Asian Futures Conference
Over the last decade new futurisms have sprung up in a number of guises. Almost all of these go back to Marinetti's Futurism as a foil, the belief that a better future is possible through (digital) machines. However, this is also where the relationship to Marinetti's ends. If he and many in his group worshipped the power of (war) machineries, the new futurisms take social and cultural change through digital means as their focus.
Most prominent among these new futurisms is Afrofuturism, but Sinofuturism (or Red Futurism) is quickly catching up; other Futurisms include Latinx futurism, Nipponfuturism and Gulf Futurism (Frangos, 2017). All these have at least three important common goals. First, there is the attempt of decentering of European/Western attempts of defining reality for all individuals and nations. “In the West and elsewhere, the European, in the midst of other peoples, has often propounded an exclusive view of reality; the exclusivity of this view cretes a fundamental human crisis.” In some cases, it has created cultures arrayed against each other or even against themselves. Afrocentricity’s response certainly is not to impose its own paarticularity as a universal, as Eurocentricity has often done. Already in 1998, Asante rightfully claimed that listening to the voice of the subaltern “is one way of creating a saner society and one model for a more humane world.” Secondly, there is the attempt to "distort and undermine modernity’s signature narrative of development and progress, holding up a mirror to its history of broken promises and thereby challenging its imagined foreclosure of possible futures, […] the project of interrogating the failure of the utopian promises of modernity on both personal and collective registers." (Frangos, 2017). This would also include the challenging of urban centres via rural futurisms (Culp, 2018). Lastly, there are the attempts of presenting concurring models for the future, including AI and post-human projects, as viewed through the lens of divergent and cultural media.
Techno-orientalism appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990, spurred on by the success Japanese technology began to have in the west, indicating a shift in the geopolitical realities. Films, Manga and books such as Akira, Ghost in the Shell, The Three Body Problem, Battle Angel Alita, and many others ushered in a new apparently superior oriental understanding and application of technology. If before, the future had been made in the USA or Europe, its production had now shifted eastward. As Zhang (2017) relates, "the exterior scenes in Spike Jonze’s 2013 sci-fi rom-com, Her, were filmed in Shanghai’s Pudong district, setting Joaquin Phoenix’s high-waisted trousers against the archetypal Chinese metropolis cast as a future Los Angeles. More pithily, a character in Rian Johnson’s thriller Looper (2012) advises: ‘I’m from the future: go to China.’” This point is made even more succinctly by Lawrence Lek in his 2016 film Sinofuturism: "Sinofuturism is an invisible movement. A spectre already embedded into a trillion industrial products, a billion individuals, and a million veiled narratives. It is a movement, not based on individuals, but on multiple overlapping flows. Flows of populations, of products, and of processes. Because Sinofuturism has arisen without conscious intention or authorship, it is often mistaken for contemporary China. But it is not. It is a science fiction that already exists.” And when it comes to issues of gender, Lu Yang’s Delusional Mandala, reintroduces art moving image creation as the catalyst for futurist’s aesthetic and imagination.
Last but not least, the philosopher Yuk Hui has recently been propounding his world view as “Chinese cosmotechnics”, thereby decentering western attempts of claiming sovereignty of technology and proposing a technodiversity to re-think modern technology by inventing new directions and new frameworks.
It is the aim of this conference to investigate these science-fictional techno-oriental tropes and broadly focus on the following questions:
- How to assess the fall-out of a hyper-globalised world, including epidemics?
- How to explore race as a technology?
- How to think through future bodies and embodiment in a post-human environment?
- How to reclaim the pride of one’s heritage?
- How to investigate how utopic and dystopic futurisms can engage and deliver diversity?
- How to decentre Western discourses of the future?
- How to view the present from the future?
- How to explore the sharing of a common future (imagination)?
- How to help create alternate spaces beyond national borders and urban spaces?
- How to imagine future genders along decolonial lines (e.g. Zairong Xiang and Lu Yang?)
- How to think technodiversity through art as a form of knowledge production?
- How to re- think futurisms in the context of climate change?
- How to re- think science fiction as a form of knowledge production?
- How to re- think futurisms in the context of Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum computing or blockchain technology?
Day 1 & 2 Papers Delivered at Golden Jazz Club
Golden Jazz Club, 48 Beishan south street, Zhuhai
Day 1 Film Screening @ Beishan Station
2nd Floor, Area A (Container Garden), No. 11, Beiwu Lane, Beishanzheng Street, Nanping, Xiangzhou District, Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province
Day 2 Event: Sci-fi Musical @ Golden Jazz Club
Golden Jazz Club, 48 Beishan south street, Zhuhai
Interactive Padlet for Asian Futurisms
About the Venue
Beijing Normal University-Hong-Kong Baptist University-United International College, Zhuhai, Guangdong, PRC.
UIC’s is located in the warm winter holiday region of southern Guangdong’s Great Bay Area, one of the most dynamic regions in the world and a stone’s throw away from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, the futuristic Shenzhen and Macau!
Zhuhai is a coastal city in Guangdong Province, China. Its name means Pearl Sea stemming from Zhuhai's location where the Pearl River flows into the South Sea. It is a very popular tourist and nicknamed The Hundred Island City, was voted “The Happiest City in China” and is an ecotourism destination with clean air. It is unique in mainland China as an at times pulsating, at times very serene holiday destination.
See you in beautiful Zhuhai!
Asian Futurisms Conference Programme
Map to Beishan Venues
The May 20th keynote will be Folding in – Folding out, Going up, Going down – China’s movable (Self-)Image in recent Science Fiction by Holger Briel (UIC).
This presentation will concern itself with a comparison of China’s image in recent Science Fiction. In particular, Ramez Naam’s Nexus Trilogy (2012-2015), with individual books from the trilogy winning the Prometheus and the Philip K. Dick Awards, and Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, Hugo Award Winner 2016. In my presentation, it will become clear that the representation of Chinese futures in non-Chinese works remains on a more superficial level, mostly writing forth technological tangents visible already today and similar to the way Japan was treated in the Science Fiction imagination of the 1980s and 90s (e.g. the 1990s Rim trilogy by Alexander Besher). Conversely, much of Chinese Science fiction takes social developments much more seriously and is able to describe, dystopically as well as utopically, profound social changes possible.
The May 21st keynote will be Wave Ontology and Wireless Media in China Shanghai by Anna Greenspan (NYU Shanghai).
China is in the midst of the fastest and most intense process of urbanisation the world has ever known, and Shanghai - its biggest, richest and most cosmopolitan city - is positioned for acceleration into the twenty-first century.
Yet, in its embrace of a hopeful - even exultant - futurism, Shanghai recalls the older and much criticized project of imagining, planning and building the modern metropolis. Today, among Westerners, at least, the very idea of the futuristic city - with its multilayered skyways, domestic robots and flying cars - seems doomed to the realm of nostalgia, the sadly comic promise of a future that failed to materialize.
Shanghai Future maps the city of tomorrow as it resurfaces in a new time and place. It searches for the contours of an unknown and unfamiliar futurism in the city's street markets as well as in its skyscrapers. For though it recalls the modernity of an earlier age, Shanghai's current re-emergence is only superficially based on mimicry. Rather, in seeking to fulfill its ambitions, the giant metropolis is reinventing the very idea of the future itself. As it modernises, Shanghai is necessarily recreating what it is to be modern.