Other Suns is an exhibition, series of film screenings and printed publication, produced in partnership by Fremantle Arts Centre, City of Fremantle and Revelation Perth International Film Festival in July 2019. Limited edition of 500 risograph printed books Published by Fremantle Arts Centre 1 Finnerty Street, Fremantle, Western Australia www.fac.org.au Writers: Erin Coates, Andrew Frost, Soda_Jerk, Darren Jorgensen, Cassie Lynch, Jack Sargeant Editors: Erin Coates, Jack Sargeant Designer: Susie Blatchford Printed and hand compiled by Neighbourhood Press All images and texts are reproduced with permission of the artists and writers and remain their copyrighted property. ISBN: 978-0-6483563-1-8
ARTISTS Soda_Jerk USA Claire Evans USA Sam Scoggins UK Neil Aldum Perth Dan Bourke Perth Ian Haig Melbourne Astro Morphs Perth Lisa Sammut Sydney Roy Ananda Adelaide Boyden Woods Perth Shalini Jardin Sydney Oliver Hull Melbourne Matthew Bradley Adelaide Penny Walker-Keefe Melbourne Marne Lucas & Jacob Pander USA Jess Day & Joanne Richardson Perth
CURATORS Erin Coates, Special Projects Curator Fremantle Arts Centre, City of Fremantle Jack Sargeant, Program Director Revelation Perth International Film Festival
Fremantle Arts Centre is supported by the State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
Australian Space Service sticker Penny Walker-Keefe, 2019
Background front cover image: Claire Evans, OK TO GO (REDUX), detail from video still, 2019 Back cover image: Matthew Bradley, detail of a photo showing the artist removing a crucible from the furnace he built in his backyard, 2019.
CONTENTS i. Penny Walker-Keefe, Australian Space Service sticker, 2019 1. Claire Evans, OK TO GO source material, video stills, 2008-2019
22. Matthew Bradley, vessel design for the project One Hundred Vessels, pen and ink on sketchbook paper, 2019
3. Cassie Lynch, Iridium, 2019
23. Astro Morphs, untitled text, 2019, Astro Morphs, Ascension, video still, 2018
5. Oliver Hull, Rockyimagezones 3, 29, 55 and map, digital collages, 2019
25. Andrew Frost, Into the Future: Contemporary Art and Science Fiction, 2019
9. View of the Earth from Mars taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, 2014
26. Ian Haig, Worm Biscuit, pencil on paper, 80 x 80 cm, 2004
10. Jack Sargeant, Suggested Strategies for Uncertain Futures, 2019
28. Ian Haig, Everything in You Has to Come Out, pencil on paper, 80 x 80 cm, 2004
12. Shalini Jardin, objective frequency, original image acrylic on marine plywood, 15 x 15 cm, 2013
30. Dan Bourke, 2050: Global Catastrophic & Existential Risks, 2019
13. Sam Scoggins, quoted dialogue and stills from his short film The Unlimited Dream Factory, in which he interviews J.G. Ballard, 1983 15. Roy Ananda, Annotated ‘Blasphemous Infinity’ (Roy Ananda, 2013), collage and digital print on paper, 2019 17. Jess Day and Joanne Richardson, Life on Mars, 2019
31. Lisa Sammut, a monumental echo, video still and installation image from the original work, 2018 37. Matthew Bradley, vessel design for the project One Hundred Vessels, pen and ink on sketchbook paper, 2015 38. Darren Jorgensen, Prologue to an exhibition that has not yet taken place, 2019
18. Erin Coates, The Strangeness of Everyday Reality, 2019
39. Marne Lucas and Jacob Pander, Incident Energy, film still featuring Mizu Desierto,4-channel infrared video, 2013
19. Neil Aldum, Icke’s hollow sphere, 2019
41. Soda_Jerk, The Anarchivist Manifesto, 2013
“I’m OK to go,” she says. The floor sucks out from beneath her seat, pulling her into an uncertain void. It warps the walls clear from their hinges. “I’m OK to go,” she says. The wormhole turns metallic, purple, glistening blue, tinged with froths of white, like a wave. Her face begins to blur. “I’m OK to go,” she says. Her voice disappears into an echo of hollow sound. “I’m OK to go,” she thinks, never so sure of anything, “I’m OK to go.” Oblivion.
Wormholes extracted from: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) The Black Hole (1979) Altered States (1980) Tron (1982) Brainstorm (1983) The Lawnmower Man (1992) Freejack (1992) Stargate (1994) Contact (1997) Speed Racer (2008) Tron: Legacy (2010) Lucy (2014) 1.
Iridium Cassie Lynch
In Noongar Boodja, the Country dreams of its Past, Present, and Future. The Present lives in those who dwell on Country. The banksias, the red-capped parrots, the granite hills. The peppermint trees, the people, the solitary stingless bees. The balga, the limestone, the pygmy possums. Those that float on the wind, feed from the trees, swim the lakes, hunt in the scrub. The Rainbow Serpents have crafted many landscapes in the Present. The mallee heath, coastal woodland, seagrass meadow, wattle thicket, tidal mudflat, riverine sedgeland. The Present is health and activity and home. Something, however, threatens at the edge of the Present, eating into Noongar Boodja, pushing it toward a particular Future. Landscapes that the Rainbow Serpents did not create have appeared. Vast fields of wheat have materialised inland, replacing the wandoo and salmon gum homes of black cockatoos. Grassed parklands fill entire valleys, displacing the burrowing creatures and eroding the banks of rivers. Hard concrete surfaces funnel the rain to the sea, preventing the natural soak into earth. Salt lakes have expanded and crystallised, shimmering as the trees disappear. There is a strange taste in the air.
