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VISUAL DECOLONIZATION OF FUTURES

Updated: Feb 1, 2023



Source: Ikiré Jones

Note: Lekan Jeyifo (b. Nigeria) and Walé Oyéjidé (b. Nigeria, 1981) - "Johannesburg 2081 A.D", Africa 2081 A.D. series, 2014. Digital print.


Have you ever felt uncomfortable or unrepresented when you encounter images in Futures Studies? Have you ever thought about who and what this visual language represents or benefits? Sometimes these images are rooted in colonialism, and we don't even notice this influence.


However, breaking with hegemonic discourses is essential when using images in Futures Studies. It is time to connect with other forms of thinking, to become a plural society, and to hear other voices. It's the moment to build different ways of being and getting involved with the world.


This is worth reflecting on, as Decolonization is a worldwide phenomenon – from Australia to Hawaii, from the Philippines to Argentina. It is a pivotal moment in human history where we have the opportunity to make the language of Futures Studies more universal and inclusive through images.


WHAT IS THE VISUAL DECOLONIZATION OF FUTURES?

The Visual Decolonization of Futures is a proposal to liberate the legacies of coloniality that have been sustained through the use of images in the field of Futures Studies. It is a project that confronts and disassociates images about futures from the hegemonic perspective of the Global North. It seeks inclusion, respect, and autonomy not only for individuals, but also for groups and social movements, such as feminism, the black movement, the ecological movement, the LGBTqia+ movement, etc.


We are discussing deconstructing patterns, concepts, and visual perspectives imposed on subalternate peoples. Rather than fitting in comfortably with the status quo, this project seeks to challenge, disturb and reconfigure colonial attitudes when we talk about images and futures.


This proposal does not mean a “new” discipline of Futures Studies. We aim for a new line of thinking that uses images as objects and means of action to reflect and design futures. Through incorporation into various media and visual languages, this new model will make visible the presence of “traditionally” peripheral groups and allow all people to glimpse decolonized future potentials.


We start from the understanding that the exotic does not exist.


Do you see the indigenous in the aesthetics of the imaginary, of the zoo, as someone to appreciate? Do you have difficulty seeing them as a person like you? If you can't perceive the true essence, go beyond, or transcend. “Indigenous is not a matter of feather headdress, bow, and arrow, something apparent and evident, but a matter of 'state of mind.’ It is a way of being and not a form of appearing.


Visual decolonization of futures requires a complex reflection like this to avoid being reductionist and stereotyping. It's not just using images of Los Angeles and Shanghai to talk about the cities of tomorrow. It's seeing Balinese handicrafts as an artifact of the future. It's absorbing the Bollywood aesthetic into science fiction.


In short, it is to look more openly and less discriminatorily toward the other, and the diversity of spaces when we work with images in Futures Studies. It is to think of new horizons with visual resources that confront and disassociate themselves from the colonial power base.


WHY USE IMAGES IN THE DECOLONIZATION OF FUTURES?

Images are one of multiple languages used to represent the world. They are increasingly recognized as a reliable resource for creating high-impact narratives with great transformative power. Thus, images are an excellent resource for decolonizing futures, representing many worlds.


Visual sources are the stage for a social, political, aesthetic, artistic, material, and economic debate in Futures Studies. In other words, using visual resources, we always have a solid connection to interdisciplinarity, which is one of the bases of decolonial thinking.


Using images to decolonize futures brings out other orders of representation and questions the perspectives that shape and guide our long-term visions. It means adopting, through the aesthetic regime, views capable of recognizing problems with how participants share complex social issues.


This practice makes it possible to represent the futures of the ways of living, knowing, and doing of historically invisible groups, respecting their identity. It allows thinking and launching new looks at the world from the perspective of “traditionally” peripheral communities, contributing not only to the decolonization of the look but also to the decolonization of the imaginary.


Images manage to touch sensibility in a way that writing cannot. Therefore, they are a key to decolonizing the look and communicating the subjectivities emerging from alternate futures.


These images reach and approach different audiences, regardless of language. They are a valuable means to be used in work dynamics with people who do not master the same language. They are still a precious resource for futurists to communicate their work in an accessible and inclusive way.


HOW CAN YOU BE PART OF THE FUTURES DECOLONIZATION PROCESS WITH IMAGES?

To start the visual decolonization of futures, I recommend some practices, which are organized in two dimensions:


I. Realize and Position Yourself in the World

  • Know where you came from and recognize which land you are living in. Understand the visual context of your ancestors and where you are. Discover who you are, as well as your power and responsibility points.

  • Deepen your observation of the dominant visual regime in your context. Is it how the advertising campaigns impact you? Who are the visual artists you consume? What are the characters represented in statues in the squares of your city? Are your visual references predominantly hegemonic?

  • Practice the decolonization of the look daily. This is a way of seeing the essence of what is before us, with less pre-established concepts and more sensitivity and delicacy.

II. Transform your Futures Studies

  • Insert non-colonial visual culture attributes into your initiatives, ensuring the representation of images from the various worlds.

  • Question the absence or underrepresentation of non-Western images in projects.

  • Do not create visual stereotypes of other cultures in your studies.

  • Use media and visual resources from different territories in your initiatives.

  • Create visual research methods with a focus on decolonizing futures.

  • Use images deposited in colonial archives as an object of reflection in the construction of new futures.

  • Include peripheral visual artists and designers in the production of studies.

  • Reinforce the subjectivities emerging from alternative theories with images.

  • Embrace visual contributions about futures in an inclusive way.

  • Value the process of visually creating futures of different aesthetic standards.

What hegemonic positions will you begin to subvert so that there are more and more approaches to visual decolonization of futures by and for people?


In the next blog, we will discuss the creation of images by Artificial Intelligence for Future Studies.


References:

BOAVENTURA, S. S. (2018). The End of the Cognitive Empire: The Coming of Age of Epistemologies of the South. Duke University Press Books: Durham.

ENGBERG, M.; KOZEL, S.; ODUMOSU, T. (2017). Postcolonial Design Interventions: Mixed Reality Design for Revealing Histories of Slavery and Their Legacies in Copenhagen. In Nordes 2017: DESIGN+POWER conference proceedings. Oslo, Norway. 2017.

MCFARLANE, P.; SCHABUS, N. (2018). Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization. Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC: Vancouver.

MENDES FLORES, T.; JARDEMAR, C. (2019). Imperial Views: Colonial Visualities and Processes of Visual Decolonization. University of Arts, Crafts and Design, Department of Fine Art: Lisboa.



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