Dystopian Optimism

Dystopian Optimism to counter precariousness as the condition of our time
Joeri Verbesselt

Our imagination about the future suffers from an impasse between technological optimism and dystopian visions of the end of humankind. This PhD in the arts introduces the concept of 'Dystopian Optimism' to counter the predominant premise that globally interconnected precariousness is the condition of our time. It recognizes dystopia as a societal reality and proposes to complement it with optimism: a fiction that enables one to project a different future on oneself or the world. Embedded in the fields of contemporary audiovisual arts (dystopias), economics (utopias) and art history (iconology), Dystopian Optimism functions as a compass to navigate a map of infinite imaginaries around ecological issues. Aside of a dissertation disclosing this concept and in-depth image interpretation, this artistic research also consists of a continuous video journal that results in a diptych of films. A first film is set on a specific dystopian island beach in Taiwan. A second film addresses the utopian-dystopian imaginary island of the Jumpstyle counterculture within Belgian society. Both films are characterized by field research for trace-finding, fiction worldbuilding techniques and a choreographic method. For the Taiwan film site-specificity is key. For the film in Belgium an allegory is constructed out of autobiographical elements. The aim is to counter audiovisual and economic paradigms by utilizing Dystopian Optimism as a strategy to undo precariousness.

Prof. Hilde van Gelder, Wendy Morris
8 Oct 2019