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Memories of the Future

On Countervision


Stephen Wilson and Deborah Jaffé

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.

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1 The Plot against the Future (Malcolm Quinn)


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1   The Plot against the Future

If we are asked to think about a time machine, we might imagine an object that looks different to all the other objects in the world, like the bizarre vehicle described by H. G. Wells, something ‘squat, ugly and askew, a thing of brass, ebony, ivory and glimmering quartz’,1 which takes Wells’s time traveller out of his Victorian drawing room on a leather saddle and then sends him back to it again. In this chapter, I introduce another kind of time machine, which rather than being a different kind of object in the world, might be constructed out of a different usage of existing objects. In this instance, the time traveller is someone who talks about and uses the things of this world in a different way than everyone else.2 I will discuss this second type of time machine in detail through an analysis of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s story Memories of the Future.3 A focus on the difference between these two types of time machine will allow the outlines of the plot against the future to emerge. The plot against the future is a restriction on the possibility for the occurrence of the future within the present. I will show how Krzhizhanovsky’s emphasis on the central role played by the clock and clock-consciousness in the plot against the future, enables us to distinguish an actual plot against the future from pseudo-plots or pseudo-alarms about...

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