Updated translation (26-08-2023)
an earlier English translation of these chapters from the work can be found in Mercurius Magazine:
https://www.mercurius.one/home/liberate-the-future Ask Katzeff’s ‘Free the Future’ (first published in Denmark as Befri fremtiden, 2021) is a call to produce a burgeoning future through what he terms ‘Poetic Warfare’ to establish ‘Utopian Zones’. Self-described as a Militant Futurology, Katzeff’s essays inscribe themselves in the tradition of pointing to the possible futures in the present, understood as thinking through what evolution might still have in store for us. Will future genetic engineering make it possible for some of us to get fur while others get feathers and gills?
A kind of sci-fi version of Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ (1551), ‘Liberate the Future’ consists of flights of fantasy which may seem surreal or even satirical, but might better be thought as ingenious, unrestrained and concrete ways of thinking about alternative futures, and in the sections below, Katzeff offers readers a series of modest proposals for rewilding the moon, transplanting Hong Kong, taking mushrooms directly, and solving the coming housing crisis through more ambitious forms of clothing. Read on and ferment the future!
‘Free the Future’ is translated from the Danish by Matt Travers, a writer and translator whose works have featured in Lumpen, 3:AM magazine, Tripwire Journal, Asymptote, Firmament Magazine, Minor Literature(s), and Mercury Firs among others. Originally from Huddersfield, England, he now dwells in Aarhus, Denmark.
Free the Future by Ask Katzeff
WHAT IS MILITANT FUTUROLOGY?
Militant Futurology is a frontal assault on neoliberal nihilism and apocalyptic apathy.
It is the establishment of a new explosive and unrestrained futuristic imagination combined with the struggle for an immediate realisation of utopian desire.
We were born the year Margaret Thatcher declared that there are no alternatives, no other world than the too-late-capitalist. Later, Fukuyama even canceled world history itself. We never had a future. Historical development was brought to a standstill, and yet we seem to be sliding steadily towards the abyss with a quiet but heavy fatalism.
Therefore, our first attack in the struggle for life, liberty and a collective future is directed against the apathy, the hopelessness and the completely spiritless administration of the ever-reigning state of emergency.
Militant futurology is a battle cry as well as a tactical maneuver aimed at kicking world history back into gear and building new brighter futures directly in the present.
For the future is not yet written, it is an open space of possibilities that should neither be written off as a dim nothing nor devoutly awaited like a distant projectile on a luminous horizon, approaching slowly but inexorably.
The future is something we create here and now — together.
Nevertheless, it is always crucial to shape it in the imagination and to think in extended temporalities — a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand years ahead — because the crises that threaten our forms of life in the present require long-term solution models, but also because accelerated time perspectives serve to free our imaginations from ingrained ideological thought patterns born of decades of mental warfare against our collective imagination.
By allowing the utopian light of possible futures to be refracted against the form of the present — and vice versa — a myriad of other possible worlds and paths we can take are revealed. A multitude of latent potentials are opened up, which exist in the dominant paradigm's blind spots and deliberately cloaked domains.
This is how we liberate the future — armed with utopian fire. And futurology MUST be utopian. Because every prediction is fraught with uncertainty, and because we produce the future we anticipate it as — or more precisely BECAUSE — we imagine it, it becomes clear that futurology is political, that it is a battlefield.
For decades, this arena has been dominated by military and commercial interests, by geopolitical paranoia and neoliberal lies. We must reclaim futurology and once again make it the utopian and community-creating tool it has always been by virtue of humanity’s general ability to collectively imagine other possible futures.
We are all futurists!
And when we thus speak of a militant futurology, it is precisely because it is essential that we move beyond simple prediction and instead seek to shape new and brighter futures directly in the present. We are not prophets who anxiously predict what is to come, we are magicians who conjure and shape the future from the dust beneath us, around us.
