Stefan Brandt - The "Future is a Very Abstract Topic"




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May 30, 2018
by Helena Santos
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Stefan Brandt - The "Future is a Very Abstract Topic"

Director of Futurium speaks to Salzburg Global ahead of workshop opening Stefan Brandt speaking at the Salzburg Global Seminar program, The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology, and Making Sense of the Future

In the heart of Berlin, next to the German Bundestag and the German Chancellery, a building designed to give visitors a glimpse of the future has opened its doors for its first workshop week.

Ahead of its final launch in 2019, Futurium is inviting people to get to know them in an event that will cover topics such as digitization, civic involvement, climate protection and sustainability.

Between May 30 and June 9, people have the chance to experience the venue as a museum of the future, a future laboratory, a future forum, and a stage for the future.

Stefan Brandt, director of the Futurium, said the concept of a museum is a valuable part of the project. Brandt spoke to Salzburg Global Seminar while attending the program, The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future.

Brandt said, "I think we definitely want to show and present things, objects on [the ] future but I think is not enough… We need all the other dimensions as well. There are many things, many problems, and challenges that you cannot fully address in an exhibition. You need other dimensions to deal with. For instance, you need a debate, a discussion, workshop… You need artistic performances because often in the past artists had a better feeling of what could happen in the future because they don’t think in a linear way. They rather associate or work [associatively]  with different observations and thoughts, and they get a completely surprising vision of the future that at the end is sometimes closer to reality than the more linear analysis that a scientist might do."

The workshop's theme is “Areas of Tension. Approaching Possible Futures.” This is something that falls in line with the thoughts shared by Brandt during his stay in Salzburg. After all, Brandt does not believe in a single future; he believes in multiple futures. Futures are just our different ideas of what the future might look like. These ideas may be consistent, complementary or conflicting and that’s why it is important to share them in an eclectic space like the Futurium.  

When Futurium opens at fully capacity in spring 2019 the first floor of the building will accommodate a permanent exhibition guided by the question “How do we want to live?” This exhibition will be divided into three different thinking spaces that will tackle the future relationship of humans with themselves, nature and technology.  

In the building’s basement, visitors will find the Futurium Lab, something Brandt considers essential because the hands-on approach allows for a more intimate experience.

“Future is a very abstract topic… What we have seen in our work with children, with pupils at schools is that once they are closely in touch with future, to objects or to books - to materials that are dealing directly with future - they feel connected somehow… Therefore, I think that the objects and the concrete doing is something so important for an institution like us,” Brandt clarified.

During his time at Salzburg, Brandt presented the Futurium as a translator, the missing link in a fragmented society where arts, science, and policy-makers have trouble communicating with each other.

“We think sometimes very simplistic about politics, and it’s good to understand what the problems for politics are to get things done. On the other hand, we also don’t value enough what arts can contribute to such a discourse because arts are not just the pretty flower on something. It is sometimes really the core of something - of our approach to future, for instance. On the other hand, without knowledge that comes from science, from scientific work we would not be able to further explore futures. Therefore, I would say that yes, we need to understand more the value of each other…to really start a qualified debate”, Brandt said.

Bringing all sectors of society together to discuss which future everyone wants is the primary goal of this groundbreaking project that also aims to change lives for the better.

Brandt says, “Keeping peace at least in a major part of the world will be a big achievement and the second is that we really try to solve problems solemnly and not superficially… [After questioning preexisting systems we] understand each sector is connected to the other sectors and we need holistic solutions, but it takes time, and it takes patience, and you need to have the will to go this way, and this is a difficult way. My hope is that we make at least some steps on this way.”

To learn more about Futurium’s first workshop week, please click here.

Brandt took part in Salzburg Global session, The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future, part of the multi-year series Culture, Arts and Society. The session is supported by the Edwards T. Cone Foundation. More information on the program can be found here. You can follow all of the discussions on Twitter using #SGSculture.