Exhibition Essays

Hybrid Spring

October 2018

The future remains here insofar as it will never come

Hugo Robinson

Where, and in whose company, do we find the future? So often, the dominant image of the future is not one in which we can locate ourselves or anybody else. Such an idea of the future, in its absence and disconnectedness, provides the space for an imaginary planet or people who will outlive the destructive practices of now. The future remains here insofar as it will never come. This disconnectedness ultimately foregoes any commitment to a collective future acted on by people today to the extent that it remains possible only for those with the power to evade it. So often, the future is no future at all but a no humxn’s1 land, a realm where the bad news is kept at bay and then heeded when it’s too late. It is quite clear that power has no urgency but its own reproduction.  

We’ve been led to believe that security is found in fictitious dependencies, in the market, in credit, in a budget. The future itself is a source of raw potential to offset the troubles of here and now. And underneath this all is a city of contracts, a constitution of apparently self-interested agents who need no trust nor love but commodified representations of them. Capital moves while borders are erected, and common spaces are enclosed—they make aliens out of walls and force and they get paid doing it. The very condition of our communion, if we can speak of it at all, is value. Our coming together is a pulling apart, a relentless debt that cannot be repaid.

This social existence is ordered through the imposition of systems that locate value, potential and relations, somewhere outside of us—perhaps in that future that will never come. We are in a world of trouble where the only way out is to mediate our planning, to subject our being and becoming to correction from above. What it means to be seen as a valid and legitimate social being under the law is always a question of dispossession—of losing something vital to have a correct life. Today, to be a legitimate citizen means to give up one’s stake in the collective, to find optimism in governability and growth, to forget who we are for. We are set to eke out a living in fungible bodies, our real existences may be very well known, but never cared for by that cold logic.

This idea of what a correct life looks like is produced and maintained through violence against our improvised and experimental modes of existence. It is an assault against our collective interdependence with each other and the earth, through which we make so much more than what they tell us we have. They make value from our creations against enclosure and take payments for a freedom that they call choice. Contrary to being conducive of uninhibited, entrepreneurial creativity, the correct life is a violently normative thing both created by, but fundamentally antagonistic to, our very essential life-making. The contradiction is that in order to survive, this individualising force needs, but does not want, our collective strength.

I want to meditate on this in relation to spring and the connotations of regeneration. I want to foreground the fact that colonial-capitalism is dependent on the generativity, and regenerativity, of the realm called “nature” to regrow what it exploits and destroys. “Culture,” civilisation, is seen to be superior, to sit above and command nature. But nature is not distinct from us, not located outside of us. Indeed, this is why civilised Men have categorised as “natural” those whose labours of love and reproduction, whose contingent survival, is a resource they depend on. It is the kin-making, the radical imagination and generativity of women, Indigenous peoples, documented and undocumented migrants, labourers, and the earth itself, in hybrid relationships with each other that keeps our societies from sinking.

This generativity, on which systems of power depend, is the hybrid spring. A formation unfolding. A future that is both a premonition and a memory bursting from the thick presence, schemed into being by every being outside the corrected life. Which is to say, formed in fugitivity on the outskirts of power, occupied by every dissenting spirit that will ever be or that ever was since time began. It is the precariousness of being, the precariousness of being in common. Through it we are undone by each other. But it is only in this undoing that we can find ourselves in anyone else.

Perhaps there isn’t going to be a spring to bring us out of our Man-made affective (dis)orders which, accumulated in underground banks of trash, cash, credit and debt; and wreaked by climate violence brought under control like another military infection, will be made so internal as to become a normative structure. It already is, precariousness already is. There isn’t a need for grandiose proclamations of what has happened or is happening. It comes down to what we say it is, together, from among the ecotones between disaster fields, between settlements; from where soul escapes out of the concrete. Which is not to say that the soul is vanquished from stolen and desecrated land, but that it is captured like it is captured in the fields of Ihumātao.2

As Carl Te Hira Mika highlights, western epistemology must have certainty in order to make propositions.3 They must have a ground to stand on in order to have grounds to make claims. These grounds can be a concept, or the earth, but not both at once. Whereas in Te Ao Māori, Mika shows us, kaupapa and papatūānuku—which share the root papa, ground—are connected to one another. So, when we are thinking about hope and the future, the concepts that we have of it must be fundamentally altered to realise their—our—connection to the ground. This provocation compels our notion of hope to find itself deeply within the ground; it cannot be disarticulated from it. That means we cannot buy into a blind optimism with faith outside of ourselves for we are the reason that they survive!

I want to offer then, the nomadism of spirit, the travelling, kin-making, radical co-presence of reoccupation we engage daily, as the reason for our hope. Everywhere there are traces of the haptic, hazardous complexity of being together—the establishment of bonds in third spaces which need ever more proliferation in repeated attempts of encroachment. Everywhere power tries to call us to order. But we listen to it echo because we’re already building somewhere else. When we are so often compelled towards an optimism based on accumulation, on a relentless choice to opt out or co-opt, we must see how, in too many ways to count, our community, our being together, is inescapable.

We have to see this in each other, to count the ways that we are made by one another, made by the earth, see our connections, find ourselves in this muddle; choosing our descent within the murmurs of submerged, impossible social life.4 We have to be the relentless bad news of the present—the embodiment of an unequal yet somehow mutual obliteration sent by the future, sent for the future, to find the future beneath and within and around us. We have to live hopefully in the surging hybrid spring that we make and through which we are made.

  • 1.

    Here I am using humxn as an alternative to the cis-heteronormative Man. In doing so, I am making it explicit that where no-Man’s land would denote the dangerous, unoccupied space between conflicting forces, no-humxn’s land points out that the future is in fact the dangerous territory which everybody other than Man occupies. Subsequently, Man takes control over that precarious space for his own survival.

  • 2.

    The campaign to save Ihumātao is called Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL).

  • 3.

    Carl Te Hira Mika, “The Uncertain Kaupapa of Kaupapa Māori,” in Critical Conversation in Kaupapa Māori, eds. Te Kawehau Hoskins and Alison Jones (Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2017).

  • 4.

    Fred Moten, ““to consent not to be a single being””, Poetry Foundation, 15 February 2010. Accessed 23 October 2018. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/02/to-consent-not-to-be-a-single-being.