The earthâ€™s crust is arranged in folds, warped layers of sedimentary stone, a rocky cerebrum full of memory. Noongar Boodja looks down into its Past, that history written in the strata beneath the surface. It sees volcanic globules left by the splitting of continents. The bones of a marsupial lion, long since turned to stone. The enveloped forms of Noongar babies lost to settler doctors, still wept over in the Present. Further down, past where the tuart trees turned to coral reef, itâ€™s there. A silverywhite layer deep in the earth. It sings like blood on the tongue, a metallic mineral in the mouth. The Country remembers that taste. Extinction. That layer is from the great earth-shaking event that threatened all life. The rock from space that burned the sky and vaporised the seas. The impact that threw up soil and steam that blocked out the sun. The Rainbow Serpents mourn the animals and plants lost in the boiling flash and the darkness that came after. Those whose leaves and bones now exist only as shadows in the rocks. The white metallic layer is the asteroid itself, exploded material that rained down and covered the earth. This thin band of alien ore was taken in as stratum, readable
in the rock like a drought year in the rings of a tree, the Iridium finishing line of the Cretaceous. Testimony of the largest celestial clash in the solar system for half a billion years. Noongar Boodja considers this membrane of trauma in the ground, memory of when the whole world was an extinction zone. That Past could not imagine a Future. Yet in the Present the Country has magpies singing at dawn, wind moving in the ghost gums, dugites basking on sandstone, sea urchins huddling in rock pools. The survivors of that burning, darkening Past walked the obliterated asteroid deep into the ground, with bird claw and mammal foot, and lived on. All Country is connected, and the earth can taste the sudden shift in the cycles of catastrophe and recovery. The metallic tang of blood and stardust is in the air. Noongar Boodja dreams its own Future. Here Rainbow Serpents arc from waterhole to waterhole, divine resistors of extinction, searing a path for the Present to follow. Cassie Lynch is a writer and researcher. She is a descendant of the Noongar people and belongs to the beaches on the south coast of Western Australia. 4.
View of the Earth from Mars. Taken in 2014 by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU
Suggested Strategies for Uncertain Futures Jack Sargeant There is a photograph of the Earth taken from the surface of Mars. In the void of infinite blackness our home planet appears as a white pin-point of light, one of many stars peppering the night sky that curves over the Red Planet’s Aeolis Palus.1 Other Suns plays on such dynamics. Depending on the perspective of the viewer, all stars become other. In an infinite universe there is no centre, just luminous dots in the darkness.2 Conceptually science fiction appears as unwieldy, how can a genre incorporate works as diverse as Jules Verne’s fantastic journeys beneath the oceans, J.G. Ballard’s suburban erotic psychopathologies, the deserts of Frank Herbert’s Dune, the dystopian theonomy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the tea-time television heroics of Doctor Who and her/his companions, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s
Ego the Living Planet?3 Science Fiction should not be viewed merely as a genre that incorporates numerous subgenres, it has no single centre. Instead it should be understood as a genre consisting of potentially endless parentheses: cyberpunk, new wave, sci-fi horror, slipstream fiction, cli-fi, Afrofuturism, space opera, and so on. In the popular imagination there is a tendency to view the science in science fiction as hard science, a mechanical or digital techno-futurism, but these are not the only manifestations of science. Town planning, architecture, genetics, psychology, virology, surgery, archaeology, sexology, and sociology can all be considered as sciences too. At its most exciting science fiction recognises the endless possibilities of all these developments (see, for example David Cronenberg’s fascination with bio-tech
1 The Aeolis Palus is the Martian plain where NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in 2012. 2 A cursory glance online suggests that the number of stars in the observable universe ranges from 1021 to 1024. 3 Jules Verne’s Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin was first published in 1870, more than four decades before the term science fiction was coined. J.G. Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition (1970) and Crash (1973) remain groundbreaking transgressive works. Epic in scope, Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) spawned five sequels set on the desert planet Arrakis. Margaret Atwood has refuted the suggestion that The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) is science fiction, like Ballard her work has been placed in numerous territories (speculative fiction, modern literature etc). Doctor Who was first broadcast in 1963 and continues to be produced by the BBC. Ego the Living Planet first appeared in The Mighty Thor issue 132 (1966).
parasitology and abnormal psychology in films such as Shivers, 1975, and The Brood, 19794). At their best the multiple genres that can be umbrellaed under science fiction engage in a kind of freeing of the unconscious in a manner akin to the psychic automatism of Surrealism, an art form that produced works that could readily be considered examples of science fiction (the alien, apocalyptic landscape of Max Ernst’s Europe After the Rain II, 1942, the bodily mutations of Hans Bellmer’s dolls, c.1936, or the fascinations with the atomic molecular in Salvador Dali’s Galatea of the Spheres, 1952). Surrealism, like science fiction was punctuated with echoes of earlier dream, visionary and occult creations, but was formalised in the early twentieth century. Science fiction and Surrealism were both named in the 1920s, with Andre Breton publishing The Surrealist Manifesto in 1924 and Hugo Gernsback publishing Amazing Stories, the first magazine dedicated to literary science fiction, two-years later. Such links can also be seen, decades later, in H.R. Giger’s designs for the film Alien, 1979 and Brigid Marlin’s reproductions of
two of Paul Delvaux’s destroyed paintings The Violation and The Mirror which were commissioned by J.G. Ballard and hung in his home. The unconscious spits forth dreams and imaginings, and the possibilities of science fictions are intimately related to these processes.5 This publication — which is neither book nor catalogue, neither ‘zine nor artwork, but is a strange hybrid of all of these forms — engages with the concerns that flourish beneath Other Suns. The contents in this volume shifts from plans and sketches to photographs, from scattered texts to dreamlike thoughts. Many of the pieces included in this publication are best interpreted as guides to the possibilities of science fiction, gateways to ideas informed by the potentials of the post-contemporary and imminent futures, imagined worlds distanced by the impossibilities of time and space yet somehow uncannily redolent of the dreamscapes of the contemporary unconscious. Jack Sargeant is a Sydney-based writer, curator and film festival program director.
