Potentials of Speculation – Script of the Introductory Event

Originally worked out for the online lecture series by Tom Bieling, Torben Körschkes & Petja Ivanova (in order of appearance). Therefore the I‘s used may represent different persona. All speakers are not native speakers.

Hi everybody. Greetings from Hamburg. +
We’re very excited to kick-off with you today our new lecture series, called “Potentials of Speculation”. +
Before getting into questions of content I would like to do some “housekeeping”, give a brief overview about the general structure of this event, and tell you a bit about some of the technical issues in general. +
So before we start, I would like you to know, that we are planning to record these sessions. If there’s anyone who doesen’t like to see his or her face being recorded, please make sure to switch off your camera and/or change the name, that appears on the screen. +
Switching off your camera also applies in case that you have connection problems. +
Apart from that, we are happy to see as many of your faces as possible, so we might at least get the feeling that we are really together here and not just in a virtual space. +
As long as you are only listening, please make sure to mute your microphone. +
In case you have any questions or wanna make a comment, we suggest to give us a sign in our group chat, by either posting your question or by letting us know, that you would like to say something. +
It may vary from case to case, some speakers prefer a Q&A session at the end, others prefer to keep it more dialogical and answer questions right in the middle, during their talk. +
Ideally, discussions between the listeners themselves arise as well. +
We are very open about that. The only thing we would like you to ask, is to ensure that we treat each other with respect. (Be critical, but be fair!) +
Now to give you a little overview about the series itself: +
  • the series will continue next semester (and beyond)
  • the schedule for this semester can be found here
  • the talks are always at 6 pm / Hamburg time
  • the Zoom Link applies to all events in this series this semester
  • course language will be English
  • duration of a lecture will be approximately 40 min + discussion
And now, Torben is gonna tell you more about the background of this project. +
Hello from me as well! +

The Research Project

In the research project called “Speculative Space”, which is funded by the City of Hamburg and located here at the Center for Design Research at HAW Hamburg, we are eight researches coming from different backgrounds, ranging from design to philosophy to political theory. +
Team Spec Space © Ricarda Fallenbacher / Patricia Paryz
The main question of our research is about the epistemic potentials of speculation or speculative design in specific. +
In other words, we try to find out which forms of specific knowledge are produced by processes that work speculatively or from a speculative position. +
Speculation means to make claims that lack a so-called rational basis. Or on an even more everyday or general level it means to make claims that will only turn out to be wrong or right in the future. I would actually say that speculation in this sense is not only something very everyday, but in many areas also scientific practice: claims are made, or one might say: thesis are formulated, which are then tested to be false or right. That‘s one side. +
But speculation for us – and that’s another side – is even more interesting in the sense that, as a claim, it can also question the status quo or what is believed to be a "general truth", unquestioned knowledge. In doing so, we assume that there is not one true form, but many possible forms of creating knowledge and insight. +
Let me give you an example: In the comic book “Bruchlinien. Drei Episoden zum NSU” the author Anne König tried to narrate some of the shocking gaps that the trial around the german right-wing terrorist group called “National Socialist Underground” left open. In one part she speculated on how a certain conversation might have taken place. Then the lawyer of one of the victims' relatives read the made up part, called Anne and said: “Who told you this? This is bullshit. Let me tell you what really happened.” +
König, Anne / Bulling, Nino Paula: Bruchlinien. Drei Episoden zum NSU. Spector Books, 2019.
I just recently heard of this, but find it kind of fascinating in our context because here speculation worked as a provocative tool to reveal a truth, that a 5 year long legal process could not bring to light. +
For us, Speculative Design derives from this critical examination of social relationships and conditions and gaps and works with fictional and non-fictional narratives to make them visible or/and to break them up. +

Potentials of Speculation

Embedded within this research project is this series of talks, in which, as the title suggests, we search for the potentials of speculation. The example that I just gave could describe one possible potential. +
So at least over the next two semesters, we will invite different artists, scientists, researchers, and designers, who work in different contexts and ways with speculative tactics and approaches. +
The focus of the first "block", as Petja will explain in a moment, is on Afrofuturistic positions. This will be followed by contributions on feminist speculation, stock exchange specialists, divination, and some other fields. +
We hope to discover links, connections and points of contact within very different fields for a speculative design practice. And with this I pass on to Petja. +

First off: Afrofuturism

According to Ytasha Womack, Afrofuturism is a way of looking at the future and alternate realities from a black cultural lens, meaning the people from the african continent in addition to the diaspora. Which have been left out of the project of enlightenment. (Kodwo Eshun) from… +
It is also an artistic aesthetic, a tool for self-liberation and self-healing, at times part of critical race theory, and a critical theory framework. +
„Potentials of Speculation“ (more precisely, the first talks in the winter semester 2020/21) features creatives with a connection to afrofuturism that apply this critical theory framework as a tool for liberation and deliver speculations that are beyond neo-liberal aesthetic play of techno-solutionism in the field of art, design, music and interdisciplinary practice. +

