Future Vocabularies is a long-term, multifaceted research, education, exhibition, and publication project through which the program of BAK unfolds over the course of 2014–2017. Future Vocabularies both stems from and is developed in parallel to (the concluding phase of) BAK’s flagship research project FORMER WEST (2008–2016).
The project takes as its point of departure the transitional period in which we all find ourselves: an intricate moment of parting from the modern under the pressures of new contemporary realities. Referred to at present as a time of multiple crises—political, social, environmental, military, aesthetic, and other—it can in fact be understood as an interval in between two historical epochs; an interregnum (Antonio Gramsci), so to speak, when one era has ended but before a new one is born. It is our own time when the contours of the future seem extant, palpable even, but are yet unsettled and escape any meaningful synthesis. How can art, then, with its faculty of imagining and ability to connect to other terrains of thinking and acting—the terrains of politics, ecology, economics, aesthetics, and other—provide us with the tools to grasp that which is forthcoming? How might we imagine, and thus potentially shape, the world to come?
Future Vocabularies is inaugurated with a year-long exploration driven by an opening vocabulary entry on survival. In order to draw a line of continuity from BAK’s past and ongoing projects, this foundational sequence of the series is developed in dialogue with artists, scholars, and activists from our variety of long-standing collaborations, in order to postulate propositional research trajectories into how to think—with and through art—about some of the most urgent issues that define our contemporaneity: the livelihoods of refugees, the endurability of the planet, and the future of (institutional) infrastructures. From 2015 onwards, the project evolves as a succession of four additional semesters, brought to life in dialogue with research fellows—artists, scholars, and activists—who accompany BAK in codeveloping the semestral agendas. Future conceptual lexicon marked for exploration include artistic, intellectual, and activist itineraries around the notions of “the posthuman” and “degrowth.”