Citing the Futurex

This text is arriving to you through the jumbled airwaves of 2020. Day by day, the start of this next decade is proving itself to be pivotal - for many, like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and all the black and indigenous lives lost due to systemic racism and oppression, the pivot did not come soon enough; for many others, such as BIPOC people all over the world, #blacklivesmatter, immigrants and refugees, our environments facing increasingly dire realities of climate change, the revolution is still continuing.

No institution or parent or mentor gave us a manual on what it means to live today, let alone what it means to practice as a designer or an architect. The examples that we have been shown are disappointing and unsatisfactoryx - models of practice for both life, work and learning have aged poorly, and their relevance long expired. This is a crude attempt at reorienting ourselves, at a time of crisis, a time of breakthrough.

We want alternative ways to communicate, to gather, to grow, to become, to work, to live, and this time, truly, different ways. We want to question the tendencies we have internalized as people, as architects, as a field.x When almost every system for health, education, survival, mobility, shelter, is revealed to be built without equality in mind, when people and ecologies are constantly negated and left behind, when individual experience, cultures and habitats are erased from the past, present and future... reflection and acknowledgement is just not enough. We need to actively change how we are imagining futures, and have actionable ways to change behaviours. Lose some beliefs and gain some other ones.

Refuse the packaging of intimacy for platform capitalism, refuse branding for privatizing baseline life necessities, refuse irony and exploitation (yes, you are still using the Master’s tools, even if you think you are using them to dismantle the Master’s housex), refuse the illusion of a single, universal solution. Refuse architectures of oppression. Refuse the gatekeeping of ideas. Refuse the consolidation and abuse of power. Refuse systems and platforms that suppress social and cultural histories. Refuse metaphors for real issues. Refuse accepting capitalism as the only way forward.

Engage complexities. Engage stories. Engage the intimate and the unclassifiable. Engage with people as people, not as material. Engage material as a gift. Engage in acts of mutual flourishing, boost each other, engage in mentorship for young and old people, volunteer your time and knowledge. Engage the local, offer skills for mutual aid, share your techniques and resources. Engage foreignness, learn how to be a foreigner. Engage kindness. Engage in maintenance and repair. Engage in abolitionist attitudes, strategies, engage in reflection and renewal. Engage in collaboration and cooperation with a generosity of ideas.

So much work has to be done at a systemic level, at an interpersonal level, and most importantly, at an intimate, personal level. To be intimate with oneself is to comprehend the scale of racism and inequality, to acknowledge that everything is intertwined.

Rather than the canon, we prefer to cite the future. Why are we learning algebra? Because there’s a climate crisis and no one can figure out the math.x Why should architects be involved with dismantling the policing state? Because reparations and equality will pave the way for design that is truly accessible and sustainable for everybody. Why are we putting efforts into mending, repair and maintenance? Because building is an act of care (aka. building can’t exist without loving, healing, tending, growing). Why can’t we repeat what’s done in the past? Because kinship is (and has always been) multi-dimensional, and it will require multitudes of spaces, moods, and peoples.

Citing the future is our way out of continually relying on the past to justify progress. Citing the future is not accelerationism, it is not blindly pushing the present into the future.x Citing the future is not a negation of history. Citing the future is to rewrite systems and values, from another direction. Citing the future is to reestablish purpose. Citing the future liberates us from the economy of scarcity, and orients us toward plural and multi-faceted ways of knowing and being. Citing the future is expanding the field - steering away from canonization and towards a non-linear, generous conception of cultural evolution. The project of decolonization in architecture, design and pedagogy cannot solely focus on integration and inclusion of diverse voices into existing canons, but be actively projecting a space in which nonconforming practices can be supported, sustained and flourishing. Citing the future, is to make space for the work that needs to be done to achieve it, right now.

Our actions will be our history.x Our words hold us accountable. There are no barriers to entry to Citing the Futurex - lived experience is the preferred method of research. Citing the future traverses binaries, guides purpose.

With love and optimism,

June 2020

x We are inspired by the work and ideas spawning in the crisis of our present: Soft Surplus team of Surplus+, Dark Study.Net, Queer.Archive.Work Space + Residency, BUFU + China Residencies Cloud 9, and many many others who are putting their time, love and care towards liberation and mutual aid. Systems have failed us, but the strength of incredible friends and colleagues pave the way.

x The first question to be asked should be more “what can one do as a citizen?” rather than assuming that design/ architecture is good and can solve the problem. Blindly asking “what can architecture do?” is to decenter the discussion about humanity and change in behaviour that is demanded in people to address the current crisis. It is not a technique in Citing the Future - rather, it is projecting the present broken definition of the design field forward.

    ︎︎︎  Wilkins, Craig. “It’s Time for Architects to Accept Responsibility”, Curbed.    

    “So, for me, the question isn’t: What can architecture as a profession do? The better question is: What is the nature of the profession? Why is it that other professions understand their role and duty to promote the well-being of the public, but architecture does not?“

x Lorde, Audre. “The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House.” 1984.

  ︎︎︎Halberstam, Jack. “Vertiginous Capital Or, The Master’s Toolkit.” 2018.

“We must all become walking nightmares, arsenals of doom, walking disasters, walking dead, here not to demand recognition, not to ask for justice from the same system that criminalized us or ask for a new leader to be delivered by the same process that gave us the Clintons and Tr*mp. We come bearing new weapons, dildonic tools of the countersexual underground, new hacks of old systems, we come to blow the house down. It is time to turn to the language of unmaking, unbuilding, undoing while refusing the vertiginous capital techniques of litigious accusation and criminalization. Tear it all down!”

x When asked whether it is still possible to do anything to address the climate crisis or is it too late, Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason responded by saying - “When somebody says, “Why am I studying algebra?” then the teacher has to say, well, this is the graph. We have to draw down 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the next fifty years, and nobody has any idea how to do it. That’s why you have to study algebra.”

x Accerationalism propels us into the future mindlessly with a technocratic and hyper capitalist mindset. Considering how the technological systems of the 21st century has been revealed to be mass surveillance and manipulation, an ideology that puts itself in a perpetual state does not bode well.

x Ruth Wilson Gilmore - “What the world will become already exists in fragments and pieces in experiments and possibilities. It’s building the future from the present in all the ways we can.”

Outwit WeWork

To fight back, architects must move beyond speculative realism’s obsession with manipulation of the digital and re-learn how to manipulate reality: not to control it, but rather to re-introduce freedom by means of design.

An essay in The New York Review of Architecture by Matthew Bohne.

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