16. mar. 2012

Futurist Writing School - Stories from Utrecht 2032

Following on the rich history of feminist utopian and speculative fiction practices that conjured new relationships, languages and agencies for transgressing structural and invisible forces of subjugation, Utrecht's Casco Gallery organised The Futurist Writing School, a week-long workshop in collective writing that ran within and alongside the closing events of the Grand Domestic Revolution

I ran the introductory workshop on February 21st 2012. We played Exquisite Corpse and some other Surrealist writing games.The games were applied also to some of the following writing sessions. The final collectively written and edited monster-piece is going to be included in the GDR project catalogue, scheduled for release later this year.
The Exquisite Corpses below were written on February 21st by Marina Vishmidt, Abäke (Patrick Lacey), Binna Choi, Maiko Tanaka, Katayoun, Aileen Burns, Allison Guy, Serena Lee, Johan Lundh, Silvia Simoncelli, Tea Hvala, Freyja van den Boom, Yolande van der Heide and Marielle Verdijk.

Miffy I

Where is Miffy? On the shore of a cold and unfamiliar sea that day by day is reaching further into The Netherlands. Today the icy water is lapping at the door of the house that Miffy has always called home. She knew this day was coming and that her plans for starting a new life, in a new community, would be put into action but it was surreal nonetheless.

Miffy finally manages to step away from the window to finish packing all of the food and seeds that she has promised to bring with her. For the past two years she has been collecting and storing the life-giving cores of everything she has anticipated she would need for this journey. She had heard of a land far away where she was worshipped as an anthropomorphic talisman, an island where she would be welcome. What could be expected from such a place that celebrated her simple life and ways?

There were no two ways about it; now was the time to embark on the journey to the new Atlantis. Here, Miffies were not only revered as gods, but were actually endowed of divine powers owing to the special climate which made everything easy and enchanting. Besides, the gravity was very minimal at that sea level and had gotten even weaker due to centuries underwater. The very advanced Mermaid scientific researchers were about to make a breakthrough in eliminating this nefarious force altogether. This much Miffy had learned when booking her trip to the new Atlantis through Wikipedia.

Miffy arrived there one balmy afternoon, stepping delicately off a single-propeller aircraft operated by her wealthy older boyfriend, Tex. She was dumbstruck to find the whole seafront full of giant images of her, as if the simple natives had not waited for her arrival in order to set-up their cult. She wondered if they might be afraid of her and Tex? Should they be? She hesitated to answer her own question.

Atlantis, finally. But didn’t it look a bit like Utrecht back in 2032? No, it couldn’t be. She shook the feeling away. Miffy hated Utrecht.

Miffy II
With the flooding of Utrecht in 2019, Dick Bruna (kept alive through being cryogenically frozen – his hands and brain transplanted to a cloned version of himself in 2016) now works from the UFO embedded in the church building. Miffy, for his (its?) whole life had been two dimensional but with developments in bioengineering has now been rendered as a living mascot of the city, the museum has expanded and is now the main reason for anyone to visit this floating city. An ambassador of vegetarianism, Miffy is also an advocate of meat, grown in labs for human consumption. Though extremely expensive because of its high maintenance during its development, it provides nutrients to an underfed population.

His/her dual status as a human and as a bio-form grown unnaturally might suggest that his firm position on animal rights would extend to the biological material and clones that make his life possible but Miffy has yet to find a way to deal with this “internal” conflict. Now the time has come for Miffy to make a decision: to clone or not to clone him/herself.

Miffy was old and growing weaker every day. By cloning him/herself, Miffy could live to see the 2048 mission to the Andromeda galaxy as the first post-gender astronaut. But by not cloning him/herself, Miffy would be able to retire, and live a nice relaxed life, until he/she died ... So Miffy was faced with not just a biological or rather, biomorphic dilemma, but a genuine moral dilemma. Prolonging her life would mean giving hope to thousands of other half-real half-imaginary creatures to perform the same somersault into reality that she once did, but she could not really justify it to herself, as she was really very tired and longed to have time to think in 2-dimensions. One day, while consuming a variety of versions of herself in the Dick Bruna Museum gift shop, Miffy suddenly felt dizzy.

Her broker called: “Miffy?”
“Oh ...”
“Miffy, this is Stephan from Axis.”
“Oh, I don't feel well ... Can I help you? Oh ...”

Where did the blue seeds migrate?

