Tate Modern Conference

Future Imperfect Cultural propositions and global perspectives

Future Imperfect; Image courtesy of ATP/Ibraaz Publishing, 2013

The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality.
Henri Bergson

What can speculations on the future tell us about the priorities of the present and the demands of past?

Future Imperfect brings together an international line-up of artists, writers and cultural practitioners to consider ways in which artistic practices can help inform and shape collective futures. Through performances, interviews, panel discussions, and a screening programme, contributors will highlight how present histories and institutions are being shaped through propositional speculations on the future.

This symposium is organised by Ibraaz and supported by the Kamel Lazaar Foundation in partnership with Tate Modern.


10.30–12:30: Propositional futures

Living in the shadow of an apparently unending 'war on terror', the far from resolved global financial crisis, ongoing uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, and ubiquitous systems of connectivity and surveillance, it would seem that the future – constricted by the all too immediate challenges of the present – is not what it used to be.

This panel will explore what is at stake in articulating propositions on the future? What kind of language can be used to describe the as yet unknown ways of being in the future? Why do we rely so much on future orientated goals rather than the realities of the here and now? And finally, why the future is not what it used to be?

10.30 – Welcome: Kamel Lazaar
10:35 – Introduction: Anthony Downey and Nora Razian
10.40 – Performance Lecture: Raqs Media Collective 
11.05 – Keynote lecture: Douglas Coupland
11.30 – Conversation: Todd Reisz
12.00 – Discussion and Q&A with audience (Moderated by Anthony Downey)

12.30–13.30 – Lunch break

13.30– 5.15: 1967/1968: What was lost?

The events of 1967 still resonate across the Middle East and beyond. In June of that year, the so-called Six Day War, or an-Naksah ('The Setback'), heralded an end to a number of things: the nationalist ideal of Pan-Arabism, the political will towards more open societies, economic growth, and the nascent cultural dispositions that marked the 1960s. One year later, in 1968, a revolutionary politics emerged in struggles against dictatorships, state repression, and colonization, across the United States, France, Mexico, Brazil, Northern Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Spain, and Germany.

In terms of a global historical consciousness, the events of 1967 and 1968 had a significant impact; however, their legacy has arguably waned in the wake of decades of under-development and repression in the Middle East and, coextensively, the ascendancy of neo-liberalism. Nevertheless, 1967 and 1968 have recently re-emerged as problematic cornerstones for uprisings across the Middle East, since 2011, and anti-capitalist movements around the world, provoking in turn a singular question: what was lost in the idealism associated with the period of Pan-Arabism and the radical politics of 1968? And what do those losses tell us about the apparent social, political and cultural impasse that marks the present and the future?

13.30 – Introduction: Omar Kholeif
13.35 – Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige in conversation with Anthony Downey
14.00 – Propositional Futures I: Tony Chakar
14.25 – Lecture: Tarek El Ariss
14.50 – Discussion and Q&A with Audience (moderated by Omar Kholeif)

15.15 – Coffee break

15.30–17.30: Structural futures: where to now?

The future, as Louis Althusser once observed, tends to last a long time. The possibilities associated with it often remain unrealized and this can be, under the compromised conditions of modernity, a conceptual necessity: the future must always remain in the future. However, for possibility to become potential and be realized over time, both within cultural practices and institutional contexts, infrastructure needs to be in place.

This panel will discuss what a future arts infrastructure might look like across the Maghreb region, to begin with, and how the role of artists and institutions could change in a global context. What, we will ask, will a future audience look like and how will culture continue to not only negotiate public space, civil society and institutional practices, but promote the sustainability of the future as an ideal?

15.30 – Introduction: Anthony Downey
15.35 – Panel Discussion: Zineb Sedira, Abdelkader Damani, Omar Berrada and Lina Lazaar. Chair: Anthony Downey
16.30 – Propositional Futures II: Bassam El Baroni.
17.00 – Q&A with Audience (moderated by Anthony Downey)
17.30 – End

17.30 – Drinks reception

19.00–20:30: States in time – a film screening in the Starr Auditorium

Entry is included in the conference ticket. Alternatively, it is possible to book tickets just to see the screening without attending the conference.

This programme takes the notion of the ‘state’ as its starting point. What does it mean to imagine a state – a state of being, of consciousness, of lived experience? As we move into the future, what will the world look and feel like? The artists and filmmakers in this programme, many of whom are presenting UK premieres, explore relationships of power, globalisation, and political imagination in unique ways. Shifting through time – from the present to the future and back to the past – their films pose questions about the changing nature of statehood and the idealism associated with it.

This film screening is curated by Omar Kholeif

The Goodness Regime 2013

Jumana Manna and Sille Storihle
HD video, 21 min, UK Premiere

Kempinski 2007

Neil Beloufa
SD video, 15 min

Farther than the Eye Can See 2012

Basma Al Sharif
13 min, UK Premiere

Pipe Dreams 2012

Ali Cherri
In Arabic; English subtitles. 6 min, UK Premiere

Tied and True 2012

Wu Tsang and Nana Oforiatta-Ayim
HD Video, 7 min

Tate Modern

Starr Cinema

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit

Date & Time

9 November 2013 at 10.30–17.30

Find out more

  • Tate Modern

    States in time

    States in Time; season of short films at Tate Modern their films posing questions about the changing nature of statehood …