The convention of restorative anatomy and prosopopeia
The term “Terra Incognita” was used in ancient cartography to indicatete the existence of unexplored places and lands. In proximity of these unknown areas, on maps, cartographers designed fantastic sea creatures and monsters surmounted by the Latin phrase Hic Sunt Leones (“here are lions”), thus implicitly suppose the existence of worlds governed by different orders. During 2018 the Institute of Things to Come takes this reference as a starting point to speculate about fictional territories, places and landscapes invented by artists, that have served as literal and metaphorical sites of subversion, anti-authoritarianism, utopia and fantasy.
The program is inspired by the work of sociologist Albert Meister, expert in self-management and commune experiments, and his book Under the Beabourg (1976). In this text Meister describes the existence of an underground and speculative museum right beneath the original one: a universe that – thanks to the discovery of the scientific theory of the tangential molecular contraction – opened a gap in the ground and descends for fifty-four floors in the subsoil. In this underground- cultural center (a Beabourg with lower “b”) an assembly of four-thousand people imagines another world where each experience is the result of collective self-directed choices and constitutes a pole for counterculture. Intrinsically permeated by anti-authoritarian beliefs, the novel collects Meister’ studies and interests on utopic places, communal living and forms of political autonomy, and it is narrated as a chronicle in first person. Some of the notions explored by the book - such as the idea of institutions as means by which authority exercised itself, the dualism creativity opposed to consumption, the refusal of any a priori definition of culture, the abolition of private property, the communal life and the collective decision-making processes - call into question instances instilled by ’68 events. Fifty years later, the 2018 program is not directly influenced by that political moment, nevertheless it acknowledges the importance of such notions and positions. As Meister’ underground world, the Institute abandons the academic language to propose a speculative approach that echoes across the field of art, labor, politics and economy as a mean to develop a critical attitude.
Taking these notions as starting points, The Institute has invited artists who inhabit and construct world of their own logic. In these diverse systems, a view from below is pursued and imaginary communities, invented characters, and historical figures intertwine their existences, trying to negotiate their own individual and collective lives. Terra Incognita is to be intended not as a physical land to discover and explore, rather as an invitation to speculate. It is an excuse to fabricate and build something that is not yet in existence: something that recognizes another system of criteria and thus criticizes existing ones.