Mutant Futures at AIL in Vienna

At what point exactly we “stumbled” upon José Ramos’ work and thinking is no longer identifiable. The Futurepod – a podcast maintained by Rebecca Mijat, Peter Hayward, Mendy Urie and Ana Tiquia (all members of the Melbourne, Australian foresight community) rather likely played a crucial role. In an early episode of the 2018 launched Podcast, José Ramos was in conversation with Peter Haywood and talked about Experimentation and Mutant Futures. Already the title itself drew our attention. But even much earlier we have been gladly referencing José’s work around Action Research / Action Foresight.

„Knowledge about the future shouldn’t be an overly abstract concept lacking relevance, but rather an inspirational call to action with traction.“

Jose Ramos in Action Research As Foresight Methodology

We sought the conversation, got lucky and enjoyed several opportunities to interact with José, also had the pleasure to enroll for some online versions of the “Mutant Futures Program” at the Futures Lab Academy (once we did the self guided format, the second time we joined an online cohort) and ended up involving José into our Futures Brought to Life program. The Open Call for Mutant Futures was published, all student from Design Investigation enrolled as well as a wonderful mixture of interested people throughout Europe made it to join for the two day-workshop – in person at the Angewandte Interdisciplinary Lab / AIL in Vienna.

This happened exactly in the days (with a single day of „decompression and preparation“) before the Futures Brought to Life Symposium kicked in, along which we also had the pleasure to include José as one of the speakers amongst a great list of interesting experts.

The workshop was an adaptation of the Mutat Futures Program that José developed from a range of existing structures. Less of a futuring exercise in the sense of working out visions of possible or preferable futures, but rather a way of thinking about the sort of person one would like to be in the development of a preferred future.

The process borrows from so many sources that it would be inadequate for us to try and summarise them, we can only recommende reading the various outlines and explorations of the process that José has published in the process of developing it.

Every iteraton of the Mutant Futures Program is a new version. This revelation was reassuring for us, with our insistence that we re-create the process that we apply for every group that we work on, from the ground up. We rarely just tinker at the edges, and neither does José. This iteration used the live role playing of the Sarkar Game, something that we would probably shy away from in our own work but found remarkable once it was implemented and taking its course.

The Mutant Futures Program uses a lot of guided visualisation techniques, as it is a very personal process; we must compliment the participants for being able to deal with the atmospheric conditions that attempted to disturb all forms of contemplative and reflective work.

One of the ways that one can determine whether a workshop like this had an effect, is whether the people involved carry on interacting after the bell rings. This was definitely the case. So there are almost objective ways of saying that the workshop was a success. As well as the subjective ones that we have.

Everything learned during the ongoing interaction with José Ramos and his approaches towards Mutant Futures is feeding Curiouser and Curiouser, cried Alice: Rebuilding Janus from Cassandra and Pollyanna (CCA), an art-based research project of Design Investigations (ID2) at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and Time’s Up supported by the Programme for Arts-based Research (PEEK) on the part of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): AR561.


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