I was dreaming when I wrote this; forgive me if it goes astray. But when I woke up this morning, I realized there’s not enough time to experience future anymore. You’ve probably noticed this too. The future does not bring more time to explore it, yet it arrives in a state of immediate impasse and planned post-obsolescence. At the same time, the speed of its arrival is such that you do not even notice its onset. However many times this has happened, you don’t even think about it anymore. “Maybe it comes slower when you think rather than when you don’t think?” I wondered…
“It definitely comes faster than you think,” I realized when all my questions remained unanswered. Again and again, I tuned into “1999” by Prince, released in 1983. He was singing about the remains of a moment right before another big moment to come, i.e., the millennium. Technically, Prince was unfolding a seamless song: he was projecting himself into the future—the year 2000, much in the same way Stanley Kubrick did in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). They say two thousand zero zero, party over / Oops, out of time! He was turning back time to the last seconds of 1999, finding the locus of pleasure there—partying “like it’s 1999”—while actually “dancing his life away” in 1983. Prince twisted and warped not only beats and identity but time itself.
Recently, I decided to go back in time and revisit the moment when Prince wrote that song, and thus, the year 1983 became my destination. Among period relics were the bronze medals of USSR’S football championship won by Zalgiris, my favorite team at the time. There was also the video “Thriller” and a special issue of Artforumdedicated to the historiography of the future and other sciences of unpredictability. Flipping through the black-and-white pages of this relatively slim volume (compared to its current incarnation) and discovering some brilliant things, including an ad for a “collaborative experiment in cross-cultural transfusion” (Funk Lessons by Adrian Piper), I couldn’t help myself from sitting down and writing a new, retroactive preface for the issue. I tried to envisage it from multiple perspectives of time, abandoning points of “before,” “after” and “infinity” simultaneously.
When Jorge Luis Borges doubled a series of detective stories by Edgar Allan Poe in 1941, 100 years separated—or connected, as we prefer to claim now—their attempts. The doppelganger of Poe’s tales was born at the age of 100. It had the identical structure and subject of its original. In 2006, when I decided to write the new Artforum preface dedicated to the future, there were only twenty-three years stretched in between, but that was not enough…I wanted less.
A number of reasons made me think of writing this preface. Firstly, in the years in between 1983 and 2006, it became clear that in all sections of the culture industry, the distance separating nostalgia from its object was getting shorter and shorter, to the point where new gestures were based not on stories of the past but on gestures of the future. Since the future was already recorded, it had become the source of a number of multinational reenactments—taking place from Lagos to Beijing, 24/7—churned out as remixes prior to the release of the originals. We didn’t even call them originals anymore. But was this the future we’d imagined?
Unfortunately, yes: it was a future as we imagined it. And it was the main reason for our melancholy, because despite this, we still craved an unimaginable future. So when the new preface was published in 2006, it did not change anything. We felt that by inhabiting the commentary sectors of old, forgotten articles on abandoned websites—leaving messages on their virtual walls—we might contribute to the rewriting of history. It was a comforting and slightly decadent social experience, but it really didn’t change a thing. Yet we still kept the word “change” in our vocabularies.
However, while writing the unsolicited preface, I realized several things: I didn’t want to relive or reenact moments that have already happened, didn’t want to project anything into the future, didn’t want to suspend the present, didn’t want to make the arrival of the future any slower, didn’t want to rewrite history faster and didn’t want eternity to last forever.
Then New Year’s Eve arrived. We celebrated it with friends at a party where everybody was asked to wear exactly what they wore one year before—a sort of conceptual costume party. I liked the idea of making a pastiche of something that had not yet become history but was delivered according to the standards of a New Year’s celebration. Some costumes were really funny, not because they were already dated but simply because they were funny. (Some people tried to project themselves on the dance floor to the year 1999 via the year 1983…I am still searching for photos of the event.) Watching this carnival of possibilities of one’s position in time, I was thinking about the idea of not only creating a parallel alternative history but also parallel versions of the present—or, in other words, subscribing to the idea of remixing the present. A definition by Kodwo Eshun proved helpful:
Remixology doesn’t replace a track so much as proliferate it into parallel alter dimensions. Remixology is the science of continuation and the art of drastic remaking, total remaking, remodeling. Imagine if you replace “a track” in “the present?” Imagine if you replace THE track, “1999,” creating a parallel time tunnel? 1
Subsequently, when Art Lies invited me to co-edit an issue during the summer of 2007, I thought it could be called 1999 or “3021”—the title of an upcoming album by Prince. But the most appropriate name, I decided, is probably 51.01, since Art Lies Issue No. 51 was the issue out during the summer of 2006 when I first encountered the publication. I found the idea of producing a virtual retro-issue of Art Lies for its redesigned debut really interesting, based on the idea of temporal diversion and the retro-imagining of the future. To do so, technically speaking, you must depart from the “now,” go to 2006 and come back to the future. From this point, the question becomes, how do you experience and navigate your present as future? We are used to writing and reading about the future and the rewriting of history, but it is a completely different story to write from the past about a present that became the future. That is why the subtitle of this issue is 51.01. Maybe it will create a parallel version of the present.
