Futures and Pasts
Two short responses to excellent posts on futures and their defects: Spillway on apocalypse chic, a blast perhaps at salvagepunk (albeit of a markedly less interesting sort than that advocated by ECW) - the notion that the redesign of space in order to avert climate-based catastrophe should necessarily look like the product of emergency, should be based on the already-extant fetish for ruination, wearing an architectural hairshirt of timber and scaffolding, something which necessarily limits its appeal to those who find a bit of apocalypse chic rather bracing rather than merely frightening, arguing instead that post-war utopianism makes a better model than Mad Max, that a middle class dystopia is not necessarily a model for the future. This can be seen as the aesthete's version of 'Transition Towns', where some enclave of Middle England attempts to make itself carbon neutral and self-sufficient, with little consequence other than an enduring glow of self-satisfaction. The Institute claims by email that Transition Town Totnes for instance reads like 'a Middle England version of The Coming Insurrection': "To build the town's resilience, that is, its ability to withstand shocks from the outside, through being more self reliant in areas such as food, energy, health care, jobs and economics." (with the ambivalence of the "shocks from the outside")'. However there are examples of an aesthetic of salvage and montage being less of a game for the comfortable - New Babylon, with its combination of the ludic and the futurist, automation and disorganisation, shows there are possibilities outside of positivism and apocalypticism.
Although if you're going to start designing futures, you must reckon with the Italian Futurists, and the Institute itself currently features an essay on Political Futurism that alternately makes perfectly clear just how enormously unpleasant Futurism could be, right down to the boiled brains, and also how little the Political Futurism of the late 1910s, with its anti-clericalism, anti-classicism and accelerationist anarchism, had in common with Fascism as it actually governed. Two things spring to mind - the first, that this exemplifies the fantasy of accelerationism fairly impressively; that, like neoliberalism Fascism had to have an idealised futurist supplement to mask its enduring alliances with the old power of church, nation, heredity and land, and while to imagine it without those compromises is in many ways equally terrifying, the important point is that it would be unecessary - the accelerationists made their peace with the past, and created something rather odd in the process. There is, in this and in the Tate's godawful current Futurism exhibition, a lack of attention to the entity the compromised Futurism became, something perhaps best exemplified by Giuseppe Terragni rebuilding Sant'Elia as a stone memorial. The design culture of interwar Italy is an intriguing and under-investigated subject, where the likes of Angiolo Mazzoni attempted to synthesise classicism and futurism to ideologically and architecturally intriguing effect.