Archeology of the future had a smashing time this bank holiday weekend, undertaking a variety of activities that relate very strongly to the purpose of this blog.
The practice of the archaeology of the future, by its very nature, involves sifting through the remains of the past to look for hints of the future, picking through the dustbins of history to find the glittering jewels of hope or apprehension. This means casting a wide net and making investigations far beyond the boundaries of genre.
Talking about the testimonies of those who had been involved in revolutions, uprisings, strikes and other attempts to alter the direction that the river of history seemed, in retrospect, to be bound to take, Greil Marcus writes:
“…If one reads in the right frame of mind, the leavings of those stories stir with a truly strange power. Suddenly they are not ephemeral, not extraneous to real history. But plainly, obviously, the true story the events of the past years have been straining towards all along.”
It is this right frame of mind that Archeology of the Future seeks to apply to a world littered with the remnants of attempts to build, create, imagine or explore possible futures. There are, then, many ‘jumping off points’, both fictional and actual, where it is possible to see efforts to imagine a present very different from our own, or a different course that events could have taken given different conditions.
For Archeology of the Future Science Fiction is more a way of seeing than it is a strictly policed exercise in genre exploration. Anything that is suggestive of an attempt to build an alternate future, or that shows a direction that history could of taken, but did not, is an object for interrogation.
On Friday, Archeology of the Future spent a pleasant day exploring the expanses of Greenwich Park, the man made expanse of recreation ground surrounding the Royal Observatory and, incidentally, the place where the measurement of time begins. We especially enjoyed our pilgrimage to the Henry Moore sculpture ‘Standing Figure Knife Edge’ which sits on one of the three hills of the park and resembles nothing less than one of those distorted figures that would grace sixties science fiction paperback covers. One of a few monuments in the park, it is like a memorial of some transfiguring event that has yet to occur, a marker of a visitation or a transmogrification.
Looking down from the base of the statue you see the Royal Navel College, the centre of the naval might of the British Empire and as such a strong presence suffused with power and might, and then over to its distant descendant at Canary Wharf across the Thames, an arrogant series of exclamations shouting out their monetary power to all London.
The Royal Observatory itself has a working telescope, and has the globular dome that you would expect. It is sometimes possible to see a green laser beam coming from the Observatory and arcing into the dark night.
We were excited to find that Greenwich was the mooring point for The Pierrot, Jerry Cornelius’ cruiser in Michael Moorcock’s “A Cure for Cancer”, which we read over the weekend. In a UK over-run and under siege by the US for no clear reason, Jerry is his usual immoral, swinging London self, shagging, shooting and rollicking through the landscape. Sitting in the park, the spirit of this infused our afternoon:
“The white hovertruck sang onwards into the ruined roads of South London that were full of columbine, ragged robin, foxglove, golden rain, dog rose, danewort, ivy, creeping cinquefoil, Venus’s Comb, deadnettle, shepherd’s purse and dandelion, then turned towards Greenwich where Jerry’s cruiser, The Pierrot, was moored. As Jerry directed his patients up the gangplank Karen von Krupp pointed to a battered, broken looking building in the distance. ‘What is that, Jerry?’
‘Greenwich Observatory,’ he said. ‘It’s a bit redundant now, I suppose…’
The banks of the river and the fields and ruins beyond them were carpeted with flowers of every description… they sailed between fields and old ruined farmhouses, deserted villages and abandoned pubs.”
As we have noted previously, Greenwich has a strange ambience and is an odd spot for entropic chaos, with various versions of the future winding down and lying to rust. In the novel, Jerry is the spirit of the age, an embodiment of the late sixties. As the initial utopian lust for change dissipates and becomes mired in the actual heavier events of the seventies, Jerry himself begins to run out of energy with it. Entropy is the point at which no movement is possible because all energy has been expended, so it seems fitting that Jerry should find himself in a Greenwich returned to wilderness, with all cultural energy expended. As we never tire of saying: There’s nothing better than an apocalypse on your doorstep.
We’ll tell you about the rest of our weekend later today, but to give a couple of hints, including the picture a the head of this post, it involved the return of a traveller; the most science fiction place in London and the designing of a whole new world…
The Greil Marcus quote in this post comes from the essay "The Dustbin of History in a World Made Fresh" which features in the collection "The Dustbin of History".
Buy The Dustbin of History by Greil Marcus from amazon.co.uk here.
Buy A Cure For Cancer by Michael Moorcock, as featured in this Jerry Cornelius Anthology, from amazon.co.uk here.
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