Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Ultimately, this is unimportant, because we all talk about the future, however uncertain, as if its existence goes without saying. Yet, if we picture it as a region of time in which everything that will have already happened is housed in advance, it is very much like a mirage. If it is a present merely to come, a vast store of present waiting to happen, then the future does not exist and never will exist. Today it is not yet; once realized, it will no longer be to come. We are left with the grammar of tenses indicated by verb conjugations. But that future has very little to do with the object of our hopes and fears, the future as predicted, promised, dreaded or dreamt of. Between the future anterior, which is not an anticipated past, and the empty form of the project, which is just one dimension of anticipating awareness, how are we to give the future the consistency it deserves? For a start, by getting out of the habit of thinking that it lies ahead of us, and into the habit of feeling it behind our backs. “The future” does not exist, but futures insist; these are the futures of the past, retro-futures. Formed by other times than ours, they reach all the way to us like banks of mist, haunting our projects and our dreams, leading a muted but effective life in the heart of the present as it comes about. Yes, the true futures are these virtual futures. The Angel of history travels by car. He is not blown along by the blast of the explosion, turning his back on the future. He does not see a heap of ruins piling up at his feet. He drives along a mountain highway with no visibility. Every now and then, retro-futures hurtling along at breakneck speed catch up and overtake him, like meteors glowing briefly in the headlights before disappearing into the night.
This book is copublished by Le Parc Saint-Léger, Pougues-les-Eaux, with the support of VOG, Grenoble, of l’Isat, Nevers, of Frac Franche Comté, and G.-P. N. Vallois Gallery.