The idea of freedom as something that individuals own has run out of steam. One of the perspectives Untitled promotes is the idea of a new kind of freedom. Freedom as relational, freedom that is gained through interdependency to others – the living and non-living. On the video, artist Andrea Pagnes introduces this core idea that the “Live artists think tank” dived into, interrogated and performed at Untitled Festival on the 25th of September 2021.

In the think tank, seven artists – Chinasa Vivian Ezugha, Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Marcel Sparmann, Joseph Morgan Schofield, Benjamin Sebastian, Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes – gathered together by Andrea Pagnes opened their unique way of working with the world, how they see the agenda tracks of Untitled and what the artistic relationship to the society can bring to the transformation at hand.

What if you could build a social agenda at a festival? And not any kind of an agenda, but an Agenda for Social Transformation. On the 23rd–24th of September we are going to give it a go. Every session at the Untitled festival builds towards our agenda for transformation.

The 2021 Untitled festival is not just another event after which we go back to our daily lives and the world remains unchanged. It brings together new perspectives, narratives and models for reorganising life. We all know this: In order for civilised life to exist on this planet, we must uproot our ways of living and fundamentally reimagine our central institutions: how we come together to produce, consume, govern, relate, care, share and create. 

Most people understand this need for change. Most agree that the current decade is critical. But we are still lacking a clear transformative agenda, and this is why we constantly revert back to our previous ways of thinking.

In other words, we should start envisioning an agenda for transformation. This agenda should not be just for sustaining, protecting and mitigating risk to current institutions built for an era of pursuing individual success at any cost. It should be one that honours the fundamental truth of interdependence of all things living and material.

UNTITLED is an experiment on imagining a transformative social agenda – we will start building it together at our second annual Festival on the 23rd and 24th of September. It brings together activists, theoreticians and practitioners of social change from the Untitled Alliance and beyond.

Three components of the agenda

But, what do we really mean by this agenda for transformation? We at Untitled Alliance have sensed a demand for a deeper understanding of at least three components of current social agendas – narratives of change, models for organising life and novel perspectives on our world. To help us improve on these components, there are three kinds of sessions at the festival:

New Narratives

An agenda for transformation needs to improve upon the currently dominant narratives on change in society. That is why Festival’s participants are hosting a number of sessions dedicated to jointly developing new narratives of transformation. Some of these include: Politics of Being, New Geography of Living, Anti-Rival economies and Heat Resilient Cities. We further invite proposals for other novel narratives of social change.

New Experimental Models

An agenda for transformation needs radical ideas on how to reorganise life on our planet. That is why there are a number of sessions where new experimental models are developed by their initiators and co-creators, such as Free Houses, Trees as Infrastructure, Long Term Care Centers, Biodiversity Buildings and Civic Spaces. We encourage you to propose new experimental models to be included in the agenda. 

New Perspectives

An agenda for transformation must not only offer narratives and institutions, but it should also offer entirely new ways of seeing the world, and use these perspectives as a basis for our future thinking. That is why we have a number of New Perspectives sessions for artistic, novel and weird ways of working with the world, including Grief as an Overlooked Force of Change, Freedom is Relational, Breaking through the Sugar Glass, From S-curve to X-curve, Everything is a Citizen and Expanding the Rave.

A journey into the unimagined

Untitled festival collects people who work at the forefront of social and ecological transformation to a journey into the unimagined in order to return with an agenda for social transformation. 

The festival is the first step of this process. It will initiate a debate on the agenda for transformation. We fully acknowledge that the first version of an agenda will be contradictory, yet believe that openness and inclusivity in the way it is built is crucial. It will be a work in progress, a living document. We are committed to allow the agenda to evolve until it becomes a description of the reality around us. In order to be able to reach the goal, we need to start, and define the untitled.

At Untitled Festival, you can become a custodian and organise a session. You can also join as an imagineer to contribute to the work set up by the custodians. Attendance is by invitation or by application.

Welcome to start the trip to imagine, work and play together.

There’s no perfect way to describe the situation we are in with ordinary language, but perhaps one could say that it has become easier to imagine a collapse than a reform. 

It is no news that we are on a trajectory about to end. The world we will inhabit in 10-20 years will be very different than the one we live in now. Halfing emissions by 2030 alone are such a transformative mission, especially in the age of technological disruptions, growing wealth gaps, and the rise of totalitarian political power throughout the world.

Different but how? Here’s where our imagination has a blind spot.

We often fail to imagine anything but two options. incremental and explosive. On the one hand, we can envision the (all too slow and increasingly contested) political development through voting and negotiations. And the other hand we can quite easily depict a harsh change in the future: collapse, revolution, coup, or, simply a war. It is hard to see anything between more of the same and crisis.

