1984: Back to No Future
Gob Squad (Berlin) / Artists in Residence
“People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.” – James Baldwin
The world is in crisis, caught in a binary ideological battle and on the brink of total destruction. Imagining a future in which civilisation has collapsed is all too easy. This is not a description of now, this is the year 1984 and the point of view of a collective of artists who are yet to meet. Gob Squad are all white teenagers living in Western Europe. The Cold War is very very cold, and has produced enough nuclear explosive power to annihilate the whole world several times over. Growing up under the geopolitical shadow of communism vs. capitalism, these teenagers are as preoccupied with the MTV Video Music Awards, which took place for the first time that year, as with the threat of nuclear armageddon. Now they are going back to a time before they knew each other with a mission: to change not only the history of pop music, but of the world itself… for the better.
The project is by no means a staging of Orwell’s novel. However, a key inspiration is Winston Smith’s work at the Ministry of Truth, rewriting historical documents to serve the needs of the present. Set in a music video studio back in the golden age of 1980s pop, Gob Squad immerse you in a green screen trip to the past in which the remaking of iconic videos is not be for nostalgic purposes but rather an ambitious attempt to re-programme history and develop visions of a “better future”. But which and whose history should they be changing? Is it possible to imagine history from someone else's perspective? To what extent can these white, Western Europeans airbrush themselves out of history altogether? And shouldn't it be ‘herstory’ anyway!? As they set about casting and filming their remakes, they get caught up in debates about Orwellian concepts of truth, identity politics and the ideological battle for the dominant narrative. Gob Squad’s 1984 – A Possible Future from the Past remakes MTV into a utopian dream that never was and reflects on the current era with its own digitally fragmented battles and apocalyptic visions of the future.
The new production follows in the tradition of other works by Gob Squad, which have a habit of reimagining YouTube videos, Hollywood films and Andy Warhol art movies. The project brings to a head the company’s ongoing examination of the mechanisms of power inherent in our image-saturated world and of the relationship of personal experience to political reality. In Gob Squad’s work, everyday life and magic, banality and utopia, reality and entertainment are all set on a collision course that invites audiences as spectators and participants into a world so full of light that you are moved to tears.