The Magic Trick of Vanishment:
why the term “future” no longer suits a medialab
This talk will argue that the creative and cultural fields currently face a lexical paradox: key terms in our core vocabulary have, in recent years, been dislocated towards contexts of efficiency and productivity in opposition with the original intent and impact of those terms. Innovation, creativity, participation, community, sustainability: all point towards a desire for the fulfilment of a vague utopia that would enmesh art and technology in a kind of subjective determinism, tending to both prosperity and emotion.
The term “future” has often been at the forefront of this benevolent and legitimate intent; however, outside of strategic agendas, it has come to congregate and reveal deep insecurities and anxieties, a further paradox where, on one hand, we are invited to subscribe to deterministic technological wonderment, while on the other hand worrying at the volatility and uncertainty of the various impacts of said technology: social, economic, existential, neurological.
For ten years, “FuturePlaces” acted as a festival/medialab operating under the belief that a strengthening of the bonds between technology and contextual use could help dissolve the above dilemmas and paradoxes; we will present various instances where these dilemmas were felt, and discuss how they were addressed. In parallel, we will make a case for the abandonment of the original designation of the festival/medialab, arguing that the term “Future” is currently unable to transcend a paradox of ominous optimism.
Since 2000, Heitor Alvelos develops audiovisual work with Touch, Cronica Electronica, Ash International and Tapeworm. He is the Ambassador in Portugal of the KREV project since 2001. Projects include Autodigest (since 2002), 3-33.me (since 2012) and Antifluffy (since 2013). Current research interests include the lexical implications of new media, the ecology of perception, and cultural criminology.
Professor of Design and New Media at the University of Porto. Director of the PhD Program in Design (U.Porto / U.Aveiro/ UPTEC / ID+). Director, on behalf of U.Porto, of the Institute for Research in Design, Media and Culture / Unexpected Media Lab. Chair of the Scientific Board (HSS) at the Foundation for Science and Technology (2016-present, member since 2010).
Member of Academia Europaea, Executive Board Member of the European Academy of Design and Advisory Board Member for Digital Communities, Prix Ars Electronica. Former outreach Director of the UTAustin-Portugal Program for Digital Media (2010-2014). Curator, FuturePlaces medialab for citizenship, since 2008.
PhD (Royal College of Art, 2003).
MFA (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1992).