My hope for this project was to satisfy two parallel interests I believe we all share. On one hand, the common desire to strive for a better world - for us, our fellow terrestrials, and our children. The other of course, is to simply lose oneself in a fantasy - an escape which allows us to reflect, dream, and plan for the former.
The overarching project is in a way a call to expand the human temporal and relational sensibilities. These orientations are essential to developing the frameworks, infrastructures, and governance strategies capable of acting at the deep timescales of our most urgent crises. Doing so through a fiction allows us to consider them without being paralyzed by contemporary issues. After all, we put these structures together in the first place, we should be able to reconfigure them.
Architecture as a discipline finds itself central to this pursuit. As a framework, ordering process, and navigational system - the methodologies and skill sets within are integral to developing novel solutions for vexing crises.
The ‘products’ are authored by a wide range of characters hoping to provide a wealth of different perspectives and instill within the viewer a frame of mind with which to consider the following fictions.
As such, a letter from the head archivist at UNX introduces you to the project.
Letter from the Archivist
My Dear XXXXX,
I hope this letter finds you well, and that the enclosed documents have arrived intact. I was touched by your earlier letter; not many in your generation bother to concern themselves with histories such as these. Your curiosity is a breath of fresh air if I’m being honest; I can’t tell you how much it frustrates me to watch the goings-on of today blindly hurtling towards so many mistakes we have already seen made. The eyes are open, but no one bothers to look backwards anymore. Full speed ahead… as we’ve always said.
As you must understand, art tends to parallel history, and we have a bad habit of forgetting that by studying representations and accounts there is far more to see than the face-value content. To borrow words from one of the figures you’ll soon encounter, these immutable and re-combinable mobiles have been the foundation of our systems of knowledge, exchange, and growth since we took up reeds and painted on the walls of caves. Plenaes was peculiar amongst its cohort of avant-garde (pardon my expired language) collectives for several reasons. Their longevity, for one, was remarkable. The formulation of the group occurred outside of the public eye and was secretive for quite some time. We are still discovering connections between historical figures who we had always assumed were operating in autonomy. Based on the diaspora of evidence we have available, we’re also forced to consider the possibility that Plenaes wasn’t a group at all - perhaps it makes more sense as some kind of externality that individuals align with across time and space.
Given your background and interest I feel that you will likely share the emphasis Plenaes places on architecture, environments, and representations of both. It seems they leaned towards a flatter ontology, one which considered architecture itself (as well as a plurality of objects, lifeforms, artefacts, etc.) as actors with intrinsic significance. I have included some special documents from an architect we believe was involved with the group that should bring some of these considerations to light for you.
What we have in our collection are documents perhaps created by members of the group, perhaps documented or simply retrieved by them. Either way, the Plenaes documents are one of the few remaining repositories of information from before the Singularity. They constitute narratives which seem to be truths about our past, although we cannot be completely sure of what is factual and what may be fictitious (as seems to be the hallmark of most work associated with Plenaes). Regardless, common belief can be said to constitute truth, can it not? At UNX we find it most beneficial to simply take this evidence at face value. Even if everything you’re about to read turns out to just be a fable, they still hold valuable lessons. Given the unprecedented erasure of knowledge the Singularity brought about the only way forward is to accept a common history - and this one is as good as, if not better, than any other.
Although the motivations of Plenaes for creating / collecting / preserving these documents are somewhat unclear, found with them was a manifesto explaining the groups beliefs and positions. It seems that each collection deals with particular themes, ideals, and issues central to the thinking of the group and their beliefs regarding societal progress. The chronology is (perhaps intentionally) unclear, but I have ordered the documents the best I can and included a piece from the journal of one known as the timekeeper. It should help give context, even if it doesn’t really clarify.
I have, regrettably, on occasion had to redact pieces of information (usually personal or identifying details) from individuals who did not wish to be publicly associated with the group. This is of course in addition to the information which has simply been lost to time and the aftermath of the Singularity. You’ll find some documents disappointingly incomplete, but perhaps it’s more interesting to piece it together yourself anyway.
The contents of your package include:
- The group’s manifesto
- An excerpt from the journal of the architect, XXXXXX XXXXXX.
- A piece from the libraries of someone we only know of as the Plenaes Timekeeper, it has been an influential element of evidence in how we have begun to piece together histories and lessons from the Plenaes Material.
- A narrative map or organizational tool I sketched out to help you key into some of the relationships between items.
- Three collections of documents and artefacts that are all in some way attributed to Plenaes, they should together serve to paint a picture of the contexts with which the group was engaging. They deal specifically with the themes of capital, politics, and ecology.
- The first collection is characterized by fear of the reconciliation of positive-value and debt-value currencies. The methods by which the capitalist machine is propped up are a neo-keynesian invention of circulatory quotas. The resultant effect on the built environment is one of constant change, building, rebuilding, recycling etc. An environment of totalitarian dynamism. Perhaps not so obviously, it can’t last.
- The second imagines in a post truth, no, post politics society - how do we begin to rebuild that truth, and create a system of organization which has the capability of leading us away from disaster rather than into it. Advances in technology make possible the visualization of the myriad networks and entanglements which are themselves a system of engendering requisites. The co-dependencies now visible, such a parliament is erected to encounter and advocate on behalf of all things - human, animal, plant, object, hyperobject, etc.
- The third collection deals with the oppressive issue of climate and ecology. It becomes the primary concern of our species, of all terrestrials. Its weight has crushed all other forms of social delineation, class, race, culture, nationality - all matter little now.
- After this I’ve left a brief reflection of my own, I’d love to hear your thoughts next time you write me.
- I have also included a sizable collection of notes done by one of the group’s own archivists. They should help you find further materials should you desire, as well as understand the fertile intellectual soil upon which Plenaes based their work.
- And of course, some suggestions for other works which might interest you, if you can get your hands on them that is.
Interspersed in the documentation are various artefacts which I have found complementary. They should be all adequately annotated – but please do reach out with any questions. Additionally, I have reproduced for you some prints of the work of XXXXXX XXXXXX, the architect mentioned earlier. These representations seem to communicate holistic pictures of the contexts in which the group was working – on occasion you may be able to spot artefacts produced by them, or even members depicted in the crowd. We are generally able to piece together what they depict in conjunction with the textual evidence we have - but they tell a story all on their own and should also be appreciated as such.
I hope you enjoy. While reading, keep in mind a belief I hold very dear: thought and reflection are what lead to discoveries of better worlds; those ideas and sentiments are best expressed and disseminated through artistic expression. By inspiring the imaginary we, even unconsciously, move the needle in a certain direction and can only hope, as I do now, that others take up the mantle after us.
Yours in the pursuit of a better future,
Head Archivist, UNX.
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