Imaginary Futures was hosted at Global Periphery in collaboration with Annick Bureaud, in Paris on September 23th and 24th 2022, a Leonardo/Olats event for More-Than-Planet.
Invited to present a performance at the Global Periphery 2-day symposium a selection of the Imaginary Futures team from different parts of South Africa (Thulisile Princess Binda, Xolisile Bongwana, Miné Kleynhans, Aja Marneweck, Sifiso Teddy Mhlambi and Ciara Struwig) engage virtually with each other, with the host artist Marcus Neustetter, and live performer Fatou Cissé in Paris. The aim was to publish a performance lecture that provokes abstract dialogue and shares responses to key thematic questions around our relationship to space, triggered by the the Global Periphery engagement questions:
What attracts you to space? Space Escape or Destination? Space Research or Resource? Is Space a Public place? What is a Space Nation? What could a Space Culture be? Is Dreaming of Space a Luxury? What is you most iconic image of space?
In the process of exploring a collective understanding of what a shared future might look like, an experimental dialogue of creative producers from different disciplines and contexts look at their shared cultural and natural resources.
Building on the Imaginary Futures experiences from the last 12 months, responding to shifts caused by the pandemic, and looking at new opportunities for co-production across the globe, a group of participants has been invited to collaborate on this journey. Recommendations through Arts Collaboratory network have brought together 12 participants from Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Switzerland and South Africa, who will be collaborating with artist and host Marcus Neustetter (Austria and South Africa).
The month of March 2021 will see a range of creative co-production sessions over Zoom and WhatsApp. Through a sharing of practices and contexts, these sessions seek to develop a collective narrative and to ultimately explore the notion of a common future vision.
The intention is to allow differences in discipline, language, context and resource to become the opportunity for experimental expression and result in two public participatory virtual experiences:
9 & 10 April 2021 as the closing event of the festival AFROPIXEL#8 - POWER TO THE COMMONS.
As a continuation of the award-winning participatory film and performance events in 2018 Sig/Sight and 2019 The Vertical Journey, Marcus Neustetter returned with a third reimagined experimental performance in 2020. This time in virtual space and on participating devices across Bloemfontein, South Africa and beyond.
A project by Marcus Neustetter
in collaboration with
Aja Marneweck / Ciara Struwig / Elrico Plaatjies / Heslin Fortuin / Herman Witbooi / Jeandre Jambo / Johannes Deetlefs / Manzikazi Scota / Mark Edwards / Mariette Erwee / Miné Kleynhans / Nataniël Pokwas / Ofentse Letebele / Paul Setate / Perseverance Mavuso / Reginald Milanzi / Reitumetse Lebatla / Selanvor Platjies / Sifiso Teddy Mhlambi / Sylvia Kalane / Thulisile Princess Binda / Violet Isaacs / Wayne Reddiar / Wendy Menong / Xolisile Bongwana / Zanda Nosenga
Developed in partnership with the Programme for Innovation in Artform Development (PIAD), an initiative of the University of the Free State and the Vrystaat Art Festival, generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
with the participation of The Trinity Session, Net vir Pret in Barrydale and the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape
Performative films evoking journeys of discovery and wonder were initially shown at Naval Hill Planetarium and are now brought into the digital domain. A series of free public online events and exhibitions layer these journeys through space and time with a playful series of acts that sit in the tension between art and science, the urban and the rural, the mythical and the embodied, the past and the future.
The first phase of the project, June to mid July, saw the activation of the network of collaborators in experimental creative sessions online. Working collectively on shared screens the participants from the past years and new contributors in 2020 explored new ways of collaborating, alternative forms of expression and new approaches to audiences. From July the activities went live to the public with a focus on programmed activities around a pilot exploration:
Acknowledging todays complexities, the 2020's iteration involves a digital mediation of a diversity of participants and their intersecting journeys into imaginary futures while exploring media platforms and tools. As tradition with the last two year projects, the performative interventions is accompanied by an exhibition of processes and by-products. This time not it the foyer of the planetarium, but online at www.imaginaryfutures.org and disseminated through social media #imaginaryfutures.
In August, a series of live public performative interventions hosted on Zoom made use of over 20 live linked activities and immersions, live sound and film mixing, live drawing, animation, puppetry and performance. 9 public events from open studio sessions, reflection discussions to live participatory performances created a layered experience of participation and reflection.