4 David Cronenberg’s film Shivers is a masterwork of science fiction horror, like J.G. Ballard’s novel High Rise its dystopian mise en scene is located within the (failing) utopian fantasy of the vertical tower block community. 5 For more on H.R. Giger and Alien see the book Giger’s Alien (1979). For more on Brigid Marlin and Ballard: http:// www.ballardian.com/brigid-marlin-on-j-g-ballard
I can remember my dreams extremely vividly. Not only can I remember last night’s dreams, I can remember almost every dream I’ve ever had. I’ve never really drawn on my dreams for my own fiction. But I .. in many ways, think of my imagination as a writer as a continuation of the dream time. ... I don’t think the future will be sterile… J. G. Ballard
Reproduced with permission from Sam Scoggins from his short film The Unlimited Dream Factory, 1983.
3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.
The Solomani Rim (Game Designers’ Workshop, Traveller, 1977-present) Dimension X (Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (creators), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1984-present) The Pegasus galaxy (Stargate: Atlantis, 2004-2009) Sirius Tau (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1979) A galaxy far, far away (George Lucas (director), Star Wars, 1977) Gamma Draconis (Ursula K. Le Guin, Planet of Exile, 1966) 61 Cygni (Isaac Asimov, Foundation, 1951) The shoulder of Orion (Ridley Scott (director), Blade Runner, 1982) The Briar Patch (Jonathan Frakes (director), Star Trek: Insurrection, 1998) Chimera (Grant Morrison, Brendan McCarthy and Steve Yeowell (creators), Zenith, 1987-2000) The Rim (Firefly, 2002-2003) The Phlogiston (TSR Inc., Spelljammer: AD&D Adventures in Space, 1989) The Crab Nebula (Murray Leinster, First Contact, 1945)
14. The Rainbow Galaxy (Space Battleship Yamato, 19741975) 15. Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 1977) 16. The Imperium of Man (Games Workshop, Warhammer 40,000, 1987-present) 17. Tekumel star system (M.A.R. Barker, Empire of the Petal Throne, 1974) 18. The Twelve Colonies (Battlestar Galactica, 1978-1979) 19. Argo Navis (H.P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the WitchHouse, 1933) 20. The seventh galaxy (Doctor Who, 1963-present) 21. Non-space (Red Dwarf, 1988-present) 22. Alpha Eridani (Jack Vance, The Eyes of the Overworld, 1966) 23. Gargantua (Christopher Nolan (director), Interstellar, 2014) 24. Zeta Reticuli (Ridley Scott (director), Alien, 1979) 25. Pleiades (August Derleth, The Trail of Cthulhu, 1962) 26. The Triangulum galaxy (A.E. Van Vogt, Voyage of the Space Beagle, 1950) 27. Arcturus (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, 1979-1981) 28. The Shi’ar Galaxy (Marvel Comics, X-Men, 1979-present)
Not pictured: 29. The Xeno galaxy (Richard Donner (director), Superman, 1978) / 30. 36 Ophiuchi (Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965) / 31. The lost galaxy (Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy, 1999) / 32. The Krell galaxy (The Outer Limits, 1963-1965) / 33. Betelgeuse (FASA Corporation, BattleTech, 1984-present) / 34. Luyten 726-8 (Larry Niven, A Gift from Earth, 1968) / 35. Small Magellanic cloud (Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, 1959) / 36. Large Magellanic cloud (Richard Benjamin (director), My Stepmother is an Alien, 1988) / 37. 61 Ursae Majoris (Microsoft Game Studios, Mass Effect, 2007) / 38. The Faraway System (Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Deadlands: Lost Colony, 2002) / 39. Centaurus (Paul W.S. Anderson (director), Event Horizon, 1997) / 40. Galaxiki (Jos Kirps & Joopita Research a.s.b.l (creators), 2010) / 41. Beta Aquilae (Volition, FreeSpace 2, 1999) / 42. Ford galaxy (Mel Brooks (director), Spaceballs, 1987) / 43. Death zone (Alex Raymond (creator), Flash Gordon, 1934-2008) / 44. Wolf 359 (John Ringo, There Will Be Dragons, 2003) / 45. New Eden (CCP Games, EVE Online, 2003) / 46. Lundmark’s Nebula (E.E. “Doc” Smith, the Lensman series, 1948-1954) / 47. Beta Leporis (Stewart Cowley, Starliners: Commercial Travel in 2200 AD, 1980) / 48. The Field of Arbol (C.S. Lewis, The Space Trilogy, 1938-1945) / 49. Groombridge 1816 (Shoji Kawamori and Shinichiro Watanabe (directors), Macross Plus, 1994) / 50. Izar (The Orville, 2017-present) / 51. Mu Herculis (Simulations Publications Inc., Star Trader, 1982) / 52. Deneb (Blake’s 7, 1978-1981) / 53. Epsilon Indi (Ground Zero Games, Full Thrust, 1991-present) / 54. The All Systems Commonwealth (Andromeda, 2000-2005)
The strangeness of everyday reality Erin Coates As a child, growing up in the suburbs of a large country town, I remember often feeling like the normalcy of everyday life was hiding something that only I could sense. I went through a phase of playing secret mental games that I alone knew the rules to; pretending my mind had been swapped to another body and I had to surreptitiously inhabit someone else’s life; imagining there were hidden, deadly lasers dissecting the backyard; being host to a civilisation of microscopic aliens that I had to teach about the Earth. Apart from combating the boredom and isolation I often felt, these personal science fictions that I performed were a means of understanding the potential of imagination and were a mode for exploring divergent realities. They were internal speculative exercises that allowed me to expand out from the limits of my backyard, embracing the irrational and the unknown. These games found their way into the chunky graphic drawings I did on our Amstrad CPC (the only one on the street) and little sculptural assemblages I made from discarded materials. My rather vivid imagination as a
child of the 1980s was almost certainly fed by the movies I consumed. When it was my turn to choose a VHS from Moonlight Video Rentals (RIP), I would base my selection on the jacket cover pictures, and it was almost always science fiction imagery that drew me in; strange amalgamations of retro and futuristic technologies, laser beams shooting across galactic space, alien creatures and morphing human-hybrid bodies. I especially liked the genre mash up of ‘cosmic body horror’. Maybe it was my belief that if you are going to go out and explore deep space, well .. of course some horrible things are going to happen and I’d like to see what they are so I can prepare myself1. Yet not all journeys into space need to end horrifically. For Other Suns’ artists Jess Day and Joanne Richardson, travelling the galaxies is envisioned as a voyage of desire. Their geodesic half-dome starship, the Never Better, is designed for pleasure and amiable relations with the universe’s inhabitants. The charming optimism of this work belies its feminist critique of space exploration
1 I have never been a squeamish person, and I attribute this in part to the fortifying impact of all the body horror I watched.
