The future archive is an audiovisual and performative-pedagogical project that is based on interviews and encounters, as well as a web platform. Recordings of these encounters, which are set in the future, are archived at http://futurearchive.org (audio/video) and information and research surrounding these encounters can be found on this blog https://thefuturearchiveblog.wordpress.com.
The future archive is an artistic as well as research practice. It was launched in 2005 by Manuela Zechner and has by now facilitated over 70 encounters, some based in futures we soon will reach (in 2005 we often imagined it was 2020).

The game it proposes – to imagine oneself in a desirable future some 20-30 years ahead, and to remember the present from there – is simple and fun. This simple method helps us learn about the possibilities and limits of our present, our imagination and desires. It can help us talk about projections, fantasies and fears whilst playing.
The future archive is also a serious research project on imaginaries of the future, at a situated level as well as at a more historical level. The future of course doesn’t exist, it is what we imagine to not yet exist, what we think is to come. It’s our present crossed and extended by hopes, desires, fears, project(ion)s.

For some of us, the future is a malady, a predicament we can’t shake off in these times – of insecurity, short term life and work horizons, constant speculation, precarity. This malady plagues our imagination, often restricting it to planning and pragmatism.
The future archive was born in 2005, when the future was cool. Now the planet is hot and there is a powerful sense of no future. Today this project is perhaps more diagnostic and clinical than inspiring and performative. The interview method still has the power to liberate ideas, open perspectives and make tendencies explicit. But the tenor of the future is a dark and thin one, a fearful dim shimmer on the horizon.

The future archive registers this shift in tenor. My interview style and questions reflect the flipping of neoliberalism from bubble times into dark ages, in Europe notably. The answers and practices of my interviewees too reflect the search for other horizons.
This is one of the criteria of this project, a search for horizons. By looking for horizons in the (anticipated) past, by searching the present for lines of dis/continuity, conduction and passion, we can try center ourselves in our bodies and history with this method.
It’s inevitable to fall into the first person singular and plural when writing this, since this project has become, over more than ten years, a kind of life project, or lifeline, as well as being a platform for conversations that echo collective subjects and spring from encounters that often feed into ‘we’.
Manuela Zechner, 2016

Below you find detailed project descriptions and references in [ENG] [ES] [DE].

//////////////////////[ENG] a topology towards futurity

The future archive is a platform that issues divergent responses to the problem of how to think about the future. It investigates how people and collectivities position themselves vis a vis the future, conceptually and practically – how they try to make change happen and imagine sustainable practices.
Consisting of a web platform and a method, this project engages conversations that are set in possible times and spaces to come, in which two or more people performatively inhabit their proposed versions of futurity. From there, contemporary society is remembered. In every conversation, a different future (and view on the present!) is negotiated (via a methodology complicit with radical pedagogy and action research, as well as techniques of interview and dialogue).

The future archive is a project initated and co-ordinated by Manuela Zechner. Various subsets of experiments have been emerging within and outside the framework of this project since its start in 2005/6. Key collaborators have notably been Anja Kanngieser, Valeria Graziano and the Critical Practice Research Cluster.
To find out about people involved in one way or another, see the tag cloud.

Remembering – imagining. People participating in the project offer spaces for carefully developing vocabularies and gestures which might point towards potential ways of thinking, acting and existing. The future archive method encourages articulations of hopes and desires for future ways of co/existing. Negotiating the space between a remembered present and a potential future, this leads us to face up to our capacities and incapacities of imagining otherwise, particularly in the current context of (social, economic, etc) crises.
The imaginging takes the context and practice of participants as a starting point (whether caring, political, scientific, cultural, theoretical, laboural, etc.) We question possible stakes, developments and effects of that practice, based on the desires and problems that frame it in the present.
The future archive draws out a map of divergent scenarios and tactics, discourses and embodiments, focusing on connections as well as points of disagreement between interlocutors and conversations.

Co-research and the common. While there is often an interviewing party and an interviewed, the project encourages co-research in order to facilitate a common questioning of what is and what may be, in playful negotiation with shared as well as individual imagination and responsibilities. It hopes to be a useful tool for reflecting on collective processes.
More or less, the future archive builds on strands of investigation, in which different people, groups and institutions are involved.
Open content. All resources produced here are licenced under creative commons (by-nc-sa licence, meaning it can be non-commercially used if it is accredited and shared alike, see here). Most conversations are recorded on audio or video, though some more intimate processes remain undocumented. Audio and video sits on archive.org (links show up when you view files) and can be downloaded.

Pedagogy and platform. The future archive brings forth collaboratively facilitated activities that take the form of discussions, performances, screenings, interview labs, analytical sessions, etc. Aside from its presence as a web-based archive, the future archive method is a tool to support group processes and organizational analysis. These processes and corresponding sessions are only partly documented and published online.
The various adaptations of the methodology are up for experimentation and replay by anyone.

