1989 was the year of the Peaceful Revolution that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain. In 2021 we saw how public life was going through a period of drought in many parts of the world due to the global pandemic. Nevertheless, people were taking to the streets in many countries. Past and present are entangled and condition the future. But the future also influences the now. Speculation is a means of protest by revealing the prospects of the years to come. How do we imagine civil resistance in 2053, which is the time between the two mentioned dates projected into the future? Drawing inspiration from the genre of social science fiction, Ghosts of a Protest explores the inherent utopian qualities of protest in a dystopian future. It seeks to illustrate fragments of history/fiction using animated videos and objects-based installation. In this way the former Stasi building in Leipzig that witnessed the protests 32 years ago becomes a site of inception. The physical space layers the traces of the historical past and the speculative future in the reality of the presence.
Video created by Swagata Bhattacharyya
The power of the SED regime relied on authority that threatened the physical integrity and freedom of its citizens. Information about harmful impacts on the environment was kept secret. This was another reason that fuelled the demonstrations and attracted huge masses to gather. The Peaceful Revolution was remarkably calm on the side of the protesters and created a positive attitude towards future change (amongst others, the Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution in Czechoslovakia).
We experience the moment in between. There is a tendency to define our era in relation to the past. We are after The End of History (Francis Fukuyama), anticipating the end of everything. In the current pandemic we are witnessing the last revival of the state before the ensuing economic crisis declares its intervention illegitimate from the perspective of multinational corporations. In the same moment societal discourse in the streets is pushed into the private realm and the last big public declamations remain in our memories like dreams. But in reality there is no end without a beginning.
The European Union has lost several of its members and failed to reach its climate goals and carbon neutrality by 2050. The EU will decide on a new deadline in 2060, along with China. The reign of neoliberalism has been established globally and renders companies much more powerful than governments which advocate a free market. We are now accustomed to data capitalism scanning our online behaviour and establishing the doctrines of consumption. The effects of climate change are now more than palpable and many people are trying to escape from their home countries, which amounts to a general mass migration. In return, nationalist tendencies with a neocolonial justification are settling in the wealthy countries of the global North. Recurring epidemics starve social and cultural life.