as a historically masculine domain, prefaced on Western ideologies of progress and colonisation. Never Better navigates through a kind of space-time dérive2, it is hopelessly messy, and has no intention of actually arriving at any destination, let alone colonising another world. Countering the technocratic and goal-orientated nature of real space missions, the artists ask “Could we do any differently if we go into space as dreamers? As loving dreamers … as actual ‘space cadets’: the people who stare off into space?”3. Their vision of the future aligns with science fiction writer J.G. Ballard, quoted in Sam Scoggin’s short film The Unlimited Dream Factory: “I don’t think the future will be sterile…”4, and in the Never Better it is marvellously impractical and quite a lot of fun. While Day and Richardson offer an alternate trajectory of space travel, Neil Aldum looks back to a key moment in the history of humans in space; the first crewed Moon landing in 1969. As I write this text we are days away from the 50th anniversary of this event. In the context of impending climate
catastrophe and mass extinction, it feels deeply melancholic to imagine a moment so filled with optimism for human technological achievement and the future it would bring. Aldum presents us with the grainy images that were broadcast to the world on July 20 in 1969, via a series of original printed newspapers chronicling the approach, landing and first steps on the Moon by the crew of the Apollo 11. Hovering above the spread of newspapers a heavy form of concrete, wood and lead lingers. Its protuberances weigh down the newspapers as it looks back at this moment in time which was all about looking forward — two moments staring in opposite directions, locked in a temporal loop. In the proceeding post-landing optimism anything was possible for humankind; we had planted our feet on another terrestrial body and within years there would be a lunar base and manned missions to Mars—so we believed. Aldum’s sculpture pins down these images and questions the direction we are heading in now, perhaps lamenting the united human effort evident in these images and so absent in the today’s post-truth world.
2 The dérive is a strategy for moving through space as an unplanned journey. The concept was developed by French philosopher Guy Debord as an experimental behaviour and a means of studying ones environment through ‘psychogeography’. 3 Taken from email correspondence with Joanne Richardson, 1 July 2019. 4 Quoted with permission of the artist Sam Scoggins, from his short film The Unlimited Dream Factory, 1983, in which he interviews J.G. Ballard. This work is also included in the Other Suns exhibition.
Travelling beyond the Moon, past the limits of our solar system, and outwards into distant galaxies, Matthew Bradley’s mysterious cast metal vessels evoke detritus from a failed space mission—melted metal pitted by grains of asteroid dust, then left floating in the cold void of deep space. Or they could be imagined as artefacts from an alien civilisation, unearthed on a distant world. The arcane patterns formed into the dark metallic surfaces are indecipherable. There is a temptation to suspend ones disbelief and read these objects “…like ‘science fiction’ novels—extrapolating the histories of entire universes from the forms5”. But of course we can never escape our own humanness, and even extra-terrestrial fictions are deeply inflected with our own internalised ideas of otherness. Writing about alien artefacts within science fiction Darren Jorgensen suggests that such objects “…illuminate not the workings of some lost civilisation but one’s inability to imagine that civilisation6.” Science fiction is the visible mechanism of how we imagine what we don’t know. I enjoy the apparatus of the vision-making as much as the image it creates. The things science fiction shows me can be truly terrifying, thrilling and deeply affecting, even knowing they spring from the speculative mental games of someone escaping their backyard. Erin Coates is a Perth-based artist, curator and creative producer. 5 Taken from email correspondence with Matthew Bradley, 8 February 2019. 6 Darren Jorgensen in the comments section of an article in the online journal Runway by Kelly Fliedner Text 2- Is there a field of ‘arts reading’? October 2018.
In the intimacy of their extinction In the vat they lay Consumed by environmental change The magic of the rock pool, two creatures became. Explanation: environmental change drives evolution. A fantasy that a bio film in a turbulent environment could cause millions of years of evolution within hours. Yow and Sox can now photosynthesise. In the intimacy of their extinction In the vat they lay Consumed by environmental decay/change The magic of the rock pool, two creatures became.
Into the Future: Contemporary Art and Science Fiction Andrew Frost Science fiction is often referred to as a genre. At its core the consensus view of what is and isn’t science fiction is broadly understood: sci-fi is generally about the future, is usually something to do with an extrapolation of technology or social order, or a combination of both.
itself is an interesting question, and the subject of wide academic debate, but if the most generous definition of the genre can be applied here — that you know it when you see it — then science fiction encompasses a wide array of traditions, influences and interests.
But of course there are occasions when that simple definition doesn’t quite work, such as when science fiction that is about the present, or an alternative past, or where technology is not futuristic but archaic, or where there is apparently no extrapolation at all, but where it instead presents a heightened version of things we think we already know. And let’s not forget the hybrid forms of science fiction that meld with horror, comedy, romance, crime fictions, thriller and action adventure. What is considered certain about the genre in its most familiar form is in fact far from it.