I. Sara’s Migrane
After the toxins evaporated form the dandelions, the almost extinct Utrecht honeybees grabbed and bundled as much of the discoloured seeds as they could and took off! We haven’t seen them for days and poor people in the city forgot about the blue seed phenomenon and went on with their everyday activities. Deep in the canal at the bottom of the Oudegracht a seaweed was gloving, also a similar blue tone.

The Oudegracht seaweed shone through the water, sending out messages in different shades of blue, but nobody seemed to hear her calls – until one day, a very depressed, deeply troubled and blue precarious cultural worker stopped by. Sara, the cultural worker, leaned on the rail and started rolling a cigarette when, for a second only, she was blinded by the light coming from the water. She covered her fourth eye, the so-called post-toxic eye, to protect herself. But the seaweed shone through her palm!

“What do you want?” she shouted into the canal.

But the seaweed only illuminated the water source more! Her interrogations only seemed to perpetuate the rapid spread in the canal. Could it be that Utrecht’s hydrology plan was hanging desperately at its wits end? That mere yelling or spoken word would become the energy source for the seaweed? Dumbfound, with eyebrows arched up high, she recalled the architectural plan than was proposed twenty years back in the height of what Utrecht’s citizens then deemed a “Grand Domestic Revolution”.

There was a plan for a floating boathouse which would be fuelled in its levitation by the photosynthetic processes inspired by mind-tropical coastal vegetation. Sara started wistfully into her poly-plastithene cup of blue-goo, the anti-anti-oxidant beverage her homoeopath had recommended for the fourth-eye migraines.

Before they’d divorced, Sara had had to endure endless rehearsed product design pitches by Melissa, in her singular re-brand campaign to use blue dye, that cerulean-teal pigment unique to the combination of Randstad algae and melted Micronesian cell-transistor chips. Melissa was convinced that the blue dye, which never caught on would cure Sara’s fourth eyes migraine. But it only intensified, worsened the pain. Despite the vision and knowledge, she could not finish her plan for a floating boathouse. It was almost perfect. The plan was based on the existing living habit of boat people …

II. Vigration
“Where did the blue seeds migrate?”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“I think she means ‘vibrate’”.
“What is a ‘migrate’?”
“I don't know. I've never heard that word before. I guess it's a verb.”
“… no, I’ve heard it before. It’s almost like the verb ‘vigrate’, I think that’s why you’re confused.”
“Vigrate; that’s already quite archaic, no? What is that – to shift solid states in order to be transported, to commute through state-shifting, via unofficial channels, or highways …?”
“Highways … those were like roads, really long roads, right? Were they high up? Is that why they're called – ?”
“I don't get it, when did they use ‘vigrate’? Where did people go? Why would you want to shift states, officially or unofficially? I mean, I’ve read about transportation, like the Tube, or whatever, but I still don’t understand why …”

Igor and Isabel were confused, confronting the word they never heard of: “vibrate”. You, readers who’ve settled here through vibration may not remember that Igor, Isabel, Sara, Chulsoo and Mohammed were the very you. Since ‘vibration’ means a total transformation through the increasingly trembling day and days …

What does it mean to be “settled”, you readers may ask? In a time when transportation is no longer how you knew it. Igor and Isabel are also new to this. But Sara and Mohammed are eager to get going on the state-shifting channels and maybe even get a little rowdy! Chulsoo is well aware of the difference between the pairs and decides to make an intervention. You see, “vibration” and “vigration” both came out of the word “migration” and that is something only Chulsoo knows. When migrant labourers in The Netherlands started building the new state-shifting channels for the island city of Utrecht, Chulsoo also worked at one of the vibration intersections, so he knew what he was talking about.

The total transformation of transportation did not only see human beings as a mesh of electromagnetic flesh waves, it perceived both legal aliens and those without papers in the same way, through the same sensory apparatus. And so, distinctions between migrant or non-migrant, between aliens or domestic became irrelevant.

The mechanism was a conclusive paradox in its own right, that is for a long time it was understood that aliens could never be legal, as implied in the term. A population of non-minorities, non-marginalized would create a super-race, one that shared labour equality and honoured domestic chores ensuring that within a working day, time was put aside for domestic work and child rearing.

III. Oracle Danikal
Given the refrigeration development of the last twenty years, the Utrecht-Amsterdam-Rotterdam conurbation was in pretty bad shape. Not only did the piles of trash, gathering in the canals stink of rotten organic vegetables, the fresh vegetables that grew locally from barely fertile ground stank as well. Something had to be done, especially since the climate changes did not bring the promised level of cold.

