After today’s workshop at OSE in Margate, it is abundantly clear that preparation for the future, especially from our contemporary standpoint, follows multiple paths – constructing weapons for protection, fashioning primitive musical instruments out of rubber bands and plastic containers so that a (post-apocalyptic) landscape is not devoid of culture/personal expression and turning a computer mouse into a chargeable techno-pet for companionship.
This exercise probed the participants’ hopes and anxieties about the uncertainty of what is to come as much through making such objects as through discussion, however. People shared their thoughts on future as a survival scenario with limited resources and a need for self-sufficiency; they imagined a deeper relationship between the human and non-human spheres, voicing a desire for the destructive (unfair and obsolete) hierarchical order of the species to be abolished; they talked, drank tea, got their hands dirty and came up with some really wonderful ideas. New forms of education, geared towards personal/emotional development instead of the purely vocational kind, and caring for others/the other stuck to my mind (one of the participants made a shelter for rocks as they, too, deserve to be kept safe. She later added that the rocks also reminded her of bird eggs and that her shelter doubles up as a nest).
The workshop culminated in map-making during which two groups grappled with visualising an area for future habitation. That is not an entirely accurate description for the first team that produced a model based on the activity and energy of the moon and its cycles, thus letting temporal rhythms determine the space and happenings within. Members of this future community would live off-grid (hence the lack of day light with its connotations of visibility and trackability), would pass through stages of work, learning and being together in line with the moon and, importantly, water. The workshop participants tied themselves to a pole representing the sea and some of them to each other, conveying the idea of equality and balance within the design of this ‘system’ and becoming one with it. Their map ended up as a non-map, their representation of space an embodiment of it.
The second team created a map of a territory (? – contested term) in which humans still live, although have had to step back and allow for nature to reclaim (some) ground. The man-made objects arranged on the floor were overgrown with green plants and surrounded by water, moving away from currently still prevalent human settlements of concrete blocks, tarmac roads and trampled greenery. Again, exchanges between the human and non-human were discussed as plausible, even encouraged in the spirit of giving back and maintaining a reciprocal flow. The participants also talked about money being abolished in their model although the suggested replacement – bartering economy – could, too, be compromised by competition and value judgments skewing the exchange of goods and services.
This encapsulates the great thing about today – the material part of the workshop was playful and experimental but the event was also hugely propped up by the immaterial element present through conversations, voicing worries (mostly) and optimism (occasionally :)) about the future, being curious and interested in what the others had to say (and in a genuine way). The workshop helped the participants to identify some of the key qualities required for a precarious future – resourcefulness, openness, adaptability, inclusivity and a sense of humour (!) – if humanity wants to face the forthcoming.