Future Fictions Summit at the former NATO base, Iceland

Future Fictions Summit, presentation at Reykjavik Art Museum. Photo by Nomeda Urbonienė

Future Fictions Summit, presentation at Reykjavik Art Museum. Photo by Nomeda Urbonienė

During 13 – 16 October, 2016 A___Zooetics (a project exploring intersections between human, non-human and poetic knowledge spheres—zooetics.net), invited an international group of scientists, artists, designers, theorists and writers to stay and work at Ásbrú, the site of a former NATO base, operated by US Naval Air forces on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland. The three days of explorations that took place on and near the base were presented on October 22, 2016 at Reykjavík Art Museum in conversation with a keynote lecture by sociologist Jennifer Gabrys (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, author of Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet).

After the decommissioning of the base in 2006, the transition of Ásbrú from a fenced-off military zone to a creative-economy incubator inspires a lot of questions about the technoscientific imaginaries feeding this transition and fueling our sense of the future. These kinds of military infrastructures are already incorporated into the future fictional narratives of a seamless transition towards innovation, resource extraction and subservience to global market forces. The Future Fictions Summit enacted a think-tank that performed a variety of excavations into past and future narratives of Ásbrú as a laboratory of Iceland and the high North.

The think-tank has concluded its preliminary investigations after a limited set of base documents of Cold-war era were deemed declassified and open for public speculation. According to members of the think-tank, the most intriguing of these, dated to 1971, contained four confounding diagrams or “visions” of interscalar and trans-systemic relationships supporting these experiments in interspecies exchange, reprogramming of relations between the body, territory and nonhuman forms of life, opening up alternative temporalities and uncanny sensorial powers. In these models, algae that resides on Hafnir shores in the vicinity of Ásbrú are offered as a source of transformation on a variety of scales—from the intimate to the oceanic.  ‘We’re having to do a lot of guesswork here, but it’s exciting stuff. At first we thought they were simply researching marine life, but after taking a closer look at the site facilities, archival reports and recollections from former personnel stationed here, we discovered we had something altogether unexpected on our hands. They were developing some sort of bio-cybernetic feedback loops and new ecologies. But why here? We’ve only just scratched the surface of this world they were trying to create.’

The Future Fictions Summit discoveries were contextualized with Gabrys’s lecture “Sensing Environmental Conflict with Lichens: Bioindication and Expressive Modes of Environmental Politics”. She presented the notion of bioindication as a process that reorients environmental sensing toward engagements that are less focused on singular entities and directed more towards the sprawling affiliations and milieus established by environmental pollutants.

Future Fictions Summit contributors: Nomeda Urbonienė, artist (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO), Gediminas Urbonas, artist (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Tinna Grétarsdóttir and Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson, anthropologists (University of Iceland, IS); Oksana Anilionytė, fashion designer (Royal College of Art, UK); Nikola Bojić, designer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA); Garðar Eyjólfsson, designer (Iceland Academy of the Arts, IS); Lucas Freeman, writer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA); Eydís Mary Jónsdóttir (IS); Ashley Rizzo Moss, performer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA); Thomas Pausz, designer (Iceland Academy of the Arts, IS); Kristupas Sabolius, philosopher (Vilnius University, LT); Hildigunnur Sverrisdóttir, architect (Iceland Academy of the Arts, IS); Viktorija Šiaulytė, curator (LT); Sigrún Thorlacius, designer (IS); Tracey Warr, writer (UK).

Future Fictions Summit is brought together by A___Zooetics project, a five-year-long art-led interdisciplinary program of lectures, workshops and exhibitions exploring new ways to engage human knowledge and research with other forms of life in the biosphere in order to imagine new interfaces for future interspecies ecologies. The gathering and summit were co-developed and hosted by Occupational Hazards project, an initiative of scientists and artists based in Iceland, investigating the site of Ásbrú, unresolved narratives of the present and concepts of ecology, active citizenship and the future that unfold in shifting geopolitical conditions and emerging new waters in the Arctic.

Supported by: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and Lithuanian Council for Culture, Nordic Culture Point, University of Iceland, Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, The Icelandic Art Fund, Kadeco and Uppbyggingarsjóður Suðurnesja. A___Zooetics is part of the Outreach and Education Program of the Frontiers in Retreat project (2013–2018, EACEA 2013-1297). Frontiers in Retreat has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use of the information contained herein.

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Echo Gone Wrong
November 2, 2016
Published in Detour
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