The ways in which contemporary artists have engaged with science fiction broadly align with two of its major aesthetic groupings. On the one hand there is what we might call NASA Modern, the minimalist design aesthetic of scientific experimental technologies, from space flight, wide-field astronomy to molecular imaging, to ultra-remote remote sensing of outer space, or the bottom of the sea floor. On the other hand is the thread of influence from Pulp and Golden Age era illustration reimagined as an ironic or counter-factual restaging, or an unabashed love of the source material celebrated for its own sake, or indeed, both. In essence we have two ideas of sci-fi — the sleek, white spaces of highbrow genre fiction vs. the leather-jacket and switchblade anarchy of motorbikes, UFOs and B-movie shockers.
Of course, science fiction is also not limited to literature or cinema, but its effect can be found in music or gaming, in architecture, and of course, in contemporary art. Whether this can be considered science fiction 25.
Works such as those by Roy Ananda, Lisa Sammut, and Marne Lucas and Jacob Pander, connect to that first grouping, a cool and technological ‘look’ that suggests the traditions of minimalism, illustration, and a variety of imaging technologies are brought to bear on subjects at any scale, peering through bodies or out into the heart of the sun. This kind of aesthetic approach feels grounded in a sense of objectivity, of something intimately connected to a cultural sense of what ‘science’ is, and how it is represented, but these pieces are also profoundly felt personal responses. By contrast, that other thread, the pulp tinged rock ‘n’ roll lineage, is detectable in the works of Soda_Jerk, Penny Walker-Keefe and Astro Morphs, in pieces that joyfully rewrite pop culture history, connect to the cult fringes of science fiction, and engage in outlandish fictions that border on pure fantasy. These works connect a wider history or cultural moment to a personal interpretation of the threads of recent history, or, as in the work of Boyden Woods, an infusion of traditional landscape painting tradition with an Indigenous history and science fictional literalism. The hybrid practice of contemporary science fiction that sees the often-staid genre 27.
meld with other more lively material is evidenced by the work of Ian Haig and Shalini Jardin. In Haig’s work, where the human body, medical science and the uncanny meet, there are strong links to the roots of modern science fiction, the tradition that connects Frankenstein’s monster to incredible shrinking men and man-fly hybrids. Partly satirical but also profoundly disturbing, ‘body horror’ is a sub-genre that refuses to die - and perhaps cannot be killed. Jardin’s work meanwhile suggests that the future is a place where what constitutes the ‘human’ may become a matter of degree, a world of hybrid human creatures, perhaps the result of a will to survive, or one, as in Haig’s work, where perversity rules. The meeting of contemporary art and science fiction has itself a history. For decades artists have drawn inspiration from literature and movies, TV shows and comics, quoting liberally and interpreting freely. Given the recursive nature of much contemporary art, we find work that is itself concerned with past interpretations of science fiction in art. Dan Bourke’s t-shirts riff on the aesthetic of New Wave SF book cover art, a translation of one aesthetic onto another egalitarian object. Claire Evan’s video collates the visual language of movie and TV science fiction when it depicts
wormholes and hyperspace, the vast colourfields and fluctuating technologies of CGI, while Oliver Hull’s video utilizes the software that was used to produce the undersea imagery in James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989). There are more works here in the show that I have not mentioned, but they can be accommodated somewhere in this connection of ideas, influences and practices. One of the fascinating questions to ask about this meeting of science fiction and contemporary art — is simply, why? One widely held position, and one that I share, is that science fiction is itself an aesthetic, not a genre as such, one that spans a broad range of cultural expression, from the traditional sites of cinema and novels, across the outer fringes of maybe-sci-fi to the realms of para-science fictional expression. Science fiction is perhaps the most democratic of genres because it is so easily adapted with any other genre, and it is driven by the audience as much as the makers. Thinking of it as an aesthetic liberates use from the drudgery of definition and tedious arguments about intention — it’s a wide field, electrified by its constant reimagining. But still — the why… science fiction is the aesthetic of the contemporary world, that shifting, always 29.
moving-forward expression of culture, technology and outward desire. The work in this show, like so much recent art that has connected with science fiction, reminds us that this is a thing that is created at the grass-roots level, moment to moment, always and forever, into the future. Dr. Andrew Frost is a Sydney-based writer and art critic. He also directs art documentaries.
Prologue to an exhibition that has not yet taken place
The first exhibition of science fiction was Harald Szeemann’s 1967 Science Fiction, that wanted to make a ‘Museum of Today’. European museums presented a particular problem for Szeeman, with their Greek statues and Roman coins standing for the past of Europe’s future. Of course an exhibition about the future is properly speaking impossible, because as soon as something is made it is a part of the present. This is why contemporary art often appears to be futuristic, but could never be about the future. Contemporary art brings into being that which did not exist before, something different from other things, but can only gesture to the future from its own present. The conundrum for artists lies in the differentiation they must make of their work from the clutter of things that instead promise the future. In the lexicon of science fiction theory such things are called quasinovums, that appear to transform the world but really do not. Videophone watches and motorised skateboards appear in the world like science fiction but are not, because we are already living in the future that they bring into being. As homes become smart homes and cars begin to drive themselves, science fiction seems less world shaking than the world itself. It is barely possible to imagine the future when the world is constantly becoming different and strange. The quasi-novums that surround us mean that it is harder than ever for the world to be present to itself, because everything appears as old or incredibly new, a legacy of the past
or a portent of the future. The present is the paradox of science fiction itself, its imaginary futures symptomatic of an inability to grasp the present. These futures are invariably less complicated than the present, the immensity of the universe crossed at the speed of light, and aliens appearing all too much like ourselves. Contemporary art is similarly nostalgic for a future that will never come to pass. So it is that as we look at contemporary art about science fiction we might as well peer into a black hole, the future no longer being visible there, the light that it should shed on our contemporary condition bending into the paradox of being present in the time that it is already in. This is what the writer Philip K. Dick meant by the titles of his 1959 book Time Out of Joint, and The Martian Time Slip from 1964. In the latter the settlers of Mars are disoriented by the extra 20 minutes in a Martian day, the sense that they are slightly behind the real time of Earth. Dick was describing the way we are all Martians now, the sense that there is a delay in the way we grasp the present, the gap between the world we know and the one we do not. Contemporary artists want to make this present visible, to speak to a future that has not arrived, to grapple with the impossibility of living in a time in which it is not only impossible to imagine the future, but the present itself. Darren Jorgensen is a writer and senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia.