LIVE PARTICIPATORY PERFORMANCE #1
LIVE PARTICIPATORY PERFORMANCE #2
LIVE PARTICIPATORY PERFORMANCE #3
#4 Whose Imaginary Future? - performative provocation - Public Conversation on Learning/Education - September 26, 2020
LIVE PARTICIPATORY PERFORMANCE #5
The Imaginary Futures project, which was deliberately produced to be viewed and participated on teleconferencing applications, invites viewers and participants to engage in a uniquely participatory experience. Participants are guided by the many collaborating artists in the virtual collection of sites. These sites are displayed through the thumbnails of the gallery view of the online meeting and pinned display screen from a cacophony of sound and scenes to a dark and soothing cocoon. I highly recommend making use of two screens, to be able to view both the curation of Marcus Neustetter and the hive of movement and interlaced thumbnails of performances by each collaborating artist.
IMAGINARY FUTURES was quite awesome... and evolutionary. Marcus is experimenting between the live, and the recorded and interactive participation which becomes integrated as part of screened performances which are 'scripted' yet the actions and visuals, the soundscapes, the moving bodies, the sculptural architectures are interlayered multsensual sequences serendipitouly evolving to create emergent vistas and collective choreographies to inspire and activate new modes of seeing, being, knowing, feeling. This is an orchestratration of Zoom with improvising and spotlighting of music, song, performance dance, markmaking and video footage ... Marcus is co-curating and conducting living collages with his fellow South African artists/students... it is artful heart activism with extraordinary visual power and haunting vocals which convey uplifting narratives and mythopoetic realities to guide us into our forward days of the renewed.
Miche and Flora or TOUCHSTONES EARTH
The performance contained beautiful visuals, special iconography, and sound, aside from smell it interacted with all the senses.
Which is interesting considering that it was communicated across a virtual platform. It was moving, and made me want to cry in parts, it also felt like it cut very close to the razors edge between apocalyptic and survival. Making it in parts an uncomfortable experience. Much like the realities we are all adapting to today. It was interactive, integrated when it needed to be, disconnected when discord was needed. The digital choreography complex.
There are fragments of the performance that will remain in my memory for a long time - the cycle of the dying/living naartjie, the globes of paint, paint rising to the surface and umbrella satellites. The shadows, voices, dancers and holograms looking inward, carefully contrived instillations/sculptural maps/counting days/moments in time, talking about narratives of past, present and future - explorers inward looking, outward looking, living now.
2 minutes post performance, my aunt says to me: that was very interesting, I am not sure what it was about - but it was visually interesting. We agree it was layered with an number of hidden meanings, several that were very personal to the collaborators/explorers.
2.5 hours post performance, my aunt says to me: that was amazing, I really enjoyed the journey. I still feel a bit emotionally fragile, as if it revealed a narrative that I see out the corner of my eye everyday on the news. The light fractures of hope were special, we were transported into a new world of light and hope.
I cannot imagine how complex it was to pull off a digital/virtual process such as this - facing the challenges of daily life in South Africa, across the seas and regions. It takes a brave group of explorers to lead us into the light, which is what you did, through creative expression and vulnerability.
My immediate responses: The experience is very moving and thought provoking tackling challenging and very relevant themes. It was amazing to see diverse art forms, communities and social perspectives involved and the engagement felt very authentic and consultative. It felt like artists were presenting their own ideas and their talents. I felt inspired by the talent and very proud of the young voices coming through. From a technical perspective I was really aware that these artists couldn’t possibly have been together in the same space to discuss/rehearse yet we felt there was a real connection throughout the event. The raw and experimental format really worked and actually reflected the unknown territory we find ourselves in right now.
Sitting far away, in the absence of an observatory dome, , I ‘zoomed’ into Marcus and his Imaginary Futures collaborators performance. My dining room walls, table and chairs; the location of my office and studio, and for the duration of the performance my auditorium too.
In place of the enveloping atmosphere of an observatory or planetarium, as I experienced some years ago during an immersive audio-visual performance by Marcus in Observatory, Johannesburg, the delivery of Imaginary Futures on my computer screen brought forth a synthetic collage - combining visual experimentation with fracture, spatial distance and play. All the while I was conscious of the fact that Marcus was running the performance from his studio in Vienna, with performers situated in Bloemfontein and content streaming from various camera perspectives and hard drives in varying locations in South Africa. These circumstances coupled with the video mixing methods rendered on sceen, engendered a complex but compelling process of interpretation and a stitching together of new narratives, unfolding in what presented as real time.
As the performance continued, streamed content shifted from daytime to nighttime, while a typical European summer evening persisted in Vienna, and in Ireland where I was sitting.
The absence of an ocular like standing or seating layout, as one might find in a planetarium, gave way to a fourth wall comprised of multiple, distinct and different spaces, all the while, I couldn’t take my eyes off the real time footage (I learned later) of two figures, separated by a domestic security gate. One performer on the outside of an apartment, the other on the inside. This frustrated dance of entanglement and division, reinforced by the square tube grid of the gate, remains for me a succinct and potent expression of our current times.