We fight for the futures we desire, regardless of the existing law and the(ir) ruling order(s), because the laws of today are not the laws of the future, and no one yet rules over what is to come — and exactly what is to come, stands open like a question or a frontline or a door.
Militant futurology is armoured hope, it is actionable hope that shapes the future directly in the present, it is the experience of the infinite communal power of the imagination. There are countless worlds we can conjure up; there are countless possible paths that lead to brighter times. It begins here, now — with dreams and hopes and will and struggle, it begins with militant futurology.
HONG KONG II
While the free Hong Kong is currently being crushed before our eyes under a tsunami of repression and persecution, we propose, in solidarity with the Hong Kong freedom struggle and as a utopian-strategic maneuver, to found a new Hong Kong on Funen based on a charter of independence from the Danish State, a free and untamed metropolis in the area west of Svendborg.
Historically, such charter cities around the world, by virtue of their autonomous status in a legal, political, and economic sense, have served as free, self-governing zones in regions plagued by authoritarian control. Often, however, the development and geopolitical actions of these cities have primarily been driven by imperialist aspirations as well as the market economy. What we are advocating here, however, is a revitalization of the charter-city concept itself as a utopian model for anti-capitalist and post-national organising in the 21st century.
The new South Funen Hong Kong will thus function as an autonomous entity, founded on principles of communisation, radical ecology, and planetary solidarity. And while this new metropolis will of course house a large number of Hongkongers in exile, it will also be home to a multiplicity of dissidents, activists and freethinkers from around the world.
We imagine a concentrated urban form with up to 500,000 inhabitants: 300,000 in clusters of organically growing high-rise buildings north of Vester Skerninge, around 100,000 in earth caves embedded in the landscape between Egense and Nab, and finally 100,000 or more living in scattered houseboat colonies anchored in the waters off Fjellebroen.
And so you will arrive by boat to the South Funen archipelago, where you will begin to snake your way in and out between the little fishing boats, the small sea farms and the floating gardens, you will pass clusters of Hong Kong sampan-houseboats, converted trawlers, artificial islands and small huts on stilts a little closer to the coastline. From Fjellebroen, you take the tram towards Hong Kong City, which cuts through an undulating landscape of habitable mounds surrounded by fruit groves and intensive permaculture farms. And finally, the city's skyscrapers tower before you, and the tram takes you into a sprawling jumble of backyards and alleys lined with street kitchens of Syrian, Chinese, Ghanaian food, and social and political community centres, workshops producing everything from printed furniture to solar-powered gadgets.
The city has no center as such, just as there will be no central government in Hong Kong II, but rather a form of grassroots democratic organisation mediated through hyper-complex digital systems. Streets and squares will be named after insects and species of moss.
We could call the era the Bacteriocene. Not only because bacterial life has always been essential to life on Earth—if not precisely its actual basis. Had it not been for bacteria, nothing of what is written here would have existed at all, not to mention the writer and you, the reader. No, the era should be called the Bacteriocene, because it was characterised by a new awareness of the bacterial world's importance and influence for future development of life on Earth (and on other planets, lest we forget), and an explosion of new co-evolutionary developments.
Human bodies have always existed in symbiotic interaction with myriads of microscopic life—we are in the world, but the world is also within us; the transitions between inner and outer are fluid, flickering, full of entanglements. But one longer series of microcosmic revelations provided by scientific discoveries and cultural experiments with domestication and coexistence with new forms for microorganisms over a relatively short period led to the development of countless new human-microorganism symbioses. Let me just give you a few examples.
Housing, for example, through the interaction between bacteria,
mushrooms and printers, was transformed into something anyone could grow directly on AI-generated structures almost free of charge and without greater prior knowledge. This is how houses gradually became the friendly organic monsters we call home today — always evolving, always in motion, as they shape themselves according to our changing needs and provide us with energy, with water and with heat.
