In Hull and Aarhus, they imagined their drowned cities in 2097 - and made themselves over
Embedded playlist for We Made Ourselves Over is here
We want communities and localities to feel they can be forgers of the future, not victims of its forces. One way to do that is to project your place forward imaginatively. Pick a date some decades hence, inform yourself about the dominant trends, and have some serious fun envisioning your town or city in that scenario. Governments and corporations do this, to prepare themselves for any eventualities, and also identify opportunities. Why can't citizens in their everyday lives?
We found ourselves at yet another festival - the Bluedot music, science and ideas festival, which takes place under the giant, slightly tattered, but magnificent dish of the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, near Macclesfield - where we enjoyed a great example of community futuring.
About 18 months ago, the urban art group Blast Theory was engaged by Hull (in the UK) and Aarhus (in Denmark) to create a series of super-short movies, title 2097: We Made Ourselves Over that would reflect on their fate as coastal cities in an era of rising waters under climate change. (The movies would also be a bridge between their respective City of Culture tenures).
At the Bluedot event, our A/UK co-initiator Pat Kane chaired three public discussions - on democracy, longevity and cities - which were cued up by extracts from these movies. They are wistful, evocative and beautiful - and as their maker Nick Tandavanitj told us on the day, their themes were largely sourced from interviews with Hullites and Aarhusians from 8 to 80.
The scenario is essentially this: Hull and Aarhus are using massively powerful technologies to cope with the drowning of their cities. Old settlements are efficiently destroyed, and new ones efficiently built nearby, upon the lapping waters. And children upload the wisdom of previous generations of rules to their brains, by means of a neural mask. But all of this is taking place in the familiar haunts and housing schemes of these two cities. As Nick noted, this had a powerful and provocative effect on their current residents.
Not every piece of "community futuring" can be as slick and full of special effects as these Blast Theory videos - sometimes just drama, stories or movement will have to do. But hi-tech or low-tech, this process does indeed blast you into a different space of possibility, about a place you know, and love/hate/struggle with. What will you make of it now?