Over the years I have witnessed and observed numerous durational performances by Marcus, where a combination of found objects, video projection and toy LED lights provide the source and ambient for experimental narrative; as Marcus immerses his body and intuition into an often highly unpredictable performative situation and spectacle.
Imaginary Futures on the other hand had to surrender to the often-one-dimensional world of streaming technology in an effort to connect festival audiences. If anything, this present form of creative content consumption has altogether flattened my psychological and emotional world.
Interestingly though, powerful images remain, and instead of a journey through space, time and potential other worlds as one would come to expect from the promise of discovery in the night sky, Marcus and his team of futurist imagineers offered up a fantastical and perhaps unintentional geography lesson, a survey of place and people, replete with their own distinct atmospheres and forms of expression. A science meets art experiment, where
inadvertently I was able to travel, not through the night sky, but through fragments of place, memory, recollection and the spherical space of my minds eye, compositing meaning as the virtual field of the performance stretched out.
This past week I had the intriguing and instructive pleasure of being a ‘participant observer’ in Marcus Neustetter’s Imaginary Futures.
The Endeavour: to explore the limits and capacities of Zoom as a forum for creative exploration and invention.
Over the past seven months or so, there has been a global surge to online trafficking of knowledge, opinion, and community through the internet. Neustetter’s forum has embraced the opportunity to consider how the regularized, 2-dimensional rectangles of digital space on the Zoom screen might be used to generate playfulness and mutuality.
The Process: I observed an online performance (which had participants from across South Africa, and participating audiences from North America, Europe, East, West and Southern Africa) who became improvisatory peers, trying to work out the meanings inherent in the medium of the split screen. Neustetter has, over the past weeks, drawn together approximately twenty to thirty participants who spend an hour in the darkness in front of a radiant screen (which, by convention, drains energy and animated spontaneity out of the viewer.) With an assembled list of props (suggested in online communications in advance of the session) we all arrived at the portal of our screens, with flashlights, a drinking glass, a sheet of blank paper. Meanwhile Neustetter had over the previous weeks assembled an array of video materials generated by members of the ‘playing’ cohort – sequences that might be projected in one frame as a kind of projected architecture of the event; another, constructed of worked forms, improvisational dances, miniature landscapes. Over the course of the evening our Host conjured the interplay of various visual fields – working to resist the ‘natural habit’ of the Zoom technology’s selection process that follows a programmed form through which one speaker may succeed another, in Zoom preferences, with bodies and voices in the various frames struggling to create the illusion of interchange.
At times, too, Neustetter conducted us, using various digital prompts and triggers to impel one screen to take over from another; and at certain moments we were enjoined to strike up a choral note, allowing voices to intermingle across vast voids of digital space separating us. There was an unusual sense, for such digital moments, that the ‘whole’ was more meaningful than the sum of its parts: the screen events flowed and surged, in an organic rhythm, creating a multi-tiled platform, where performers at times followed one another, at times spilled onto the screen simultaneously, like a sound-enriched tapestry, of figure, ground, sound, light and darkness.
The Analysis: On the day after this performance Neustetter hosted a workshop in which he and the participants looked back on what they had experienced through the process of making. There were very thoughtful comments, for example, from one member who has been working with Neustetter, despite having no formal arts education, who described the pleasure of having his constructed matrix digitally activated online as a “virtual set” for this multi-national performance, through the illusionism of camera-work and simultaneous screens. Neustetter reflected on the potential and possibilities of working with pre-recorded sequences, that could be dropped in via Virtual Backgrounds, to create a sense of narrative potentialities inside the live and seemingly random event. There was a discussion of the levels of trust inside this virtual space with various performers commenting on the pleasures of the vulnerability of ‘being inside’ a working process that was genuinely a collective responsibility.
Jane Taylor LoKO (laboratory of Kinetic Object, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape)
This showcase is a curated portfolio of by-products, processes, previous works and creative outcomes that presents a selection of contributions and additional perspectives on the process.