[ES] El Archivo del Futuro

Future Archive es un proyecto que se aproxima a una serie de respuestas al problema de cómo plantear distintos futuros. Recoge conversaciones basadas en posibles tiempos y espacios por venir, propuestas en las cuales dos o más personas habitan performáticamente versiones del futuro. Desde ahí, la sociedad contemporánea es recordada. Sobre cada conversación se negocia un futuro diferente a través de un método discursivo que toma prestado metodologías de la investigación militante y la pedagogía radical, así como de técnicas de entrevista y diálogo. Tratando de ofrecer espacios para desarrollar cuidadosamente vocabularios y gestos que puedan señalar potenciales maneras de pensar, actuar y existir, Future Archive implica la articulación de esperanzas y deseos para futuros modos de coexistencia, negociando el espacio entre un presente recordado y un futuro potencial, así como haciendo frente a las problemáticas de las propuestas y los imaginarios actuales.
Para hacerse una idea de como se podrian facilitar conversaciones futuros, vease la seccion ‘method’.
Vease tambien en castellano: un texto teorico sobre el Future Archive y Walter Benjamin, de J.Rocha
//////////////////// [DE] Das Zukunftsarchiv: eine Topologie gen Zukünftiges

Das Zukunftsarchiv ist ein langfristiges Projekt das auf Gesprächen basiert, die in der Zukunft stattfinden. Zwei oder mehr Menschen begeben sich in einen performativen Raum der Zukunft, wie er von einem oder mehreren Teilnehmern vorgeschlagen wird, um sich von dort aus an zeitgenössische Gesellschaftsformen zu erinnern.
Das spezifische Gesprächsszenario schafft einen Raum, in dem vorsichtig Vokabulare und Syntax von potentiellen Denk- und Existenzformen entwickelt werden können. Im Kontext einer entstehenden Realität werden von Gespräch zu Gespräch verschiedene Anstätze und Sprechweisen ausgehandelt. Zwischen Interviewer und Interviewee wird eine gemeinsame Bewegung jenseits von zeitgenössischem Diskurs, Problemen und Politiken versucht, wobei das Projekt zunehmend auf Basis von Co-Recherche funktioniert, und also versucht wird, sich jenseits von klaren Rollen- und Identitätszuschreibungen zu entwickeln. Der Lokus dieser Gespräche sind immer Praxen (seien das künstlerische, aktivistische, soziale, wissenschaftliche Praxen) und die Projektion einer Praxis in eine Zukunft, auf die diese wünschenswert gewirkt hat.
Das Projekt besteht aus einem online Archiv sowie zahlreichen Parallelinitiativen, die entstandenes Material in verschiedenen Formaten weiterentwickeln oder befragen.

Was im Rahmen des Zukunftsarchivs entsteht, wird mit einer Open Content Lizenz versehen, und steht somit jedem/jeder zur nicht-kommerziellen Verwendung zu Verfügung. Auf http://www.futurearchive.org wird sämtliches Material veröffentlicht und zum download freigestellt. Auf diese Weise trägt das Projekt zur Erarbeitung einer Art (Sprach-/ Vernetzungs-) Protokoll oder Baukasten bei, der für Forschung sowie Praxis -im weitesten Sinne- relevant werden kann. Das Zukunftsarchiv wurde von Manuela Zechner initiiert und wird von ihr koordiniert. Hauptanliegen des Projektes ist es, Kontexte in denen das Projekt Form findet kritisch zu reflektieren und Formen von Zusammenarbeit und Organisation zu finden, die nicht hierarchisch oder profitorientiert operieren.
Gruppen- und Kontextbezogene Forschung macht die Methode auf verschiedene Weise nützlich (in kollektiven oder institutionellen Kontexten), als institutionelle Analyse und dispositif sozialer Bewegungen. Nicht alle solche Prozesse werden dokumentiert bzw. publiziert. Fuer ein Beispiel, wie sich eine Zukunfts-Konversation herbeifuehren laesst, siehe die Seite ‘method’.


Links & resources

[IT] Anamorfosi temporale e topologia dell’archivio: introduzione al future archive, a conversation between Manuela Zechner and Carla Bottiglieri

[ES] Benjamin y future archive, a text on Walter Benjamin, the future and the future archive, by Jara Rocha (in Spanish)

[ENG] Playback, Playforward: newspaper publication in the framework of the future archive project

[ENG] I will have spoofed the future a text from 2007 by Manuela Zechner, Nowiswhere Issue 1




To get in touch with questions or requests, send an email to manuela.zw {ät} gmail.com

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