This blind spot of social imagination manifests perhaps most dramatically in how even the most progressive social agendas and political programs fail to inspire change. They describe incrementalism and, at best, avoiding a collapse.

We at Untitled think there are some reasons why there are so sensible and therefore radical social agendas around. At least three.

  1. Most agendas are actually collections of best practices. An agenda of the 21st century can no longer be just a wishlist of policies that have worked somewhere (typically things that Nordic Countries have excelled in). The current welfare model protects us poorly from the ecological crisis, technological disruptions, or racism. Sometimes quite the opposite is true with strong institutions resisting necessary transformation into a society that co-exists and develops in harmony with the rest of the environment.
  2. Many agendas fail to inspire collective and political action as they lack a good narrative or theory to back them up. An agenda of the 21st century can’t be a narrative about ”a green growth” version of the world we live in. Neither can be about solutions to problems, no matter how grand or wicked those may be or how great the missions can combat them. None of these give any qualities to the world we want to create, other than one that simply “works”.
  3. We think that the same way of doing things leads to similar outcomes. Most social agendas are based on very similar mental models. They are outcomes of world leaders and thinkers (currently also young and other diversity leaders, non-fiction bestsellers, some climate, and neuroscientists) meeting on a mountain top. These agendas we all know. They rarely work for anyone but the status quo.

From this standpoint, Untitled Festival aims to become a space for building an agenda by doing these three things differently: having genuinely new and untested ideas of what is needed, creating better stories of how things can change, and using artistic, novel, and weird ways of working with the world

How does that sound to you?

* Shake, shake, shake it all out * Dancer–researcher Simo Vassinen from BodyTalk has created four short reset exercises for us. You can use them to tune yourself in at any moment to digest something, start something or to shift your mind through your body – to kick off a Festival session you are hosting, or to reset yourself between the sessions. Use them beyond the Festival: in the middle of the work day, to start a meeting, to brush off the day. They’ve been tried, tested and loved in the Untitled community.

Rave Shake, Walk in the Dark, Talk Gibberish and Breathe & Hold – which one will you try first?

To learn more about the thinking behind these excercises, check Simo’s session at Untitled Festival 2020: Re-imagining The Body by Simo Vassinen [FI / DE]

Music: S Ruston feat. Lucky Pete’s Lovers – Narcosexual [used with kind permission of the artist]

Website:   https: //www.togetheralonefi. com / round-i-selected-projects /  bodytalk

 

Our time is tainted by a sense of a series of global crises piling up on the ruins they ignite. It seems wherever you look, the period of normal is ending. While we tend to perceive these crises as parallel developments, they cannot be meaningfully understood separately; instead, we should think of them as one. Seeing them as one changes our approach from predicting what is next and from solving problems as they come to that of imagination. This is why the future is untitled. We, however, can name it by refusing to go back to normal, imagining the unimagined, and experimenting together.

The early 2020s are characterized by an abundance of interpretations of a transformation: the transformations we talk about include such phenomena as’ the crisis of capitalism ‘,’ post-capitalism ‘, and’ surveillance capitalism ‘as well as’ digital transformation’, ‘ exponential technologies’, and ‘ the 4th industrial revolution ‘ along with ‘the decline of democracy’, ‘the crisis of liberalism’, ‘ post-truth politics ‘,’ meritocratic autocracy ‘,’ self-organization ‘,’ inner transformations’, and ‘awakening to holistic consciousness’.

Parallel to these phenomena, we are witnessing a ‘climate crisis’, an ‘ecosystems collapse’, ‘ the sixth wave of mass extinction ‘, and the emergence of ‘ anthropocene ‘ that require us to move towards ‘decarbonisation’, ‘ecological rebuilding’ , a ‘ post-fossil era ‘, or even ‘ deep adaptation ‘ and ‘posthumanism’ .

These well-known theories, visions, or ideologies each explain the dynamics, logic, risks, and opportunities within one parallel transformation: after capitalism (and post-capitalism) comes a data-driven planning economy (or even a fully automated luxury communism) ; after liberalism comes a meritocratic autocracy, and so forth. But these perspectives are fundamentally flawed ways of looking at the future.

The theories on transformations get their meanings from the structures of this passing era, as if everything around the issue undergoing transformation would remain largely intact. We are often prisoners of what we aim to leave behind. Therefore, theories lose their ability to predict the future of society as their fundamental premises on society, behavior, economics, and institutions change.

