, makes distinctions between utopia and new births, and redefines disaster. He notes that when two disasters meet: a deserted island and an afflicted people, for there to be a reciprocal recognition of both by both, a new language must be created, and one severs with the old world. Thus a letter from this new beginning will not be legible to the old world unless it is an invitation to the mainland to settle, to colonize the island.