Ideas about "clothing" also underwent a radical transformation in these years as clothes increasingly became something that could be grown directly on the skin in the form of bacteria and fungi, where microscopic life breathes and develops in interaction with the body as an organic mediator between the inner and the outer world. In several cases there was even experimentation with body extensions, new limbs, de-formations of the human body for the purposes of increased resilience and adaptability etc.
Under the battle cry of "Ferment the Future", the Svendborg-based School of the Future pursued equally valuable research into the microcosmic potentials for expanding consciousness — for example using psilocybin-producing bacteria grown directly in the brain. It was also these pioneers who oversaw the implementation of the landmark GaiaSkin transmissions, where, among other things, for the first time, it was possible to send the message "Hello Mould" from Svendborg to Darwin (AUS) via the layers of microorganisms that invisibly encapsulate the entire Earth.
Finally, it should be added to the tale that the ongoing colonisations of Mars and Mercury would have appeared significantly different, if it had not been for the bacteriocene’s biocultural revolution. Bacterial preparation of planets has not just facilitated colonisation in its initial stages but also shortened the process quite significantly, as our
microscopic companions have effectively prepared the planetary environment for humans through their iterative evolution.
In contrast to the progress-fetishist and proto-fascist futurisms of earlier times, Svendborg futurism conjures alternative soft futures. Our foremothers are feminist, afrofuturist, permacultural, space communist, etc.
We are Learyans, Butlerians, LeGuinians, Harawayans, we are utopians, solarpunks and cosmists.
Our goal is a direct establishment of a wildly growing utopian future directly in the present, our means are Poetic Warfare (PW), the establishment of Utopian Zones (UZ) and life itself as sabotage of the too-late capitalist Machine. We have Svendborg as a base and as a model because right here there is a strong concentration of cosmic energies, and because the city's social, historical and, not least, geographical nature makes it an ideal utopian experimentarium.
Thus we fight for a more colorful and freaky future for the WHOLE Earth with Svendborg as launchpad, a future that is wild, heterogeneous and radically horizontal (EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE!), a future with assembled freedom and smooth transitions, a future that celebrates fragility and tenderness, and which expands and grows constantly in consciousness like stars and galaxies.
BREAK LOOSE SVENDBORG!
FREE THE FUTURE!
THE MOON IS NOT A MINE
The systemic parasite that threatens to wipe out life on Earth has now spread to its moon, where vampire-capitalists like Bezos and Thiel have turned their tentacled greed towards its mineral wealth: gold, platinum, helium-3, precious metals, and water.
The moon is not a mineshaft! It is not a mass of precious minerals just waiting to be mined. The moon is a commons and it should be managed as such. We must never allow it to become a springboard for the spread of an interplanetary capitalist infection.
Its gravitational force is inextricably linked to the Earth and the life on its surface, with all its rhythms and cycles. The moon heaves in all the oceans over the Earth's surface; it is connected to our innermost life. If we change the moon's mass through predatory exploitation of its resources, we also change these terrestrial connections and shift fundamental geological as well as biological balances.
Extraction and in situ use of lunar resources to establish colonies is to some extent acceptable, but only if they are founded and run as luxury communist soviets in an intergalactic spirit.
Interplanetary imperialism must be eliminated at its earthly source. New autonomous and radically democratic space programs must be established.
Space belongs to all!
Take back the Moon!
WHAT IS BIOFUTURISM?
Nature and technology are not mutually opposed: they melt and merge in new unseen complexities.
Biofuturism celebrates nature’s life-giving boundlessness. The earth and the water and the mud and the sun and the mushrooms; the trees and the wind. At the same time, however, this is not a question of complete blind praise. Nature is beauty, yes, and abundance, but it is also unconscionably indifferent, full of suffering.
Technological developments have made it possible to soften some of nature’s negative forces, but it can do more than that; it can also be used for a potentially endless expansion of nature's wealth. It can restrain and release at the same time. Biofuturism thus advocates a pragmatic but thoroughgoing merging of nature with technology.