Instead, if we start looking at all these transformations as one, we are faced with a phenomenon of a different magnitude altogether.

As a result, two things follow: 

  1. Many old categories are disappearing and new ones are emerging. This development has taken place before: we tend to use concepts such as ‘a nation’, ‘a worker’, ‘science’, and ‘money’ as if these categories had always existed. In reality, they were all once conceptual innovations, the results of previous historical transformations. It is safe to assume that what we are experiencing right now changes the fundamentals of how we see ourselves as human beings. In some sense, the material, social, economic, and technological transformations are piling up to an ontological transformation.
  2. We lack the images, names, and ways to think about a world that has been thoroughly transformed. Instead of depicting the mechanics of each transformation, we should focus on imagination and on the unimaginable . Transformation hints at something that already exists taking a new form. However, that is not the case in ontological transformations where many entirely new things emerge.

UNTITLED refers to our inability to name and explain what the world and humanity are beyond this one great transformation. We don’t have a clear image of the world that we wish to reach nor of now of the essential steps needed to get there. Thus, we must first abandon many prevailing assumptions that limit the possibilities of what we can be as humans, what kind of institutions we can form, what types of practices to adopt, and how we can interact.

To value the depth of change we are in, we need to stop pretending that we have the answers and know the future. Instead of answers, we need a place, a space, and a process for unfolding what is not here yet. There are numerous, wonderful examples of imagination on Futures that we wish to happen, and a lot of people are imagining such futures. Now, we have to bring them together.

UNTITLED is a space for different imaginations: a place for people who have seen a glimpse of a transformation – that is, who have understood that there is no return to normal – to come together and to build on each other’s imaginations. It is also a place to expand their view on the Untitled future together with the help of experiments.

Art and the avant-garde play a key role in all societal transformations. At Untitled, art’s role is not to raise awareness of the crisis we are in, nor to provide solutions or to criticize, but to enable us to imagine and empower us to experiment. In short, art’s role is to help us see the difference between what is, and what can be.

UNTITLED is a ten-year-long process of unfolding the new world – an experiment in creating an alternative narrative of the metamorphosis we are in. It is driven by an eagerness to go deeper than to the change at hand; to start exploring new ways of living, producing, and caring; and to do it at a scale unforeseen to our generation. We believe that a genuinely new story can emerge through an unlikely alliance coming together to imagine new concepts, to make them tangible, and to learn from them through real world experiments.

UNTITLED proposes a very specific process. In our view:

  • We need to refuse the normal. The world we inhabit is far from desirable. There is no steady and safe normal to go back to but a very unsustainable way of life instead. Any attempt to go back will fail as we’ll fall again soon. Besides, none of the individual solutions currently on the table (in politics, in technology, in business, in personal development) work as a magic bullet; hence, we have to refuse seeking a way forward in the framework of these incumbent discourses.
  • We need to imagine the unimaginable in two senses: we have to imagine things that have not been imagined yet, and we will have to reimagine things that we thought cannot be reimagined. Yet, imagination has to be taken seriously and it has to start from the physical limits that constrain our future – now importantly the planetary boundaries and the existential threats caused by overstepping them. Having limits does not mean that there would be less room for imagination: in reality, limits and boundaries are viable tools for creativity.
  • Yet, we wouldn’t just fantasize and fall for a utopia. Humans are notoriously bad at seeing things in the long-term, and even worse at shaping their actions accordingly. Therefore, instead of betting on the future and competing in guessing what the future is like, we need to try the unimagined, to expand our imagination with experiments that produce new information about the world, and thus liberate us from the need to pretend to know and to be right about what will work and what will not. Experiments create artefacts, learnings, and shared experiences that lay the foundations to a meaningful dialogue and a collaboration for the future.

The first Untitled festival, held on September 17th-18th, brought together over 400 people from 30 countries to collectively reimagine the society and set the agenda for the most important experiments. This was done with the help of conversations, co-creation, art, embodied and social exercises, and the celebration of the possibility of the next era. This eclectic selection of practices highlights the fact that there is no supreme method for imagining Untitled Futures: facts, reasoning, and clever arguments have a limited scope: they cannot help us in reaching for things that lack concepts and previous examples.

