In a 9-day research residency from 8 to 17 July 2008, artist Eric Joris together with Kurt Vanhoutte, dramaturge and art theoretician at Antwerp University, will explore the viability of retro-futurism as both a cultural concept and an artistic staging praxis.
On the verge of the new millennium, rapid shifts in the technological landscape have been disrupting the continuum of history. Western culture appears to find itself in the breach between an exhausted past and an unclear future. There is an urgent need for a new imaginary.
Retro-futurism sets the tone for the ways we imagine ourselves in relation to time. Already in the sixties, media prophet Marshall Mc Luhan stated that we tend to look forward through the rear-view mirror, walking backwards into the future and searching older myths and imageries against contemporary realities. Each technology age assumes as its content the forms of the previous age. The future is contained within the past. Or so it seems.
Is it still feasible today to imagine the future and to stage possible new worlds? CREW tackles these questions focusing on the Chinese metropolis through the looking glass of digital immersive technologies. Beijing is manifestly (re)inventing the future at this very moment in global history. What is yet to come, is already here a photo negative effect of Western retrofuturism being a kind of Chinese inspired instant future.
CREW wants to confront both dimensions, shaping time in a double-sided image. The medium used for this confrontation between Western and Asian time will be omni-directional video, a high-impact registration system that mixes the experience of the real and the virtual, the actual and the possible. It allows the spectator a surround video display by means of a head mounted display equipped with an orientation tracker: by moving in space the user is able to actively explore the boundaries between the real (the here and now) and the virtual (the there and then). In other words, this technology effectively makes it possible for the user to short-circuit the flow of time and to open an indeterminable space where past and future have to be (re)negotiated.
Through this medium, CREW will map the urban rhythm of Beijing, its interweaving of public and private spaces and its fissures in time and space. The future is now!
CREW's explorations will be incorporated in an installation by Eric Joris and further elaborated in a symposium organized by Kurt Vanhoutte within the framework of Performatik, a cross-disciplinary festival organized by the Brussels' Kaaitheatre in collaboration with other partners, taking place in Brussels in February 2009.
CREW's research in Beijing is a collaboration between TIM/LAB, Beijing Art Lab/Li Zhenhua and Chen Shuyu and recieves the support of TIM/HUB and the Flemish Government.