Barbara Vlees rolled up her sleeves and exclaimed: “Damned right, something has to be done! A floating garden, networking balconies like in the times of The Grand Domestic Revolution is surely the resolution!”

Hot-headed with excitement she meandered her bicycle to Utrecht City, blocking her nose the whole time to protect herself from the city’s stench. Upstairs she climbed, rummaging through tons of paper in search of the floating garden blueprint, a proposal that was once rejected by the municipality on the grounds that it did not follow the code for its use: the abundant but not explicitly obscene use of the colour orange.

Since the cuts, visual and chromatic pollution had been under considerable fire. It might have had something to do with the fact that nutrition-obsessed pet owners were uniformly buying into the beta-carotene craze, feeding terriers and hedgehogs alike, steaming piles of orange mush which would in turn end up on the pavements and lawns as digested steaming orange piles.

Barbara scowled and checked the soles of her shoes as a force of habit, heading into the cold zone, fingers gripping the handlebars of her bike, protesting the sudden artificial shift in temperature. Property taxes in the upper-upper-upper class Wijken have been funnelled towards the Buurt Koelen movement: a neighbourhood refrigeration to freeze the stench of rotting trash until disposal collection started again.

Well, we forgot about – or is it kind of a subconscious repression – that we ate all our lovely dogs and cats and then went to watch them die. Yeah, we chose to eat them. What was great about that was that we created a giant camp-fire as we also had to maximize our ability to generate fire. All of us threw our pets into the fire at once. Hundreds of dogs and cats were in and around the fire. You might say it’s barbarian, gross, cruel, repulsive but for us, it was also a state of exhalation. Despite such cold temperature outside, people started tearing off their clothes. We all got naked but magically nobody saw it.

This new social ritual became all the rage but the Animal Rights Party of the Netherlands was fuming with the total selfishness of humans, disregarding their interrelationship with animals. However, within the new party there was the recently elected secretary who was – little did they know – an oracle of ecology. It was within this party that Oracle Danikal infiltrated their decision by using her magical ability to make people change their minds by the minute by feeding them a special concoction of Nutella.

The Nutella would be the answer to the cold temperatures but it would have to brew for another twenty years before it had any effect. In the mean time, she happily kept feeding her party and observed the schizophrenic changes in society, waiting for the time to come when the ecological answer would be fully fermented.

IV. Empathy Soup
In 2032 in the city of Utrecht, finally a new coalition government is created, consisting of seventy-four parties. These parties include the Banana Trees Delicious, Sea Marina Fish Shell, Fahion Bastard, Damn Old Green Links, DogFoxDolphin, Casco, NoGender Party, Vienamesenoodle Soup, Many Money Monkey, Rainbow Kangaroo, and so on, and so on. All these parties are formed according to a shared rhythm of living which is changing in an improvised yet organized manner, so shifts and adjustments are a natural part of their operations.

Three years ago, all the currencies were destroyed and the Temporary Army of Fantastic Life was created. The president cleaner of the Rainbow Kangaroo Party thought this would be a prime moment to throw a convivial event, a party for parties but where could such an event take place so that all the members would feel relaxed and open? At the same time, the Vietnamese Noodle soup party and The Fashion Bastard party were already looking up a recipe for a collective soup inspired by the recent alliances; an unique recipe for stimulating empathy but spicy enough to instigate.

While the Empathy Soup was holding and sending its delicious smell all over town like seductive tentacles, the supporters of the Casco party were already cleaning an abandoned front yard and decorating it for the party to which all the seventy-four coalition parties were invited. The main decoration element were the empathic and self-sacrificing Banana Tree Delicious Party members. The Fashion Bastard party members accepted the role of the host. They were supervised by the Rainbow Kangarros since, as we all know, their fashion taste is far better than that of the Fashion Bastards.

The celebratory moment was not the conventional kind. Indeed the Fashion Bastard in glamorous pink would be sap to realize that he wasn’t aptly dressed for the occasion. The Casco Party was taking this occasion to introduce a new referendum to the city architecture design. We raised our glasses to toast the occasion (it was important because the parties could seldom gather without breaking into violence) and the Casco Party proposed that we transform our yards into vegetable gardens.

A white SUV rolled up and there was a unanimously shared gasp of indignant shock. SUVs in the parade were so last year. The front doors open simultaneously and two veiled goons emerged, opening the back doors for their veiled occupants to step out. They threw jewelled fingers in the air simultaneously and the front door popped open revealing a rolled-out barbecue, powered by a midget on a station bike.