Untitled festival also increased the gravity of a number of real-life experiments. We find both the diversity of the experimentalists as well the experiments are promising. Here are a few examples:

  • An activist investor aiming to explore the “flip” of the entire property industry, through the creation of the world’s most sustainable buildings
  • A think tank and do tank is going to reimagine the democratic process by breaking out of the traditional governmental pattern of “decide, do, defend”.
  • The housing (first) company is experimenting with redefining housing as a part of basic income and sustainable living in a city.
  • A research and development community is launching four experiments on the public sector transformation through distributed technology.
  • A group of activists is developing the “Transcultural Republic of Nodes” to reimagine the nation-state.
  • A social enterprise is setting out to deliver a 12-month experiment to pilot a completely reimagined accelerator program allowing entrepreneurs to change capitalism from within.
  • A climate innovation community is set to experiment with a model for nurturing urban nature as public infrastructure.

Usually, at similar events, there are the questions: “What next? What should we do? What happens when you go home? ”

For Untitled, the festival was the starting point for the next ten years.

In this way, Untitled is like a collision in a particle accelerator: the unlikely event in which immense amounts of energy are released and new worlds can unfold.

We are that collision.

The power of this congregation has released increased gravity. This gravity is pulling new coalitions and building unlikely alliances around the real-life experiments launched at the inaugural Untitled festival, accelerating these first glimpses through the ten-year process of Untitled.

23 September 2020 by Untitled Team

“The defining human attribute is transcendence. There is always more in us, in each of us individually and in all of us collectively.”

Roberto Mangabeira Unger held the only keynote of the first Untitled festival. Unger has had intellectually strong influence on how we at Untitled understand societal transformation, and especially the elemental role of imagination in it. “We should not depend on the crisis. It is so as not to depend on crises that we possess the faculty of imagination. The task of the imagination is to do the work of crisis without crisis.”

During the final session of the first Untitled festival in September 2020, Roberto Mangabeira Unger provoked Untitled Alliance towards direction, imagination and experimentalism.

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a philosopher and a social and legal theorist, is the former Minister of Strategic Affairs of Brazil and the present Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard University. A sample of his work is available on his website www.robertounger.net

Roberto Mangabeira Unger

Roberto Mangabeira Unger has had intellectually strong influence on how we at Untitled understand societal transformation, and especially the elemental role of imagination in it. A recent presentation of his at MIT in the spring further underlines the importance of his presence at Untitled.

“We should not depend on the crisis. It is so as not to depend on crises that we possess the faculty of imagination. The task of the imagination is to do the work of crisis without crisis.

During the final session of the first Untitled festival 2020, Roberto Mangabeira Unger provoked Untitled Alliance about directions, substance, and action. Watch his talk.

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a philosopher and a social and legal theorist, is the former Minister of Strategic Affairs of Brazil and the present Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard University. A sample of his work is available on his website www.robertounger.net

Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes

Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes have been working together as a VestAndPage for over a decade, and gained international recognition for their work in performance art, performance-based film, writing, and publishing. Their work moves between the unseen and the unforeseen, the unsaid, the forgotten, and the repressed. It has involved collective performance operas, and the creation of temporary artistic communities. At Untitled Imaginary Society in September 2020, hosted by Sylvie Barbier and Jacques Chlopczyk from Life Itself, Verena and Andrea reminded us that to imagine differently is to see, listen, and relate differently. At the convergence of multiple crises, how can we change our gaze to imagine a different future?

Every day we face and witness the dramatic effects of the climate crisis. The construction industry, which still struggles to apply “green” parameters and constraints in the construction of new buildings, has a major impact on the environmental balance. However, it is necessary to reverse this trend as soon as possible and work to reduce emissions to a minimum by implementing Restorative operations, even on the assets already built. What approaches can be developed to push this transformation as quickly as possible?

With a background as an engineer, Carlo Battisti has always worked in the building sector, gaining solid experiences across twenty years in construction companies, with different roles. Since 2009 he has collaborated with IDM South Tyrol as a project manager in Business Development. In 2015, he founded the Italian chapter of the Living Future Institute. Today Carlo holds the office of President of Living Future Europe.

What should be reimagined now? We can consider a building as an assembly of different components both on technical and social aspects. Therefore, we can imagine that this concept represents exponential complexities on an urban scale. Cities are assemblies that we use to call communities. Is it possible to Redefine paradigms and realize sustainable areas within cities? What could look like an entire carbon neutral district? It is fundamental to encourage sustainable approaches in both local administrations and industries. We, in Europe, sit on a huge opportunity to restore our architectural heritage.

How can we experience environments that are closer to the concept of nature and Sustainability even within cities? It is essential to start with raising people’s awareness. Transmitting the value of environmental sustainability. An interesting concept in this regard is that of biophilia. Biophilic nature is an innate experience in mankind but no longer Instinctive. We got used to living in another way. This is why it is essential to bring this dimension back to people. It is possible to bring people closer by immersing them in these concepts, making them directly experience what a biophilic building truly represents. Living and experiencing it, means that the relationship with nature is immediate and within reach. Many studies show how this kind of architecture has strong benefits on the psycho-physical balance of man.

