Monday, 6 July 2009

We were standing face to face, I and this fragile thing out of futurity.
(H.G. Wells, The Time Machine)


Bruce Sterling claims America and Europe and the 20th century have finally departed from one another, with Anglo-American concerns emerging from the post-Mauerfall intereggnum into a world laid precarious by the 'kind' crisis of credit. 2010 is the year we left the past behind.

The 21st century, and 2010 even, is a point in time synonymous with notions of the future. Lead by Arthur C Clarke's sequel to A Space Odyssey, Science Fiction has long been obsessed with this year as a hypothetical moment upon which notions of the future can be projected onto. The year 2010 is the moment at which we enter the future.

2010, therefore, is both a moment of departure and arrival, the moment we left the past and the moment the future arrived. 2010 is a fulcrum upon which the future and the past balance. If futurity can be said to be the quality or condition of being *in* or *of* the future, then futurity best explains our current stasis. Gone are the old oppositional cold-war politics of East and West, replaced instead by dislocated, non-geographic conflicts of economy, faith and culture. Wars occur from within as terrorist action, fiscal models are shaped by post-globalised markets, cultural cross-pollination occurs primarily online, redefining both the content and transference of artistic expression.

Within literature and art, temporality is traditionally used to ground the unfamiliar into something its audience can understand. At this juncture, the moment at which we enter the future, temporality as a useful frame of reference has expired. Past and future have become entwined and we find ourselves at a threshold of redefinition - the Large Hadron Collider, cyberspace czarism, social-media political revolutions, regenerative medical advances - that temporality cannot contain. These advances threaten the very notion of time.

Just as William Gibson's Burning Chrome defined a framework by which a new juncture of human advance - the internet - could be understood through the employment of the term cyberspace, it is Gibson once more who seems to be offering up a way of understanding our current circumstance.

If the early internet advances threatened notions of space by removing a need for physicality within communication, storage and knowledge transfer, Gibson (un)consciously counteracted this with notions of cyberspace, an aspatiality. Therefore, the framework required to understand the threats on temporality is, by flawed reduction, atemporality. No coincidence that Gibson's current theme for his latest work appears to be atemporality.

Perhaps it can even be extracted therefore that our present state is one of futurity, of being in or of the future. We are in the future, we are experiencing our own future, a future necessarily defined by atemporality. It is within atemporality, the discourse and explorations of it, that a framework to understand the implausibility of these days, hours and seconds that we try to inhabit can develop.

(This poorly formed splurge owes more than a nod towards this Brutalitarian article and the formulations of Honor Harger.)

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