The Anarchivist Manifesto Soda_Jerk Reports coming in from our agents in the field, pieced together here by Eddie the Sponge, suggests that1 we are stuck2 in an occult time war3 where multitudes of factual events are guided by the powers of illusion.4 These are the simple facts of the case.5 The Nova Conspiracy6 works through fictions that repudiate their own fictional status.7 Fiction is not opposed to the real. Rather, reality is understood to be composed of fictions—consistent semiotic terrains that condition perceptual, affective and behavioral responses.8 Mostly it’s done in pictures.9 Images are more real than anyone could have supposed.10 If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.11 The board agents learn to think in these association blocks,12 which can then be manipulated according to the laws of association and juxtaposition.13 What you call reality is a complex network of necessary formulae.14 You are nailed and sealed inside a glamorous sarcophagus.15 You are dogs on all tape.16 This is obviously one aspect of a big picture, what looks like a carefully worked 41.
out blueprint for17 the permanent rewriting of both past and future.18 The basic nova technique is very simple.19 If all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 20 Reality itself is postproduced and scripted21 by complicating time, reactivating prestigious forebears, by comparing events across time, by fabricating memories.22 ‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’.23 Now you may well ask whether we can straighten out this mess to the satisfaction of any life forms involved, and my answer is this.24 Their Immortality Cosmic Consciousness and Love is second-run grade-B shit.25 Reality Film is the dreariest entertainment ever presented to a captive audience26 and you can see that the marks are wising up, standing around in sullen groups, and that mutter gets louder and louder:27 “What’s this Reality con?28 Who the fuck are you and what are you doing in my image track?29 Who monopolized Love Sex and Dream? Who monopolized Life Time and Fortune? Who took from you what is yours?” 30
It is true, what many of you have heard.31 The error in enemy strategy is now obvious.32 The only way to break the inexorable downward spiral of ugly uglier ugliest recording and playback is with counter recording and playback.33 But when two-thirds of global copyrights are in the hands of six corporations, the capacity to rework one’s memories into the material symbolic form of individual testament and testimony is severely constrained. We rarely own the memories we are sold.34 Yeah. Well, that sounds like a pretty good deal. But I think I may have a better one.35 The counter move is very simple.36 If you want the world you could have in terms of discoveries and resources now in existence, be prepared to fight for that world.37 We think of the past as being there unchangeable. Actually the past is ours to shape and change as we will38—a past that is not strictly documentary, for it contains an infinity of possible futures, versions of what has already happened or may still happen.39 You are to infiltrate, sabotage and cut communications.40 Statements by authorities need to be messed with and set in motion. Texts and images must be used unexpectedly, tossed into the world—both commandeered and set free. Settings, views, and attitudes taken for granted have to be rigorously
dissected, torn apart, reconfigured.41 The more you run the tapes through and cut them up the less power they will have.42 The experiments described here were explained and demonstrated to me by43 William S. Burroughs.44 But there wasn’t any video then, not that people could get hold of. That was in ‘69.45 The history of history making has come a long way since then.46 What has happened is that the underground, and also the Nova Police, have made a breakthrough past the guards and gotten into the darkroom where the films are processed.47 It’s to do with technology, the Internet and the past that’s put everything out there like an archival universe.48 Anything, in any medium imaginable, from any culture, which is in any way recorded and can be played back is now accessible and infinitely malleable and usable.49 We are splintering consensual realities to test their substance. Utilizing the tools of collision, collage, composition, decomposition, progression systems, random chance, juxtaposition, cut-ups, hyperdelic vision and any other method available that melts linear conceptions and reveals holographic webs and fresh spaces.50 Anarchism51 becomes the discourse best equipped to contend with this new state 42.
of things.52 While the Image Neoliberalist still believes in53 the owner as the steward of54 audiovisual economies,55 the Image Anarchist56 suggests that the rational behaviour of form and matter is open to infinite possibilities within the digital realm.57 We arrive at an entirely new perception of58 image and world59 unconfined by the60 galling limitations of time, space, and61 intellectual property.62 Nobody can control the whole operation. It’s too complex.63 Not even64 Uncle Fishhook65 understands what’s going on in the system now.66 But this does not mean that these opportunities are only used for progressive ends.67 Without necessarily striking an alarmist or disapproving tone,68 I would like to sound a word of warning.69 In the postsampling post-Internet era70 the presence of the past in the present is massively increased. But this spatialisation of time causes historical depth to drop out.71 This leads to a tricky question72—how can we prevent this telescoping of cultures and styles from ending up in kitsch eclecticism, a cool Hellenism excluding all critical judgement?73 The key to this dilemma is in establishing processes and practices74 where ideas about history can be generated.75 This would be, in 43.
