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Artists: Tamy Ben-Tor / Marnix de Nijs / Mark Formanek / Marzia Migliora / Julius Popp / Reynold Reynolds / Jens Risch / Michael Sailstorfer / Arcangelo Sassolino / Fiete Stolte
Zygmunt Bauman
Sandra Bonfiglioli
James Bradburne

Andrea Ferrara
Antonio Glessi
Alessandro Ludovico
Franziska Nori
Hartmut Rosa
 
Consuming future


When we talk about acceleration, we think about speed. And when we imagine speed, we project it ahead, towards what awaits us and towards which we are moving.
Einstein never thought of the future. "It always comes so fast," he said, and yet he was unquestionably a man who looked into the distance. But it has been obvious since the last century that the future is always right upon us. As the science-fiction writer and creator of cyberspace William Gibson explained a few decades later, "The future is already here. It is just not evenly distributed." Anyway, insofar as we can imagine the future at all, we see it as a source of uncertainty rather than of hope, more as a threat than as an opportunity. "Today's world is going too fast to keep up. So get out in front!" says the banner slogan of an online finance company. From predictions about the future to protection from the future-viewed from the window of a high-speed train. Running late. Makes sense since everything and everybody is always running in this frenetic world, one that is becoming less round and more compressed and fl at all the time. Remember the old fable about the lion and the gazelle? Basically it said that, regardless of whether you are the lion or the gazelle, you'll still need to run faster than the other to survive.
We all have our foot on the accelerator. It has become standard operating procedure to move in fits and starts, to concentrate times and spaces, relationships and activities. But our lives feel increasingly like a last-minute salvaging act, a release of additional energy just to keep up, rather than a heady, liberating sprint. So, you take the high-speed train to retrieve an hour of your time, to compress ever so slightly your miniscule but ever expanding universe. Yet something has gone wrong and you're late. And even if you're moving faster than ever, taking half the time you took a few years ago is still unbearable. Everything that seemed so fast yesterday compared to two days ago seems exasperatingly slow today. Like when someone promises speedy action but doesn't deliver and you find yourself literally tormented by frustration. "All our operators are busy at the moment. Please stay on the line. You will be answered by the first available operator."
It is in these standby moments that you recognize the ubiquitous acceleration we are subject to. It is the quiet moment on the rollercoaster as you brace for the next curve. Should you give in to Apollo then, savouring slowness as a form of beauty or ecstatic contemplation? Or hold on tight to Dionysus, the call of the giddy thrill? But now you are speeding along; it's not like you can just jump off, even if you want to. You have no choice. Maybe, though, when you finally hear the operator's voice, you come back down to earth and are more inclined to believe that we have actually sold our souls to Mercury, the cunning minor god, with his simple but effective strategy: enhance communication and transportation to make the world smaller and, in so doing, the economy larger. Mercury's priestess is acceleration! The progressive, constant, relentless acceleration that drives us towards change. The genuine, rapid and invisible acceleration whose advent you do not even register since you are already an integral part of it, and maybe, despite yourself, all too fully integrated into it. As Luigi Pintor said, "To observe a scene does not mean to understand it, or even less, to influence it."
We in our first year of the Communication Design programme at ISIA asked ourselves if our vision of this scenario is correct, if we can honestly put ourselves in the shoes of outside observers to be able to grasp the true proportions and dynamics of this phenomenon. And especially to understand what is known in industrial jargon as the 'jerk', that derivative of acceleration, the point of maximum stress and tolerance in a subject exposed to an increase in the speed of time.
Judging from events, it seems that we have gradually shifted this high point up to an even higher level. We live in a liquid society, and we all know how highly adaptable liquids are. From all sides, we keep hearing how unbearable this situation has become and that there is only one way out: the "end of the world", as Virilio might say. It's certainly possible, but we are still on the home straight, even if it is a hairpin curve. Putting on the brakes indiscriminately at this point, strictly out of fear, would lead to disaster, however. So, be forewarned: it is by no means sure that the oft-repeated advice, 'Take it easy', is the right way to go just now. We have brought together some data-not a lot but meaningful nonetheless-and synthesized it rather rhetorically. Don't worry; this is a room that can be taken in rapidly. We know all about your impatience. We just want to give you some fast food for thought, and to tell you that, in the end, acceleration is like cholesterol: there is the good kind and the bad kind. It all depends on the mix.
So, look around. Some things will amuse you; some will surprise you. And some will horrify you. You can draw your own conclusions. But after this, trust us, go on a diet. ASAP, of course.

 
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