Visions, Imaginations, Abysses

Radical Dreaming

Annual Theme 2022

The annual theme of the ZU artsprogram and the Centre for Cultural Production in 2022 explores the significance of dreaming and imagination in the unfolding of possible futures, as well as looking back into the history of dreaming and imagining. Exhibitions, workshops and lectures will explore the epistemic function and potential of dreams, phantasms and virtual worlds; what does not yet exist, but could.

The extensive programme of events, including the artsprogram's exhibition "Algorithmic Rituals - The Infinite Self" and a lecture series, addresses the question of whether and to what extent dreams are capable of overcoming that understanding of reality that "continuously represents itself to itself" (Jacques Rancière).

The annual program is divided into two phases. In the first phase, February - May 2022, artists and scientists will be invited to explore the phenomenon and history of dreaming in various ways, to investigate its function and - with the artists Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg - to build phantasmagorical spaces of a digital-futuristic dream world.

In the second phase, starting in September 2022, activists will be invited who create concrete social utopias, live these and fight for their realization. For one year, the programme will give space to thinkers, musicians, performers, writers, artists, conscious dreamers and other guests to materialize the imaginary.

Against the background of the current planetary crises, the artsprogram together with artists, thinkers and activist wants to invite speculative thinking and concrete collective dreaming. It searches for new horizons for the future which are more than cheap phantasms or cynical forms of world escapism.

More Information on the Topic

Dreamers have a poor reputation. They are not especially respected within academia, or even in the arts. But perhaps radical dreamers are, in fact, the new realists. At least this is the thesis of philosopher Slavoj Žižek in his book Pandemic! He argues that dreaming - and here especially the nightmare - confronts us with a deeper truth about the nature of the world. Dreams allow us to peer into a collective unconscious that remains closed. They have a revelatory character. In his writings, Žižek repeatedly reminds us that otherwise philosophy and thinking, in their approach to the world, are reliant on dreams, the fictive and the imaginary as instruments of knowledge.

But have we perhaps forgotten how to dream in this sense? Has the function of dreams changed? Does dreaming gain a new function in the face of increasingly dominant digital simulations and virtual worlds? What is the epistemological role of dreams in a world in which ideas of the future are based primarily on the algorithmisation of the past?

The arts play a specific role in the creation of imaginative, dreamlike spaces of possibility. Without imagination, as the French philosopher Jacques Rancière argues, we move in a reality that is “incessantly representing itself to itself “. Epistemically, he writes, following Freud, art settles in an in-between space between the real and the fantastic, shaping its very own relations “between knowing and not-knowing, sense and non-sense, logos and pathos, the real

and the fantastic”. Because art is such a distinct instrument for opening up the future, it is important to take a closer look at this epistemic technique and how artistic projects expand this in-between space precisely where a transformation of social relations is at stake.

In his book “The New Dark Age. Technology and the End of the Future”, the British computer scientist and cognitive scientist James Bridle describes a digital-technological future that ultimately dispenses with an emphatic concept of the future through the computerisation of thinking, because thinking means calculating and computers begin to make decisions that are no longer comprehensible to humans. In our age of the “digitisation of everything” (Shoshanna Zuboff), have virtual worlds possibly long since replaced dreaming? What is the significance of dreaming and the unconscious in such a world? Does it no longer play a role in generating utopian energies? Are we dream-forgetful? Or does the new wave of utopias and dystopias we are currently experiencing testify precisely to a new, different function of radical dreaming? How can dreams of a different society, as Robin D.G. Kelley describes them in his book Freedom Dreams, become catalysts for political engagement?

These questions open up a horizon of historical theory because they concern the condition of the possibility of producing the future. But they also touch upon contemporary epistemology and the relationship between the virtual, the fictional, the fantastic and the real.


Algorithmic Rituals – The Infinite Self | Susanne Kennedy und Markus Selg | 10.03. - 27.05.2022 | WhiteBox ZF-Campus

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Weaving Dreams into Realities | Jeanne van Heeswijk | 17.09. - 10.12.2022 | WhiteBox ZF-Campus

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Further Information

Time to decide

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