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.
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.
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.
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.