Histories of the Future

Infected by Strzemiński I’m Unpacking Jerzy Lewczyński’s Library. The Written Photography

This series was inspired by Adam Mickiewicz’s never published monumental work L’Histoire de l’avenir (The History of the Future) from about 1840, whose consecutive versions were destroyed by the author. The story was a cross between the philosophical “pre-science fiction” and a geopolitical diagnosis. Letters of the poet’s friends indicate that he was dithering over a utopian and anti-utopian vision of the future. He was certainly ahead of the technological ideas known from the later novels of Verne or Wells. Putting together various apparently unlikely images – visualisations of potential “Mickiewiczesque” visions of the future and fitting commentaries – Tomasz Szerszeń introduces the vision of history understood as a mishmash of various orders, a place where different, apparently mutually exclusive stories converge. The vision of History (with a capital H) confronts private, potentially “poor” histories (with a small h), in keeping with Mickiewicz’s intentions. The Polish poet set the scene for his L’Histoire de l’avenir around the year 2000. For us, the things he envisioned as products of the future and elements of a utopia are contemporary, as they exist here and now. Tomasz Szerszeń’s work not only marks an attempt to develop and visualise never completed potential storylines from the life and work of Mickiewicz, but also strives to update the problems highlighted by the poet and answer the question of what has remained of his utopian visions and geopolitical prophecies. Is failure the unmistakable antonym of every utopia? Does the vision of the future lose its subversive edge, as it becomes reality? Utopia and dreams are contrasted with the vision of the demise – witnessed by Mickiewicz in Istanbul in 1855 and seen by the contemporary visual artist in Tarlabaşı in 2014.