I recently came across a set of playing cards by Ryan Gander. They were made with the idea of creating parallel realities in the present or seeing two realms at once. “Two games—yours and the verso game—an additional game waiting to be played in another time or space…a mirrored world, an unheralded parallel reality concurrent with the present reality that we know [...] What if scenarios are the perfect subjects for a well-fueled imagination, but what about a parallel reality in the present? Not just one that we can project in the future as arising from a catalyst in the present, but...what if you were to be looking in the mirror and your reflection began to laugh at you or simply walked away from you, leaving you standing, gazing into an abyss that was once the reflection of your being?” asked Ryan in his introduction to the project. I’m sure someone else is already writing a new preface for them from a parallel present.
Several other artists and writers were invited to the expedition to the year 2007 via 2006 or other possible entry points of their choice or destiny. As I expected, several members of the journey didn’t come back at all. A few reports reached us on time. 2 Another dozen or so are still traveling between replicated presents and the abysmal folds of immortality. This collective glimpse of the present-as-future resulted in an orbitlike constellation of parallel presents, connected by time warps, inverted reflections, shadows of speed and a gallery of double characters who deny causal relations. It is not surprising, for instance, that the last report from Heman Chong came today. 3 The first one hasn’t arrived yet.
Raimundas Malasauskas, George Pal, The Time Machine (1960), 2006
1. A Time Warp Took Place Between June and July of 2007: Prince distributes his new CD for free through an issue of the Daily Mail after readers of Art Lies are offered a remix of his track “1999.”
Raimundas: Morten, maybe you would be interested in making a remix of the song “1999” by Prince from the perspective of 1981—something we could upload online for readers of Art Lies to listen to?
Morten Norbye Halvorsen: I suppose you mean like in the eighties when you got cheap pocket radios with your pop mags and little floppy one-use 7” vinyl giveaways? This is, I guess, a 2007 version, only it lasts and changes during the whole issue. Whether or not people actually will do this is another thing, but I’ll give it a try. Also, once the issue is over, it will still exist on various p2p sites and on people’s hard drives.
For the Remix of “1999” by Morten Norbye Halvorsen GO TO: http://www.opensourcesound.org/princecast/
2. Excerpt from an email from David Reinfurt to Raimundas Malašauskas: I suppose I’m writing this email from June 2006, as that is probably the easiest way to describe what I’ve prepared for Art Lies’ “future” issue. I am sending a text that is too long—twice as long as need be. It’s something I have been writing regarding a speculative software project that I’m in the process of making. I am programming a very simple screensaver, which will act as a coarse clock, specific to your location and time (same thing?). Anyway, the text traces the aesthetic lineage of the screensaver form/aesthetic. I have liked screensavers for a while, for any number of reasons including their ambient nature: how they appear when you are doing nothing on your computer, the ways in which they act as de facto clocks for the negative time in which you are not doing anything specific on the computer. Anyway, a computer is nothing other than a rather complex, multifunctional clock. The first computer at Stonehenge did little more than tell time through a precise computational structure. Ok, I don’t have any connection to Stonehenge in particular…to get back on track, this is a text that I had originally begun to share with some friends when we were together on a farm near Stuttgart two months ago. The idea was to trace some formal prehistory of the screensaver form and to point to some things I like that seem to share that aesthetic. Anyhow, I worked frantically on the text before leaving, on the airplane, in the airport and on arrival. Finally, after I arrived at the farm and it still wasn’t finished, I decided to not worry about it right then. About a month later, a new editor at Modern Painters asked if I would finish the text for publication in that magazine. So that has given me the push to finish it up. It always helps to have a deadline, yes? Also, it may be nice to include a caption with that image that describes my SCREENSAVER software and include a link to download it. The caption should indicate that the software will be available to download about one year in the future—anytime after June 1, 2007. If this mail finds you on or after June 1, 2007, then you should also have a look at the completed software, which should be done by then and posted here for download: http://www.o-r-g.com/view.html?project=115 (click on OS X Download and then double click SCREEN.saver to install on your computer).
3. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0399154302/downandoutint-20 William Gibson explains why science fiction is about the present. Gibson did a wonderful interview with the College Crier Online, talking about his forthcoming novel Spook Countrypast. In Spook Country, Gibson finds the pure expression of the science fiction writer’s art: to write about the present day through the veil of technology and speculation. Spook Country is a magnificent novel about the leftover spies sloshing around after the Cold War, about locative artists and celebrity. I ended up sitting in a blisteringly hot car in a parking garage for an hour while I finished the last 70 pages, transfixed until I found out how it all ended. I love the idea of science fiction turning its lens on the present, of finding the same frisson of futuristic speculation in looking around at the contemporary world. Gibson’s insights on the subject are laser-focused, as are his commentaries on film adaptations of literature and several other subjects.