Manifesto of Rural Futurism

RMIT – Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology / CAST
25th of July, 2019

University of New South Wales / Art & Design 
23rd of July, 2019

Otago Polytechnic / Dunedin School of Art
22nd of July, 2019

July 2019

“Rurality” has increasingly become a key topic in contemporary political and ecological debates. Within such frameworks, interpretations of the concept oscillate between a view of it as a form “otherness” and a depiction of it as the quintessential repository of “identity”.

Either way, it becomes apparent that rurality cannot be seen merely as a geographical space; rather, it has to be seen as an expression of “positionality”. A critical approach to rurality is necessary, today more than ever before, in order to be able to imagine other futures for rural communities, territories and places – beyond the “otherness”/“identity” dichotomy.

“Rural Futurism” is a critical perspective, in which multiple points of view (and listening) converge: art – and techno-culture(s) more specifically – provide new and striking ways to rethink what ‘rurality’ is (and could be). “Rural futurism” is a challenge raised to the current discourses about rurality and the binarisms that support such discourses: authenticity, utopia, anachronism, provincialism, tradition, sense of stability, belonging vs. alienation, development vs. backwardness.

By interrogating our relationship to memory and the archives of the past, artistic practice reinserts the concept of the ‘rural’ into the framework of contemporary narratives, deconstructing those discourses that relegate it to the status of a mere residue of wider political, economic and cultural processes spanning a global scale. In this way, rural areas become places of experimentation, performativity, critical investigation and change, where it is possible to create futures scenarios, starting from the assemblage of the seen and the unseen, of human and non-human elements – objects, materials, speech, relational infrastructures, technologies that give form to (and are formed as) specific modes of governance.

In its materiality, sound invites us to experience rural locations and abandoned places as spaces in which to question our approach to history and landscape, our sense of living in a specific place and the relationship that we have with it. The sound of environments, spaces and landscapes reveal the challenges and territorial transformations that inform the ideological, infrastructural and biological ecosystems to which we form a part. In this sense, listening practices are deployed as a way to critically traverse the “border territories” of the rural territories, challenging persisting notions about the “inescapable marginality”, “residuality” and “peripherality” of rural areas.

The Manifesto of Rural Futurism is a document produced as a result of a collective thinking and practical process brought on by artists, scholars, curators, critics and people in the framework of Liminaria, a 5-year project sound art residency and fieldwork-based research platform aimed at developing “sustainable” cultural, social and economic networks in the some rural regions of Southern Italy. As final outcome of this project, the Manifesto of Rural Futurism is founded on a series of propositions aiming at rethinking rural areas and re-imagining their possible futures, understanding them as complex spaces actively immersed in the dynamism of encounters, flows and fluxes of contemporary geographies and critically questioning the modernistic discourses of capitalism and metropolitanism in which they are marginalised and considered as doomed to oblivion.