The party members staggered. This was accompanied by the sound of bass and synthesized drums which seemed to emanate from the SUV’s while leather interior. The Fashion Bastards co-leader leaned on his colleague who muttered a secular prayer under her breath. Could this be the nature of the large, already forgotten PVVVVCV party? The shadow administration behind free eggs and dairy which had revealed itself to be a hoax and actually a massive protein conspiracy ...

V. Where the Children Go to Play
If you took the time to play on the banks of the canal they used to call the Oudegracht (a canal that cut the city of the Utrecht in half; creating halves of those that believed in a Grand Domestic Revolution and those who repelled it) my nostalgia will resonate with you. You will remember a “miffie” plain where girls with blond plaits skipped around its statue and the Ekko dance bar whose noise level would elevate on Thursday student nights. But then, when the noise laws came into effect after the sustainability act took hold, “resonance” took on a whole different meaning.

The first dam that broke was the most lethal; it was widely accepted that most of the victims never heard it coming. Since then, we have seen a major shift in daily surveillance mounting to accommodate this need for “sonic disclosure”. Listening for the flood has become a national obsession! Indeed, it has been the reason that Kanaleneisland was instituted after the former Netherlands was either submerged with the remaining provinces receding them from the European Union, effectively becoming an island with minimum economic or geographic ties to the rest.

Well, we cannot but talk about our almost sublime awe of the transformed Kanaleneisland. All these slab prefab houses were then pillars for the new giant housing complex. Those prefab houses are there for all kinds of fish-monster friends who emerged in the last decades after children started to be eaten by the fish monsters. But mothers and fathers developed the sense to live with and even enjoy this occasional cannibalism!

The interesting thing was that most parents and residents of Kanaleneisland did not know whereas the children and monster fish knew very well what was inside the bellies of the fish: there, a new architecture was being formed! All of a sudden, the children started building constructions from the bones of the fish to make their own playhouses, sandboxes, bicycles and rooms for taking naps as the internally transforming fish started swimming up the canal.

The surviving humans who still lived on land thought they were witnessing a scene from The Bible! (a canonical Catholic text, last seen stuck between a giant eel’s gills). They thought the large fish were whales who swallowed Jonah’s clones! Of course, our readers know better: the fish were the most elaborate, playful and magical architecture ever seen. It was organic, it was self-sustainable, it was slick, waterproof and aerodynamic. At the same time, it meant that Holland did not have to bother building new artificial islands as the fish houses populated the watery areas only. The kids loved it – at least until the fish became hungry ... The parents loved it too: the new fish-cannibalistic ecosystem allowed them to procreate without limits, without responsibility as they could simply reload their newborns into the fish.

What will happen once we are finished writing our sentences?

I. Maureen
Maureen was a bit nervous because it was the first time she was taking part in a group interview for renting a room in a collective apartment building. It was the first time that people would have to touch each others’ hair-implants and other physical abnormalities, but that’s the way it goes with collective apartment buildings based on physical features. She also could have chosen a collective based on hobbies like painting or growing edible fruit trees. Hopefully there would be enough middle aged divorced men with boring jobs to keep her from having sex all the time.

Maureen preferred the indigo tattoos of the girls down at the demolition disco, not this sorry heap of washed-up humanity. Not that Maureen was such a gorgeous example herself. A botched surgery five years ago left her with a few extra fingers and one eye which played only a Spanish sport channel. She sighed. No way her insurance would cover that mistake. The superintendent of the building called her name: “Maureen de Leeuw”.

She decided to go to the porn disco, where everyone is less interested in appearance but more so in having sex on nice melodies. What a way out of this collective visibility into anonymous collectivity. Life is better. People are less judgemental at the porn disco. They believe in a classless society and don’t feel the urge to mispronounce each others names. What a relief to have this corner in society. It could also become a part of the squat culture as it was in the old days. But squatters went nuts.

She could have lived in a squat forever, that’s what she thought when she was younger. But the decision to become vegetarian had made her an outsider in the group immediately. Meat smugglers – that’s what the squatter have become in the last twenty years, at least since the cold era had started and all of Europe had become frozen landscape.