essence, an attempt to construct a practical conduit between76 the Image Anarchist77 and the process of archivization.78 An alliance between the79 contested territories of image meanings and80 the historicization of forms.81 We want the whole tomalley.82 Not to start at zero or find oneself encumbered by the storehouse of history, but to83 develop a radical historicism that highlights84 how certain kinds of meanings become attached to certain kinds of images, and how that can be undercut.85 It remains true that as soon as accident becomes a permanent possibility, history ceases to be programmable and predictable.86 But this is not enough.87 Tristan Tzara cutting Shakespeare sonnets up and pulling their words from hats is an exercise in randomizing. William Burroughs and Brion Gysin mixing poems in with sliced-up pages from The New York Times is quite another matter.88 It generates a critique by using the material left behind by the enemy. Like jujitsu, using the weight of the enemy against himself.89 Regardless of our awareness of it, we are all archivists-as-activists.90 Images are not objective or subjective renditions of a preexisting condition.91 They are rather nodes of energy and matter that migrate across different supports, shaping and
affecting people, landscapes, politics, and social systems.92 Our moral responsibility is not to stop a future, but to shape it.93 Not aesthetically, but functionally—that is to say, magically, with magic defined as the use of signs to produce changes in reality.94 Filmmakers have hitherto only represented the world in various ways. The point is to generate worlds differently.95 If images can be shared and circulated, why can’t everything else be too?96 If copyright can be dodged and called into question, why can’t private property? If one can share a restaurant dish JPEG on Facebook, why not the real meal? Why not apply fair use to space, parks, and swimming pools?97 Why stop there. Why stop anywhere.98 Listen. I call you all. Show your cards all players. 99 I offer you nothing. I am not a politician.100 A revolution can be neither made nor stopped. The only thing that can be done is for one of several of its children to give it a direction by dint of victories.101 Believe me when I say we have a difficult time ahead of us. But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it.102 Prisoner, come out. The great skies are open.103 Wise up all the marks everywhere. Show them the rigged wheel of Life Time Fortune. Storm the Reality Studio. And retake the universe.104
Samples 1 Edward Desautels, ‘Totally Wired: Prepare Your Affidavits of Explanation’, in Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization, ed. Davis Schneiderman and Philip Walsh (London: Pluto Press, 2004), 117 2 Boris Groys, ‘Comrades of Time’, in Time, ed. Amelia Groom (London: Whitechapel Gallery & The MIT Press, 2013), 153 3 Ccru, ‘Lemurian Time War’, Retaking the Universe, 274 4 Ccru, ‘Lemurian Time War’, Retaking the Universe, 277 5 William S. Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded (London: Fourth Estate, 2010), 71 6 William S. Burroughs, Nova Express (New York: Grove Press, 1992), 7 7 Ccru, ‘Lemurian Time War’, Retaking the Universe, 277 8 Ccru, ‘Lemurian Time War’, Retaking the Universe, 275 9 William S. Burroughs, The Place of Dead Roads (London: Harper Collins, 2010), 196 10 Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1979), 180 11 The Matrix (1999) 12 Burroughs, The Ticket that Exploded, 68 13 Burroughs, Nova Express, 37 14 William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, The Third Mind (New York: Seaver Books & Viking, 1978), 27 15 Bruce Sterling, ‘The Life and Death of Media’, in Unbound Sound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture, ed. Paul D. Miller (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2008), 80 16 Burroughs, Nova Express, 13 17 Burroughs, The Ticket that Exploded, 16 18 Groys, ‘Comrades of Time’, in Time, 153 19 William S. Burroughs and Daniel Odier, The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2008), 35 20 George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Random House USA Inc., 1998), 32 21 Hito Steyerl, ‘In Defense of the Poor Image,’ e-flux Journal, Issue 10 (2009) 22 Alexander Nagel and Christopher Wood, ‘The Plural Temporality of the Work of Art’, in Time, 41
23 Orwell, 1984, 32 24 Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 44 25 Burroughs, Nova Express, 6 26 Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 118 27 Burroughs, Nova Express, 14 28 Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 116 29 Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 31 30 Burroughs, Nova Express, 5 31 The Matrix Reloaded (2003) 32 Burroughs, Nova Express, 37 33 William S. Burroughs in Timothy S. Murphy, ‘Exposing the Reality Film: William S. Burroughs Among the Situationists’, Retaking the Universe, 39 34 Victor Burgin, The Remembered Film (London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2004), 110 35 The Matrix (1999) 36 Burroughs, Nova Express, 74 37 Burroughs and Odier, The Job, 224 38 Burroughs, The Job, 35 39 Chus Martinez, Thoughtform, (Barcelona: MACBA, 2011), 14 40 Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 86 41 Hito Steyerl, ‘Beginnings’, e-flux Journal, Issue 59 (2014) 42 Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 168 43 Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 167 44 Jack Sargeant, The Naked Lens: An Illustrated History of Beat Cinema (London: Creation Books, 1997), 169 45 Genesis Breyer P.Orridge, ‘Throbbing Gristle Interview’, in Re/Search #4/5: A Special Book Issue (San Francisco: V/Search Publications, 1982), 80 46 Ellen Blumenstein, ‘Andre Romao: The Vertical Stage – History, Theatre, Democracy,’ in Andre Romao: The Vertical Stage (Berlin: Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH, 2010), 76 47 William Burroughs and Sylvère Lotringer, Burroughs Live: The Collected Interviews of William S. Burroughs, 1960-1997 (Los Angeles and New York: Semiotext(e), 2001), 70 48 Simon Reynolds in Dan Fox, ‘Music’, in Frieze Magazine, Issue 140 (2011), 45
