Activism

2023-10-26
Yung Au is a researcher at the University of Oxford with affiliations with the University Arts London, No Tech for Tyrants, and the Future Imperatives Collection.
More on Yung Au

Activism seeks to bring about social change. And there are many dangerous, delightful, and unexpected ways this can happen. One way is through the claiming of possible futures.  

The socio-political contestations that spill across many arenas of life is also a fight for a particular version of tomorrow, of the time yet to come. In a piece, Surveillance from the Third Millennium, speculations are made about a future if we continued down a pathways to a hyper-datafied society that valued optimisation and quickness above all else. From the formalisation of ancestral debt to Asymmetric Slow-Wave Sleep Pills that allows workers to continue doing labour half asleep, what techno-futures will we normalise?   

Conversely, what alternative future paths are possible? Dreaming has always been a part of activism, and this continues today. From Afrofuturist and Indigenous futures movements, to the Detroit Geographic Expedition’s provocation of ‘oughtness maps’, a map of how things ought to be: what will we pave for the time ahead?   

Looking back on our present through a retrospective lens, positioned from a time in an unspecified future, today can be observed as just another period in our long and convoluted histories. The stretching out of speculative distance can be useful in dispelling ideas of exceptionalism, de-familiarising the familiar, and, perhaps, contributing to an unsettling of a future that is prescribed to us in much of today’s discourse.

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Yung Au was invited by Winnie Soon to contribute to "Reframing a glossary". Find out more.

Yung Au is a researcher at the University of Oxford with affiliations with the University Arts London, No Tech for Tyrants, and the Future Imperatives Collection.
More on Yung Au

Suggested Citation:

Au, Y. (2023) 'Activism', The Photographers’ Gallery: Unthinking Photography. Available at: https://unthinking.photography/articles/activism
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