What will the future bring? We’ll probably survive the Covid pandemic. How are we going to deal with a planet that keeps getting warmer? What are we going to do when thousand year weather events start happening every year? Will democracy survive when some hackers run a “deep fake” candidate for president?
Charlie Vela and Jonathan Leal take a stab at imagining the answers to these quests with their multi-media art project, Futuro Conjunto. Set several generations in the future, the pair gives us fragmented bits on information about the “Flickering Century” (2020 – 2120). Geographically, the speculative history centers on change in (and to) the Rio Grand Valley
Futuro Conjunto has two main elements. There is the audio, a fragmented bootleg of a major concert held at an abandoned rocket facility. Between the performances, we hear the bootlegger and his friends commenting on the event, setting up the narrative. The thumbnail synopsis of the story is the a young man goes to a data depository to look for evidence of his great grandmother’s, great grandmother’s story about playing at a big concert. The audio is the only possible record found.
The other element is the website of El Centro Conmatizque. The mission statement of the organization is that: All submitted data, regardless of seeming utility or importance, heft or helpfulness, quality or coherence, secrecy of scandalousness, shall be retained in perpetuity.
The special exhibit on the site is devoted to the “Flickering Century.” The exhibits give an overview of the major events of the century. Events that are mentioned in the songs or conversations on the audio are fleshed out in the exhibit. The events range from the ridiculous (the Basura Bandits Trash Heist) to the devastating (Hurricane Narciso permanently changing the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico).
The concert features a wide variety of styles and highlights the strong Latinx character of the changed population.
Futuro Conjunto is like a found footage science fiction movie. A young man goes to an archive of memories, curated by an artificial intelligence. The man is trying to confirm a story his great grandmother told about her great grandmother playing at the Futuro Conjunto festival. The archive finds a memory that might be the concert in question. The file is a corrupted bootleg of an incomplete recording. The opening act we hear is Mundo, an eco-activist group of women trying to change the world with guitars and a growl. Codex are a hip hop act anchored by an obsolete supercomputer on the “ones and zeros.”
I enjoyed pealing back the layers of Futuro Conjunto. There are terrifying events in store for humanity on this fictional timeline. Unlike so many stories about the future where the world has descended into dystopia, Futuro Conjunto offers a hopeful alternative. After all, the “Flickering Century” is ancient history. Humanity found a way through it all, adapted and survived.