The Future Is a Space Station

November 5, 2020

Simón Vega, Tropical Mercury Capsule Crash Landing, 2015. Silver / gelatin photography on paper, 60 x 100cm. Ed. 3. Image courtesy of the artist.

Future Worlds

The future is a kernel of corn that is planted, sacrificed, buried alive. The future is that buried kernel, now dead, with the promise of life and its multiplication.

The future, the past, and the present do not exist on a line, but rather a circle that spins. There are cycles that interlock, separate, and join again, not later on but before and after.

The future is in the past. The futures are in the pasts. The fruits of the multiple pasts are in the multiple presents. The future is in other worlds.

The future is a spectrum of possibilities, of intangible desires and fears, a spontaneous melody that cannot be written down, only played. It is about imagining the melody without having the instrument.

Simón Vega, Mind Maps, 2020. Annotations on futures. Notebook.

The future has a lot to do with time and space. In space, we understand that it’s not just a matter of different futures but of the places we would occupy in those futures.

The future is living in the present, thinking from the present toward another present. The future is a place we can see from where we stand, like seeing a mountainside lookout—we can see the lookout, but also the multiple vantage points from where these are contemplated.

The future is in the past.

We discover it, like archeologists excavating the ruins of a mysterious civilization hidden in the jungle, hundreds of years after its peak.

Amid the lush tropical foliage—trees covered in vines, birds, insects and small mammals—there is part of what appears to be a semi-buried architectural tower sticking out with a demolished satellite antenna and a circular entryway grown over with roots and branches. It is impossible to grasp the full dimensions of this structure. From the mounds, which are now more clearly perceptible, we can discern that it is not a pyramid complex, although it does bear some similarity to those beguiling architectural depictions of Mayan cities made by English artist and architect Frederick Catherwood.

We enter through one of the access points connecting the sections, now immersed in the lush vegetation.

After many weeks of exploration, we discover that the cylindrical towers are actually the modules of what we can now discern to be a gigantic space station. The modules are marked with different pictograms, and there are also modules where all the pictograms are displayed together without any apparent hierarchy. The station’s network architecture is apparently opened so that additional modules can be incorporated.

The occupational remains found within the modules allow us to speculate that each was inhabited by a different group, that each group was united not by race or ethnicity, but by a certain philosophy of life. There were also signs of common spaces for the different groups or tribes to interact. Each group retained its own language and customs, but they created a pictographic form of writing in order to understand one another in spite of their differences.

There does not seem to have been a centralized form of government, only a series of rules and limits to maintain respect for differences. Each module a tribe, each tribe a culture, each culture tolerant of the others. This is the information that they left in one way or another, laid out throughout the whole station.

There are no images, writings or representations of any kind that could be identified as leaders, commanders or gods.

In spite of their advanced technology, we do not find the remains of any weapons. On the other hand, we found parts of what could be musical instruments, small rooms for concerts and speeches, as well as reliefs depicting groups dancing and celebrating.

We find no clear evidence of the occupants’ origin. Their artistic representations depict human beings, humanoids, anthropo-zoomorphs, zoomorphs and plants. The colors were at once vivid, intense, and striking.

After nearly 27 months of exploration, reconstruction and exhaustive analysis of the station, we have been able to locate and temporarily reactivate the central computer and the historical archives saved on it.

We have found evidence not only of military arms, but of unthinkable weapons of mass destruction that indicate beyond the shadow of a doubt that what up until now was considered to be myth, actually took place: there was a time in which the life of this entire planet was hanging by a thread, hanging by the resolution of differences between two giants, one red, the other red, white, and blue. These giants were actually two nations, the two super powers that emerged from an even greater global conflict. They were two opposing ways of seeing the world and life, two diametrically opposed and intolerant systems that made the multiplicity of ideas, cultures, and futures dependent upon the inclinations, whims and tensions between these two super powers. For nearly four decades, the entire world was at the mercy of these two giants, their plots and schemes. In the region known as Central America, an extraordinary tropical paradise, a bridge between two continents and two oceans, the civil war and the “Space Race” mysteriously came together to produce one final great utopia, the space station.

There are many things that we still don’t understand, there is much left to discover, but we know that there was a past of dehumanization, a period in which humans were a threat to all life and to the planet itself, by imposing one ideology over another, driven by the hunger for power. We know that their greatest weapon was fear, that even if the threat of nuclear war was always a reality, it was paranoia, intolerance, and fear that divided human beings. So that, during this catastrophic era, this space station was the only structure to survive and keep humanity afloat by articulating its differences.

Simón Vega, Palm 3 World Station, 2020. Wood, metal sheet, found materials, light, smoke, live plants, variable dimensions. Coachella Festival, Indio, California Photo by Heinz Köbernik.

What worlds should we imagine?

We should imagine better worlds without asking whether they will be possible; that is the importance and the independence of imagination. Imagining imperfect utopias, worlds that we do not understand, with no prejudices or expectations, where there are asymmetrical beings with no matter, with no references to our natural world. We must imagine worlds within other worlds: the world of insects, the world of stones, the world of the deepest depths of our oceans and of our souls. We must listen to them, read them, try to understand them, assimilate them, translate them. The only worlds worth imagining are those that are not our own, those that we have not seen or that we have not been able to break into.

I have always thought of the third world as another planet. Perhaps what is most surprising is that not only do you not have to leave the Earth to have this experience, you don’t even have to leave the country. There are worlds that are practically inaccessible to one another. The first and third world can exist within the same city, a few blocks apart. How many exclusive gated residences are flanked by dense and impoverished marginal zones? Those are other worlds, worlds within worlds.

We should imagine many worlds, as if we were another person, imagine worlds that are not ours or that are of different dimensions. But the most important thing is to be able to imagine worlds open to the plurality of other worlds, other concepts of what a world is, and that these be seen as having equal value. We must imagine worlds in which tolerance and mutual respect allow for interaction and exchange. These are the worlds that are hardest to conceive: tolerant, sustainable, flexible worlds, with room for others.

Simon Vega (1972) creates drawings, ephemeral sculptures and installations inspired by the informal, self-made architecture and vendor carts found in the streets and marginal zones of Central America. Growing up in El Salvador in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vega witnessed the Cold War in a period when both the U.S. and the Soviet Union were competing for influence in Central America. These early memories have greatly shaped the artist’s view and approach to the world of contemporary art. His works, assembled with wood, cardboard, plastic and found materials, often parody famous Modernist and mythological high-tech robots and satellites developed by NASA and the Soviet Space Program, creating an ironic and humorous fusion between first and third worlds, while commenting on the political and socio-cultural effects of that conflict in today’s Central America.

Notes for a Horizon-tality: Toward the Possibility of Becoming Together as an Assemblage is a project that responds to our multiple and seemingly multiplying emergencies. Since the growing uncertainty of living in a world in crisis seems to continuously threaten the possibility of the future, this editorial initiative seeks to contribute to the growing scholarship on this topic from the perspective of Latin American contemporary art.