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[Once Upon a Future]

Once Upon a Future is an imaginary fast-forward to a possible Bordeaux in 2030 – the target year by which the city today projects to reach the magic number of one million inhabitants. This work of social fiction, made in the format of a novel and exhibition, starts from the question - how would the future look if citizen's collective capacity would grow and become Bordeaux's main driving force? Curated by STEALTH.unlimited and Emil Jurcan, and made in collaboration with architecture center arc en reve, Once Upon a Future features contributions by writer and philosopher Bruce Bégout and a number of graphic and comic artists. It has been produced for the biannual Evento 2011 directed by artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, under the motto "art for an urban re-evolution".

exhibition view at Les Abattoirs, Bordeaux


Today, in the context of a lasting 'financial' crisis that increasingly calls into question many aspects of our society, it is vital to discuss different futures, alternative paths, and solutions. On the other hand, previous experiences show us that it is not possible to materialize a utopian society in space first, and then implement new ways of living in it; quite the opposite, in fact. Still, it is possible to imagine a future for our cities based on a different kind of utopia, more pragmatic and less theoretical, more immanent and less transcendent: a hybrid utopia, somewhere between desire and reality.

drawing by Camille Lavaud – IDEA, the info-center for active citizenship in a reclaimed IKEA retail store

[citizen's initiatives]

Inspired by meetings with present-day groups of active citizens from Bordeaux, Once Upon a Future extrapolates how the motives, visions and commitments of citizens might prefigure new ways to make the city, by developing new forms of mutual solidarity and collective organization, beyond competition and individualism. Such networks, like – housing cooperatives, artistic production collectives, elderly people associations, social centers, community gardens, etc – have the potential to produce another form of life in the city, which is a precondition for another form of urban landscape.

drawing by Sandrine Revel – the new open source production cluster, featuring an experimental model of sustainable economic production


To go beyond current facts, Once Upon a Future uses fiction. The narrative, written with writer and philosopher Bruce Bégout, follows a journey of 10,234 people escaping Iceland, after a catastrophic financial crisis and natural disaster hit the country in 2030. The refugees take shelter in the luxury cruise ship THE WORLD and drift the oceans searching for a new home. The endless hours spent at sea are an opportunity to think about the future and the type of society they want to build. Finally they get welcomed in Bordeaux, which at the time lacks people to satisfy its 1,000,000 goal. Once they arrive to Bordeaux, they discover and join a whole new world of local citizens initiatives and institutions that practice collaborative way of envisioning and making housing, working places, common spaces, a resilient economy, energy production, to in 2031 reach a direct involvement in governing the city.

This 'social fiction', laced with irony and tensions, is a trigger to step beyond the rigid framework of the contemporary city and look at its complexities from a distance. But sometimes the story gets so close that it is not difficult to picture our possible roles in building up the city's future in the next two decades. While freely exploring the possibilities of common desires, it makes us understand clearly what today's limitations to reach them are.

wall painting by Sainte-Machine & guests – the magic number of 1,000,000 inhabitants expected by 2030

drawing by Guillaume Trouillard – an explosion rocks the inauguration of the new production cluster based on pooling skills and resources, set up in Mériandeck, a reclaimed 1970s 'utopia'


This story unfolds into a larger outdoors exhibition, one of the three 'roots' programs of Evento 2011, at the soon to be terminated Les Abattoirs (Slaughterhouse), one of Bordeaux's next major urban development sites. The 80-meters long circular installation features works by a dozen of comic strip and graphic artists from Bordeaux who offered their interpretation of the story. Architectural references, that help to develop a critical approach to the contemporary city, are interspersed within the story. Using narrative and the comic genre, Once Upon a Future expresses social, economic, philosophical, political and urbanistic thoughts outside of their usual discourse, thus making them less specialized and more accessible.

exhibition poster with image by Sandrine Revel

prologue – Are we a floating utopia? – drawings by Adrien Demont, David Prudhomme and Guillaume Trouillard

fragments chapter 3 – When Bordeaux reaches 1,000,000 inhabitants, on the topics of growth and de-growth (the last being the downscaling of production and consumption, in response to overconsumption with its effects of long term environmental issues and social inequalities) - drawings by Camille Lavaud and Sandrine Revel

drawing by François Ayroles – empty, flexible "skeleton" structure to be filled in by residents

drawing by David Prudhomme – the "5-5-5" model, for nomadic living over 5 days, 5 months or 5 years

view on chapter 4 – New means of production; chapter 5 – Where will we live? and chapter 6 – What do we want to have in common?