II. The Duchess of Cabbage
What happens after we finish writing these sentences? There, we find a funny figure with a nerve coming out of its right arm. It's not a woman nor a man. Do we fit in there? There is not enough space. The figure is upset but remains funny, like a bunny. It's a way of being. We have to keep writing, otherwise we are lost. We decide to leave the trench to find a nice steak to eat. But all of Europe is covered in ice.

And all cows are rapidly extinguishing. It happened to mammoths hundred thousands of years ago. We are fed up with eating musk and lichens anyway. When I wake up at night my mouth retains the flavor of my dreams, roasted fish or pork. So funny, I can define it so well even though I haven't eaten such food for at least ten years now.

Cooking root vegetables became my speciality, making sculptures of pigs heads or chicken out of mashed Jerusalem artichokes and turnips. Becoming the queen of silver onions, the duchess of cabbage, the crown princess of mushrooms that tasted slightly of meat.

Mealtimes in New Utrecht – Newtrecht in short – were short, cold and rotten. The priests prayed for the return of the reindeer, at least, but everyone knew that they had gone the way of the cows and mammoths. Newtrecht was lucky to have a few men remaining, unlike Rottingdam or Scramsterdam, where people only eat stuff that upset their stomach.

Banana-eating people were dying slowly. We should have better health insurance and security system for banana-eating people.

The lady in red came down the stairs. The masochists feared for their life. They only had a management education and knew nothing about the subtleties of a queen bee. They were hiding behind each chair to protect their own lifeless souls.

The funny figure developed a nerve out of its right arm.

III. Big Green One
What will happen once we are finished writing our sentences? When we finish our sentences we might as well take our clothes off and go outside. The wind will put goosebumps on our legs and we will have to hurry to find a good Turkish sauna. Fortunately, bugs will save us from freezing if we are not able to find one, by covering our arms and legs with a soft, downy coat of warm antennae and vibrating wings. We are certainly grateful that the city government decided to genetically engineer the bees, mosquitoes and butterflies to be such charming creatures.

We are accompanied to the sauna in a gauzy haze of transparent insect bodies. Once we slip into the water, I watch my partner flush red with pleasure. A finger-sized fish swims up to his elbow and begins to pick off flakes of dead skin. After a day of such high emotion, it is a pleasure for all involved to be able retreat in a Turkish sauna.

We decided to go and eat steak, where there is one. This town had run out of steaks. No meat allowed! The only marginal spaces where one can eat meat nowadays is in a squat. What is going on with this world today? How do we define space between life and work? What is Europa without an ice sheet? No more than a melodramatic guerilla enclave with narcissistic ideas about concepts such as autonomy.

The confusion in my mind was mounting. I desperately needed that steak. I couldn’t make up a proper sentence any longer. Just questions I wasn’t able to find answers for. I checked my pill-box. Maybe there were still some animal protein pills in there which could cover for 10-15 minutes of my brain activity so I could reach the closest squat without going completely crazy.

There was the last Big Green One who would last me another three hours at least, so I could even spend some time in the paper library, this special place, almost impossible to enter because of harsh anti-insect rules, and let my brain work for a while on the Big Green One.

IV. The Goons
The goons were coming. We didn’t have much time for school work. The teacher urged us to complete our sentences, but I didn’t feel up to it. My barge was waiting outside our guerilla educational enclave, and I was more than eager to get the engine humming and get my ass outside. If the bombs started falling …

They never fall straight out of the sky. They are strategically falling around you. They creep up on your town, and like cancer cells they multiply. It’s a strange tactic. It’s a faceless ideology to throw bombs. But my ass was going to be saved. I knew it. This system is corrupt!

My guerilla education enclave saved me in the end. The goons are in now way supportive, but miserable. We have to be honest about the situation, we have to face the goons. Sooner or latter it was going to be the time. I know I am not alone.

I have my classmates. I can rely on them. Our guerilla education has made us into a tight and at the same time independent community. We have developed some special skills. After long training, we can now communicate with our minds alone. Even being very far away the one another we know what we are at, what we are thinking. We even started tuning into plants and trees so we could translate what they were seeing around them and transforming it into images projected on walls that we would paint as little screen all around the city. Mini-cinemas to see where the goons were and if we could still beat them at tennis. We pair up, put up the net and prepare our rackets.

My ass was grass. There was no escape barge now. Reluctantly I removed my trans-cyber-reifying racket from its case. Those goons were about to get a dose of feminist theory, served up on the wings of a little fussy green ball. I saw the goons marching through the nibble of the galactagarian church. Sweat ran down my cheeks. We were prepared.

Fuad Sanad.

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