What kind of orientations in climate policies could experience in our cities in ten years’ time? For sure we need bold projects, decisions and actions. We are facing this climate crisis with irresponsible levity. I see cities walking along through this path using backcasting methodologies. What do we expect 2050 to be? Tackling this question, not only do we need to achieve carbon neutrality but we should develop new tools to manage complexities derived from the worsened effects of climate change. We should engage positive competitions and Collaborations among administrations, states and industries that could impact positively on our societies with disruptive improvement. We can no longer stand still but we need radical changes.

Living Future Europe Website:  https://www.living-future.eu/ 

Twitter: @battisti_c , @LFEurope

Let’s aim at a world that is wise, well and awake! Sylvie Shiwei Barbier co-founded Life Itself to build a wiser future through culture, space and community. Life Itself already has its first hubs in Bergerac (France), London and Berlin. Its aim: embodying a new way of living, based on the precepts of Zen wisdom secularised. Setting up co-living spaces to gather the community, launching initiatives of contemplative activism, developing its own businesses to be self sustainable. Life Itself is actively promoting a new narrative for the world!

What could be reimagined now and how did you imagine it could look like in ten years’ time?

We should focus on culture – the “way of being” of a group or society. We should inquire what are wise cultures and societies. We should seek to learn from others who have good practices, implement them, experiment with them. We would value questions rather than answers, value inquiry and beginner’s mind. Individuals would also have a much Deeper understanding of human nature and being. 

For that to happen there would be funding for research ontology, psychology, mental health and education. There would be a new spirit in politics, talking about politics and religion would no longer be a taboo in bars and family conversations, citizens and young people would be a lot more involved in politics and public service would be sexy. There would be a new narrative around human flourishing and people would take the time to come together and discuss important issues both personally and collectively (what do I value, what do we value, what am I / we committed to, how do we work together to bring that Forth,…). 

In education: other countries would learn from leaders such as Finland. In ontology we would learn from the convergence of ancient wisdom traditions (such as Zen) and modern Cognitive science. Mental health and well-being would be taken as seriously as physical health and well-being.

How could we experiment with what you just imagined? 

We should start experimenting with our sense of time and grow our Imagination to operate on a greater time scale, for example the next 7 generations. 

My dream project would be to invite Masters of Being to explore and create a hybrid of practices whose goal would be to nurture our sense of belonging, compassion, qualitative observation, deep listening, Integrity, possibility, creativity and Courage. These would then be practiced on a long term basis by a trial group of activists, intellectuals, Scientists, educators, artists, public servants. Simultaneously there would be matched control groups who do not do the practices. We could then compare things between groups, for example the quality of their life, the capacity to be creative, resourceful, compassionate, take action, Collaborate with others, the quality of the social fabric they are part of, their sense of community etc. 

Such experiments must be set up in the long term to have an impact, and not be a one off. We should see it as an opportunity to create a ‘safe provocation’.  

Who needs to join the Alliance to make what you envisioned true? 

We need to invite the Masters of Being such as Aboriginal Tribes, Tibetan monks and the Dalaï Lama, Marina Abramovic Institute ( MAI ), Plum village (Buddhist mindfulness practice centers founded by Thich Nhat Hanh), Integral Zen and its founder Doshin Roshi, Harvard Professor Roberto Unger , Landmark and Werner Erhard (‘father of Self Help’ according to the NYT), South African Peace Nobel Prize Desmond Tutu, American philosopher Ken Wilber (father of the integral Psychology approach) …

What are the major questions that you are asking yourself about your field? What has not yet been answered or even asked? 

  • What are our blind spots to imagining a new, big, wise future? What are the collective traumas in our way to live present to our interbeing and to take wise collective action?
  • Who are the Masters of Being (being a human being)? Eg monk, marina Abramovic, aboriginal, soufi masters, shamans?
  • Can we imagine a future from a place bigger than our Survival or fear?
  • What is wisdom?
  • What does collective wisdom look like?
  • How do we nourish the seeds of wisdom?
  • What experiences can we create to nourish our Imagination so we don’t imagine from what we already know and create trivial extrapolation?
  • What is a future worth living for? Worth being disappointed for? Worth risking yourself for? Have your ass on the line while you imagine that future!
  • Who are we here to serve?

Sylvie Shiwei Barbier’s interview on youtube can be found HERE.

Website: https://lifeitself.us

Twitter: @SylvieShiwei

Photo: Sylvia Shiwei Barbier (c)