IMAGINARY FUTURES PROLOGUE by Mark Edwards
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Aja Marneweck
Chameleon presented on Imaginary Futures by Herman Witbooi
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Ciara Struwig
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Wendy Menong with voice by Manzikazi Scota and Xolisile Bongwana
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Zanda Nosenga
Valley of Desolation (2020) presented on Imaginary Futures by Miné Kleynhans
Cocoon presented on Imaginary Futures by Heslin Fortuin / Herman Witbooi / Jeandre Jambo / Nataniël Pokwas / Selanvor Platjies / Aja Marneweck
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Nataniël Pokwas
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Sifiso Teddy Mhlambi
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Sylvia Kalane
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Mariette Erwee
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Xolisile Bongwana and Thulisile Princess Binda
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Reginald Milanzi
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Reitumetse Lebatla
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Ofentse Letebele
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Paul Setate
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Perseverance Mavuso
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Violet Isaacs
Imaginary Futures Exploration by Wendy Menong
I am exploring the world through devotion, a constant bid for communal creative resourcefulness, nourishment and inventive freedom. I am a Theatre Fellow in puppetry and animist practice research in the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape. www.chrflagship.uwc.ac.za
I am an artist and tinkerer. I search for meaning in the traces of things, and the stories that ephemeral evidence can tell. My dog thinks I'm awesome.
I am exploring the world through my studies in psychology, trying to understand people and why they behave as they do. A free spirit trapped in these trying times as this pandemic took us unexpectedly and leaves us with a lot of loss and grievances. I am and have been part of a production house called House of Dirty Shakers for 8 years, and it has been an amazing journey as it helped me perfect my skill and grow as a person.
Facebook : Elrico Plaatjies
Instagram : @elriqueco
I am constantly observing the world around me - listening, looking, designing, re-imagining.
I am a soprano singer, a Music teacher, an acting Head of department of the Arts subjects and a co-owner of an NPC called Mangaung Music Institute.
I am searching for meaning through experimental expression and collaboration. I have no idea where it will lead but trust in the creative process.
I am a multimedia story teller and graphic artist. I try to make each piece of my work as refined and as true to itself as possible.
I am a science communicator with a passion for physics and especially astrophysics. The beauty of the universe, from the small to the gigantic scale is absolutely fascinating to me and I would like everyone to realise the wonder of it.
I am too old to play with marbles so I also go by 'artist'. @mine_kleyne
I am a thinker, designer and visualiser who wants to create a path from the hidden views of our people. I want to be the driven force to all who think their roads is heavy. I want my gravelly path to lead people to what they assume is tarr. Knowing that it will only last a few minutes, as the gravel roads needs to be followed again to head home.
I am multimedia artist, designer and I experiment with different media such as CGI, Calligraphy, Animation and Sound Design amongst other things.
I am a creative fabricator skilled in designing objects, prototyping, and manufacturing artworks for artists in various materials. My speciality is working in wood and steel.
I am a lyrical analyst, a musical journalist, a musician with a powerful passion for music and a revelation waiting to be discovered. Art is a big part of me, along with the joys that come with it. My drive is non-comparable and I've always believed that I can change the world through words alone. Available on: SoundCloud-Thee_Perc and Audiomack-1522
I am Regienald Milanzi, and i am studying BSc Hydrology and Water Resource Management. I do fine art, I like drawing and painting, in these tough times they are my escape.
I am a young girl from Bloemfontein that dreamt to become a pilot but later couldn't. I had no choice but to choose a course to pursue and to go for walk-in applications. I was forced to change course and study Renewable Energies which taught me how much I actually love nature.
I am from Barrydale. I love to write and my addiction is reading. My favourite season are winter, my greatest fear is frogs and the animal that inspires me the most is a crocodile. What I love the most is nature and when I'm alone. I'm a very caring person. I will always listen to the other person. I do talk a lot and love to perform on stages. I'm a rapper.
I am a free spirit trapped in these times of uncertainty where breathing is a rare commodity for art to be created...I BREATHE...I AM RARE...I AM ART
I am exploring the world of art during these times. With my celebration of beauty being a poet is one way which I brighten up and smile.
I am Life...
I am rough around my edges but I'm smooth, I am here to shine the brightest and share my jollity for I am a star and a poet,
I am the fly (Wire).
I am a man of constant sorrow (The Soggy Bottom Boys).
I am the cosmos (Chris Bell).
I am the walrus (The Beatles).
I am a strange Loop (Douglas Hofstadter).
I am passionate about what I do beacause I love what I do and I like to challenge myself so that I can do better...I'm exploring the world through my studies in Marketing Management and being creative following the path of Art and visual effects and doing modeling...I enjoy all aspects of life open to good ideas and I'm open minded with caution.
I am what I am, a Son of my Ancestors... I am in constant search of my true self... I am what I am...
I am a poet, and child artist. Navigating through this strange world as a kindred spirited being that's full of life and zest. I am Earth conscious, and love Love and Life!
I am a set designer, puppet maker and facilitator at Net vir Pret Barrydale
I am an intern at Net vir Pret Barrydale
I am an intern at Net vir Pret Barrydale
2021 will see a range of live performances and project presentations. Imaginary Futures is evolving daily with experiments and collaborative virtual interventions.
For more info please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org