Medium: household dust
London Bridge Station
Residency with Beyond Platform 7
23 – 27 September 2017
In acknowledgement of George Orwell’s connection with the London Bridge area and in homage to his dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty Four (the title of which is an inversion of the year in which he wrote it) I created for my residency at London Bridge Station Lost Property 2071 (an inversion of our current year 2017). It imagines an inverted future, where, instead of acquiring status through personal property and possessions, it is garnered through want for nothing. Attachments, considered to make us weak-willed or ill, are thus relegated to the dust heaps of history. Lost Property 2071 is a future museum of the things we are currently attached to.
As I was looking into the year 2071 I also stumbled upon Anno Domini 2071, an intriguing little book also set in the future and in London. Written in 1871 by the Dutch scientist Pieter Harting it imagines a future but seen through a lens of the past. It begins with the narrator settled in his comfortable chair pondering the predictions made by the 13th century scholar, Roger Bacon that actually came true by the 19th century, and who then finds himself as he dozes off, in the year 2071. Here he is greeted by a noble old man whom he recognizes as Roger Bacon and a young lady named Miss Phantasia and taken by them on a tour of Londinia, a megalopolis, formerly London but now extending deep into the southeast of England. As they take him further on a flight by airship, he learns from them of great scientific and technological advancements and changes in the moral and political landscape.
An 1874 Japanese translation of Harting’s book also revived and sparked a vogue of mirai-ki (future history writing), a practice originating in the Heian period and first attributed to Shotoku Taishi (574-622) who supposedly had the power to foretell the future. When Harting’s translation was published, Japan was at an important juncture where, in order to survive, it needed liberating from it’s past and had to re-imagine its future. Harting’s future ponderings, through the lens of the past therefore struck a chord in Japan at the time.
As we now sit back ensnared in the false sense of security offered by the things we choose to surround ourselves by, and ponder Orwell’s future imaginings, we see, like with Roger Bacon’s predictions of the 13th century, that his predictions too are coming true. We see that our most personal possessions and attachments are now looking back at us, watching our every movements and influencing the way we think, move and speak. We are indeed, like Pieter Harting’s narrator, dozing off into our future, and when we are not completely lost to the world, it is Orwell rather than Bacon who is our guide.