To date, experiments have all too often been too restrictive, driven by the wrong motives. GMOs, for example, have only served to reduce the complexity of nature and maximize the profits of plutocrats. Biotech must be harnessed to the re-wilding wagon, not just that of the too-late capitalist civilization; it must serve everyone, it must serve our whole world.
In this way, biofuturism also breaks with human exceptionalism, as it seeks to erase the imagined separation between humans and nature and to make our ever-existing entanglement wilder and more complex in new human-flora-fauna symbioses. Biofuturism strives for embeddedness, the earthbound, and biological abundance; it celebrates nature, but at the same time attacks ideas about authenticity, purity and the natural.
Against neoliberalism's naturalisation of politics, biofuturism responds with a politicisation of nature.
It entails a showdown with the blind acceleration of too-late capitalism at the expense of the natural foundations in favor of a fusion-with; a comprehensive involution and evolution of human consciousness, together with a radical expansion of biodiversity via technology or what one could describe as 'explosive rewilding’.
Biofuturism is mutated nature that is turning against power, like Birnam Forest in Macbeth, suddenly crawling out of the fog in a tree-human attack on Dunsinane. Its standard bearers will be symbiotes rather than cyborgs; its agents will be wild and amorphous. The biofuturist movement will grow underground as roots and mycelia then shoot forward and sprout in the most unexpected places like weeds that spring up in masonry, bridges and roads.
LET THE REWILDING BEGIN
We are often in the habit of thinking of ethnic groups as the product of a long and involuntary cultural evolution. In reality, however, these particular lifeforms are far more often the result of a historical process of secession, a conscious social detachment from an existing society, a breakdown, or a flight.
This is also the case with the Bezi tribe from the Suwalki region, which can be said to have its origins in a social movement that took shape in the middle of the 21st century around the urban centres of what was then Poland. (The name Bezi is derived from the Polish word Bezdomni, which meant homeless).
In the 2040s, a myriad of activist groups fought under the slogan DWELL FREE for the universal and free right to housing in cities such as Kraków and Warsaw, which at that time were plagued by uncontrollable hypergentrification. In Poznan, where the movement was especially strong, it managed to achieve visible results such as the legally guaranteed right to sleepcoffins and the state-sponsored distribution of solar protein.
Internally within the movement, however, there were critical voices who saw these victories as insufficient and ultimately downright harmful to the movement's overall aims, and one faction in particular began to discuss more radical approaches to the housing issue .
It was the post-paganist thinker Rafa Gorskí who, in her treatise, Open Skies, first suggested turning the whole problem upside down. The Dwell Free movement had stared blindly at the problem of homelessness, she claimed, and latched onto the idea of 'livingboxes' as the only possible way out. 'What if', she wrote, 'instead of blindly chasing a roof over our heads we tried to completely eliminate the need for a roof at all?'
In several places, they began experimenting with suits that would enable a life out in the open. Well-known designers and fashion houses took up the challenge, which predominantly resulted in a series of outrageously expensive outfits puffed out with the latest fragile technology. The tyranny of the home had been simply replaced by that of clothing.
The real breakthrough came only later with the gene-hormonal experiments of the Poznán-based Spółdzielnia Pierwotnas. Heavy body hair found favour, and in time more extreme forms of fur, as experiments with partial symbiosis became widespread. You would see people with tiger and bear fur in those years, or alternately, ectothermic people and people with feathers.
In the case of the Bezi tribe, a pact was made with the wild beaver, and today, the Bezi have a strong attachment to the Suwalki wetlands, where they are loosely organised without leaders and central assemblies, and decisions are made ad hoc. They feed mainly on bark and roots. It is said that Bezi is not something you are, it is something you choose — every single day. At the time of writing, that is the case for just over 6,300 individuals, who choose each day to take part in this very special way of life that unfolds in and around Suwalki's watery worlds.