– Spring/Summer 1999

Should the Future Help the Past? (Prevision - The Short Version)

Liam Gillick

Pierre Huyghe, Les Incivils Video Projection, 50’ 1995. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Pierre Huyghe, Les Incivils Video Projection, 50’ 1995. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

What's the scenario? A constantly mutating sequence of possibilities.1 Add a morsel of difference and the results slip out of control, shift the location for action and everything is different. There is a fundamental gap between societies that base their development on scenarios and those that base their development on planning. It could be argued that the great Cold War divide in socio-economic structuring was rooted in the different kinds of results that you get if you apply either one or the other technique to working out how things might end up in the future. It is claimed that scenario thinking won. Our vision of the future is dominated by the 'What if? Scenario' rather than the 'When do we Need More Tractors? Plan'. Yet what is the quality of this scenario mentality - and how is an awareness of it connected to the work of some artists now?

Scenario thinking dominates Western cultures within politics, economics, film, television and literature. At one extreme a destabilised sense of doubt is crucial to the success of capitalist structures. Yet the nature of scenario thinking is deeply rooted in other forms of activity. It is a defining characteristic of postmodern societies, crucial to the risk-taking and delicate balance sought by those who wish to exploit resources and people. Yet it is also the tool of those who wish to propose change. The production of scenarios is one of the key components required in order to maintain the level of mobility and reinvention needed to provide the dynamic aura of so called free-market economies. Scenario production is not limited to global economic theory, it

  1. A longer version of this text was written for an exhibition of work by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe at the ARC, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. While all the artists deal with scenario creation, it is Pierre Huyghe who specifically focuses on its application to film and television. This text therefore operates in parallel to Huyghe's own production as an artist.