Guest list

  • Juice Aleem is an MC, producer, educator from Birmingham UK, representing the organisation Afroflux. He is going to introduce their work in connection to his publication „Afrofutures and Astro Black travel: A passport to melanated futures“ which has been put together as a short manual on Astro Black travel. Subverting the hard cold textures of urban decay and whitewashed history for a safer passage back to the stars. Afrofuturism is the vehicle and Afrofutures is the passport.
  • Neema Githere is an indigenous-African curator and guerrilla theorist based in the #digitaldiaspora. Having dreamt herself into the world via the Internet from an early age, her work archives and is curated around their own coming-of-age as a digital nomad. Their work explores indigenous cybernetics. Their curatorial work around data healing endeavors to illuminate the links between technology, nature and spirituality. Other projects of theirs include Afropresentism – a term they coined in 2017 to articulate digital diasporic cultural production in the here and now – and Radical Love Consciousness, a collective that focuses on re-indigenization through grassroots learning networks.
  • Tabita Rezaire’s practice explores how colonial histories and their legacies affect our capacity to connect to ourselves, each other, the land and the cosmos. She envisions network sciences – organic, electronic and spiritual – as potential healing technologies. Through screens and collective offerings, her practice is an invitation for political resistance, social transformation and spiritual healing. Rezaire currently lives and works in Cayenne, French Guiana, where she is birthing „Amakaba. A Vision of Healing in the Amazonian Forest of French Guiana.“ To overcome the disconnection to ourselves, to each other, to the earth and the universe mandated by coloniality, the healing we require is not solely physical nor mental but emotional, political, historical, technological and spiritual.
  • Lina Nasr El Hag Ali is a researcher and PhD Candidate in the department of Politics, at York University, Toronto, Canada. Her work connects topics like the politics of technology, race and imagination to labour organizing and localism under capitalism. Her talk aims to introduce its listeners to the intersections of speculative philosophy and materialist politics. What can be understood by adding the speculative dimension to our understanding of the problems facing our current and future selves? How can Afrofuturism offer us both insight and release from the current political moment and its constraints? Much of the dominant or hegemonic imaginings of the future-as-now seem to be plagued either with visions of the apocalyptic – in the form of climate disaster and impending economic and political collapse –or in an equally terrifying alternative of the despotic ‘techno-utopias’ to come. While the present moment remains engulfed in flames and of course, unrecovered from historical brutalities and traumas, we march onward. How might we discern alternate trajectories/ forms of resistance? In attempting to bring this conversation to a specific locality [the city] we will grapple with the material concerns of time and space through the speculative work of Afrofuturists, and particularly their use of alienation as an anchoring concept.
  • Catherine Feliz is an interdisciplinary artist born and raised in Lenape territory (NYC) to parents from Kiskeya Ayiti (Dominican Republic). Intersectional feminist theory, archival research, and earth-based healing inform their practice. They work to reclaim ancestral technologies that have been systematically erased by drawing from multiple disciplines to unearth histories and make space for decolonial futures. Employing techniques of framing, opacity, desire, and language, they work in a variety of mediums including installation, bookmaking, video, text, and fabric. Visit Botánica Cimarrón to find their plant spirit medicines, classes and more. They are also the co-founder of Abuela Taught Me, an Afro-Taino Two-Spirit educational space, and a founding member of Homecoming, a QTBIPOC radical care collective. Her talk titled ANCIENT FUTURES, reindigenizing technologies, asks about how humans can nurture emerging ways of relating for a future that regenerates our earth connection. The imperialist capitalist way of engaging digital systems acts with belief that digital reality is in a completely separate realm from the natural order. ANCIENT FUTURES asks: How can we connect the etheric internet web to the underground mycelial web for instance?
  • BQF – Black Quantum Futurism is a new approach to living and experiencing reality by way of the manipulation of space-time in order to see into possible futures, and/or collapse space-time into a desired future in order to bring about that future’s reality. This vision and practice derives its facets, tenets, and qualities from quantum physics and Black/African cultural traditions of consciousness, time, and space. Under a BQF intersectional time orientation, the past and future are not cut off from the present – both dimensions have influence over the whole of our lives, who we are and who we become at any particular point in space-time.
  • Intelligent Mischief is a creative studio and design lab unleashing Black imagination to shape the future. Their work aims to boost invention and innovation, realign action, logic and experiment with new forms of culture and civil society to create atmospheres of change. In their studio they create multi-platform story worlds, experiences, ephemera and installations that invite Black people to immerse themselves in diverse experiences of Utopias. In their design lab they invite Black people to join in collectively imagining their futures through ciphers, labs, retreats and writers rooms. Their talk will touch on ideas of Black Utopias and the various approaches that afrospeculative traditions have taken to derive them. We will look at the usefulness of Black Utopias in shaping Black liberation strategies and explore the ways in which Black Utopian aesthetics in music, visual art, pop culture, dance, fiction, and poetry inform revolutionary struggles.
And finish this first edition of our lecture series on February the 2nd. +
So far about the content, if you have questions please drop them in the chat for our q&a and I hand over back to Tom. +
Thanks Petja, I guess, that's it for today. We hope you have got a little foretaste of what you can expect in the coming months. You will find the PDF of this presentation in our chat. +
Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or suggestions, at any point. And spread the word! This is an open format, so you might wanna tell your friends, colleagues or students. They are more than welcome to join us at our next lectures. +
Potentials of Speculation I (Trailer)