On Possible Futures - and Where to Search Them
Text by Marc Neelen
So what is it for, this expedition? The Lost Highway Expedition, as the initiating event of Europe Lost and Found(1) is the start of an attempt to articulate and imagine the current evolution of new and transforming borders and territories of Europe. Is it possible, stepping beyond the established beliefs and practices of nation-states, to envision alternative and more open definitions for peoples and societies in movement? This quest for the future, embedded in the expedition, will most probably not reveal a set of straightforward answers. It might even be better if the future remains ahead, and we only get a hunch of what shape it may have.
That said – to what is it then that this multitude of individuals is heading? I believe it is the quest itself. It is the temporary condensation in time and space of this group of people travelling and meeting, on a quest to find out more about where we are heading, and where we could get. This condensation sparks new insights for personal projects, new collaborations, and will set our minds to discussing how to discuss the future. This (how to discuss it) may seem odd, but that's what preparing the expedition started with. With each attempt to describe the endeavour, a whole set of notions and conventions had to be dealt with. One of the interesting aspects of this project will be to re-define such notions, or to replace them by something more appropriate, considering the possible futures ahead of us. Such a framing - a lexicon - will be one of the outcomes of Europe Lost and Found.
It is interesting to see it in relation to another lexicon that was published in 2004, the Lexicon of YU Mythology(2). Begun in 1989(3), even before the disintegration of Yugoslavia, it is an attempt to determine the specific popular culture belonging to it. With over 400 pages, the Lexicon of YU Mythology has been compiled from entries by numerous individuals building together its body of articles.
The lexicon of Europe Lost and Found will operate in a similar way, through attempts to construct a mythology of the future. Based on newly invented articles, or, when necessary, on re-interpretations of commonly and often unconsciously used conventions, it opens new horizons or alternative futures as a collective outcome generated by the group of individuals taking part in the Expedition.
It will be of interest to observe not only what the individual participants will ‘sense’ and ‘respond to’ during their journey. Apart from being sensors and actors in the environment they travel through, their interactions as a group may produce an idea of a different base for a community. The Lost Highway Expedition is a temporary society based on the involvement of a large number of individuals - the smallest constituting elements of this society. In order to engage with each other, the idea is to create a number of (rewritable) principles that define relations between the multitude and the individual expedition participants, both mobile and stationary. As such, the project evolves in a decentralised way: “None of us is involved by default, but everyone can be. No single entity can have control, nor is representative of the whole.”(4)
Besides the collective efforts of multiple involved minds in this, the most important aspect is that from this density of free-minds a collection of interesting ideas is likely to emerge. It is hoped they will lead to a couple of projects that will be developed either individually, or in collaboration with other participants. Or that coagulate around the topics brought up by the participating localised organisations. Some will inspire others, on the way, or after the expedition, when the results are going to set off a number of presentations, exhibitions and publications. Above all, looking for the future is a mental state. And to subject oneself to this amidst a great group of travellers may be one of the best futures ahead!
(1) The Lost Highway Expedition is the initiating project of Europe Lost and Found, a multi-year project on the possible futures of Europe.
(2) Iris Adric, Vladimir Arsenijevic, Dorde Matic, (eds), Lexicon of Yu-Mythology, Postscriptum, Zagreb and Rende, Belgrade 2004
(3) Started by Dubravka Ugresic, Dejan Krsic and Ivan Molek
(4) Suggestions for interaction guidelines, from preparatory discussions on the Expedition, Ljubljana May 2006