49 Genesis Breyer P.Orridge, ‘Thee Splinter Test,’ in Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult, ed. Richard Metzger (New York: Disinformation Company, 2003), 33 50 Breyer P.Orridge, ‘Thee Splinter Test’, in Book of Lies, 32 51 Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, ‘After the Future’, in Time, 168 52 Scott Bukatman, ‘Who Programs You? The Science Fiction of the Spectacle’, in Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, ed. Annette Kuhn (London and New York: Verso, 1990), 200 53 Brad Troemel, Shared Spaces Symposium, Whitney Museum of Art (2014) 54 Troemel, Shared Spaces Symposium, Whitney Museum of Art 55 Steyerl, ‘In Defense of the Poor Image,’ e-flux Journal, Issue 10 56 Troemel, Shared Spaces Symposium, Whitney Museum of Art 57 Jose Da Silva, ‘Sam Smith,’ in Premiere of Queensland’s National New Media Art Award (Brisbane: Gallery of Modern Art, 2008), 32 58 Chronox, ‘Loop’, in Making Worlds: Art and Science Fiction, ed. Amelia Barikin and Helen Hughes (Melbourne: Surplus, 2013), 201 59 Steyerl, ‘In Defense of the Poor Image,’ e-flux Journal, Issue 10 60 Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Becoming… An Introduction’, in Becomings, ed. Elizabeth Grosz (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999) 4. 61 H.P Lovecraft in S.T Joshi (ed.), ‘Introduction’, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, (London and New York: Penguin, 2002), xv 62 R.U. Sirius, 21st Century Revolutionary, (The Netherlands: Fringecore, 1999), 69 63 Burroughs and Lotringer, Burroughs Live, 81 64 Burroughs and Lotringer, Burroughs Live, 81 65 Sylvère Lotringer and Jack Smith, ‘Uncle Fishhook and the Sacred Baby Poo-poo of Art’, in Hatred of Capitalism. A Semiotext(e) Reader, ed. Sylvère Lotringer and Chris Kraus (Cambridge: Semiotext(e)/
MIT Press, 2001), 243 66 Burroughs and Lotringer, Burroughs Live, 81 67 Steyerl, ‘In Defense of the Poor Image,’ e-flux Journal, Issue 10 68 Simon Reynolds, Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2012), 424 69 Burroughs, Nova Express, 7 70 Reynolds, Retromania, 420 71 Reynolds, Retromania, 425 72 Reynolds, Retromania, 424 73 Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How art reprograms the World, trans. Jeanine Herman (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2005), 44 74 Bourriaud, Postproduction, 46 75 Craig Baldwin in Kevin Attell, ‘Leftovers / CA Redemption Value: Craig Baldwin’s Found-Footage Films,’ Cabinet Magazine, No.3 (2001), 16 76 Murphy, ‘Exposing the Reality Film’, Retaking the Universe, 31 77 Troemel, Shared Spaces Symposium, Whitney Museum of Art 78 Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 94 79 Murphy, ‘Exposing the Reality Film’, Retaking the Universe, 31 80 Troemel, Shared Spaces Symposium, Whitney Museum of Art 81 Bourriaud, Postproduction, 46 82 Burroughs, The Place of Dead Roads, 38 83 Bourriaud, Postproduction, 46 84 Philip Walsh, ‘Reactivating the Dialectic of Enlightenment: Burroughs as Critical Theorist’, Retaking the Universe, 63 85 Baldwin in Attell, ‘Leftovers / CA Redemption Value’, Cabinet Magazine, No.3, 16 86 Sylviane Agacinski, Time Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia, trans. Jody Gladding (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 31 87 Susan L. Hurley, Justice, Luck and Knowledge (Cambridge, MA and London: First Harvard University
Press, 2003), 100 88 Tom McCarthy, Transmission and the Individual Remix (Vintage Digital, 2012), 26 89 Baldwin in Attell, ‘Leftovers / CA Redemption Value,’ Cabinet Magazine, No.3, 16 90 Mark Matienzo, ‘On Anarchivism: Perpetuating the Postmodern Turn within Archival Thought’, online at http://matienzo.org/storage/2002/2002OnAnarchivism.pdf 91 Steyerl, ‘In Defense of the Poor Image,’ e-flux Journal, Issue 10 92 Steyerl, ‘In Defense of the Poor Image,’ e-flux Journal, Issue 10 93 Breyer P.Orridge, ‘Thee Splinter Test’, Book of Lies, 34 94 Ccru, ‘Lemurian Time War’, Retaking the Universe, 275 95 Harun Farocki in Hito Steyerl, ‘Beginnings’, e-flux Journal, Issue 59 (2014) 96 Hito Steyerl, ‘Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?’, e-flux Journal, Issue 49 (2013) 97 Steyerl, ‘Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?’, e-flux Journal, Issue 49 98 Burroughs, The Ticket that Exploded, 82 99 Burroughs, Nova Express, 4 100 Burroughs, Nova Express, 6 101 Attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte 102 The Matrix Reloaded (2003) 103 Burroughs, Nova Express, 4 104 Burroughs, Nova Express, 59
This publication has been printed on the occasion of the exhibition Other Suns, at Fremantle Arts Centre, 27 July to 14 Sept 2019. Other Suns also includes a series of film screenings as a part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival. Featuring local, national and international artists who embrace the science fictional imagination, Other Suns focuses on the less familiar underbellies of science fiction: the hybrid, the noisy, the forbidden, and the vernacular. Artists who explore the detritus of the future, the ecologies of other spaces, and the polymorphic technologies of tomorrow. Other Suns probes the trajectory of science fiction from its counter culture New Wave outwards, moving in all directions simultaneously. The human imagination unveiled on digital screens, in junkyard sculptures, and at all points in between. From terraformed suburbs to ancient landscapes, the pleasures of the limitless flesh to alternative manifestations of space travel. The universe and dreams, dreams and desires, the surrealism of science fiction and minds unleashed: Other Suns engages with the individual imagination as the key element in the science fiction vision. Under other suns new worlds form.
Fremantle Arts Centre operates on the traditional lands of the Whadjuk Boodja people, of the Noongar Nations.
Other Suns: Cult Sci-fi Cinema & Art exhibited at Fremantle Arts Centre from Saturday 27 July – Saturday 14 September 2019. The group exhi...
Published on Dec 2, 2019
Other Suns: Cult Sci-fi Cinema & Art exhibited at Fremantle Arts Centre from Saturday 27 July – Saturday 14 September 2019. The group exhi...