Memories of the Future

On Countervision

by Stephen Wilson (Volume editor) Deborah Jaffé (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XVI, 284 Pages
Series: Cultural Memories, Volume 6


What is a memory of the future? Is it a myth, a fiction of a severed arm, a post-human debate or a broken time machine? In an increasingly insecure future-world there is an urgency to consider and debate these questions. Memories of the Future: On Countervision addresses these concerns by speculating on the connections between memory and futurity in fields such as counter-histories, women’s studies, science fiction, art and design, technology, philosophy and politics. This book reveals how these subjects regenerate at the intersections of vision, counter-cultural production and the former present. The volume links the re-imaginings of memory into the present with topics such as the fever dream allegory of the adolescent social experience, soft technologies of future dress, reinventions of monetary exchange, rekindled subjectivities of school days, and technics and human progression. These countervisions argue against the homogenizing status quo of the present in order to challenge the customs, traditions and conventions of the past and propositions of the future.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Preface (Deborah Jaffé)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction (Stephen Wilson)
  • Part I: Memories of the Future: On Countervision
  • 1 The Plot against the Future (Malcolm Quinn)
  • 2 Three Moves for a Single Advent/Event: (a) From Modern Fiction to the Latest Seriality; (b) Means instead of Ends; (c) The Revolt of Technics against Human Progress (Alberto Abruzzese (translated by Kevin W. Molin))
  • Part II: Intersections of Memory, Formative Experience and Learned Culture
  • 3 Mortal Engines and The Hunger Games: How Myths from the Past Shape Visions of a Sustainable Future and the Responsibility for It as Represented in Children’s Literature (Julia Eccleshare)
  • 4 Girl Acting Out: Revisiting the Fairy Tale Futures of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White (Sarah Bonner)
  • 5 Mirror: Time Will Darken Paper (Penny McCarthy)
  • 6 School of Change: Re-dreaming Past Futures (Jennet Thomas)
  • Part III: The Reconditioning of Time
  • 7 The Blackening of Epekeina Tes Ousias: The Death of the Sun and the Death of Philosophy (Liam Sprod)
  • 8 The Attention Economy: From Cyber-Time to Cinematic Time (Claudio Celis Bueno)
  • 9 Counterfiction: Designing within Alternative Worlds (Austin Houldsworth)
  • Part IV: Future Permissions and Former Horizons
  • 10 Seizing the Future: The Futurists and Future-oriented Contemporary Works (Ilaria Puri Purini)
  • 11 From Hardware to Softwear: The Future Memories of Techno-Fashion (Anneke Smelik and Lianne Toussaint)
  • 12 (Un)knotting Time: Imagining Past Futures in Early Victorian Street Ballads (Karl Bell)
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix→


Sara Bonner – Girl Acting Out: Revisiting the Fairy Tale Futures of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White

← xii | xiii →



The examination of time, whether it be a story, design, artwork, invention or event, is important to propose a future. In the late eighteenth century, in the English Midlands, a group of friends exchanged ideas on the engineering, technological and industrial processes they were developing. They met once a month at full moon, giving the group, who were intent on changing the course of the future, the name the Lunar Society. In a time before electric lighting, the beam of the full moon guided them and the natural world was their time-keeper.

Their visions, and those of countless other women and men, were both speculative and practical usually to enhance a future and develop a modernity. The fluidity of time backwards and forwards, like the technology of the timepieces that have transformed its keeping, provide constant possibilities for both real and counterfactual interpretations. However, the natural world as time-keeper has now been displaced by the innovations of technology. While the inventor, engineer and designer focus on creating improvements, the storyteller and artist reflect on a former time to reinterpret it for the future. ← xiii | xiv →

← xiv | xv →


Firstly, we want to thank those who have contributed to this book, especially all the authors and artists who have given their time and dedication to make it possible. We are grateful to the following institutions: Chelsea College of Art, CCW Research Graduate School, University of the Arts, London; The Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory, Institute of Modern Language Research, University of London; Columbia University, The Department of Anthropology, New York; The Frick Art Reference Library, New York; The British Library, London; The Wiener Library, London; Chetham’s Library, Manchester; Jess Nevins at Lone Star College-Tomball, thank you for making a steam arm possible; Pace Gallery; Katie Paterson, Ingleby Gallery; and Josh Blackwell, Kate MacGarry Gallery.

Finally, thanks must go to Laurel Plapp and her team at Peter Lang for their support. ← xv | xvi →

← xvi | 1 →



Memories of the Future is a widely used term for the understanding of future frameworks, propositions, predictions and approaches. Our preliminary discussions about the subject began five years ago. Since then the relevance of these discussions to the current instability and stability of a political and sustainable future have become even more pertinent and prescient than we could have envisaged at the outset. The book charts the contradictory and often complex ‘post progressive’ discourses in memory and futurity studies. Its twelve chapters are by authors from diverse fields who frame this specialist subject within four parts: ‘Part I: Memories of the Future: On Countervision’, ‘Part II: Intersections of Memory, Formative Experience and Learned Culture’, ‘Part III: The Reconditioning of Time’ and ‘Part IV: Future Permissions and Former Horizons’.


XVI, 284
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (May)
memories of the future memory studies future studies technology and counter-cultural production art and design
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. XVI, 284 pp., 38 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Stephen Wilson (Volume editor) Deborah Jaffé (Volume editor)

Stephen Wilson is a writer and theorist on contemporary art; he is a senior lecturer and coordinator of postgraduate theory at University of the Arts, London. Deborah Jaffé is a cultural and design historian and the author of Ingenious Women: From Tincture of Saffron to Flying Machines (2003).


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