Manifesto for Rural Futurism

Manifesto for Rural Futurism

“Rurality” has increasingly become a key topic in contemporary political and ecological debates. Within such frameworks, interpretations of the concept oscillate between a view of it as a form “otherness” and a depiction of it as the quintessential repository of “identity”.

Either way, it becomes apparent that rurality cannot be seen merely as a geographical space; rather, it has to be seen as an expression of “positionality”. A critical approach to rurality is necessary, today more than ever before, in order to be able to imagine other futures for rural communities, territories and places – beyond the “otherness”/“identity” dichotomy.

“Rural Futurism” is a critical perspective, in which multiple points of view (and listening) converge: art – and techno-culture(s) more specifically – provide new and striking ways to rethink what ‘rurality’ is (and could be). “Rural futurism” is a challenge raised to the current discourses about rurality and the binarisms that support such discourses: authenticity, utopia, anachronism, provincialism, tradition, sense of stability, belonging vs. alienation, development vs. backwardness.

By interrogating our relationship to memory and the archives of the past, artistic practice reinserts the concept of the ‘rural’ into the framework of contemporary narratives, deconstructing those discourses that relegate it to the status of a mere residue of wider political, economic and cultural processes spanning a global scale. In this way, rural areas become places of experimentation, performativity, critical investigation and change, where it is possible to create futures scenarios, starting from the assemblage of the seen and the unseen, of human and non-human elements – objects, materials, speech, relational infrastructures, technologies that give form to (and are formed as) specific modes of governance.

In its materiality, sound invites us to experience rural locations and abandoned places as spaces in which to question our approach to history and landscape, our sense of living in a specific place and the relationship that we have with it. The sound of environments, spaces and landscapes reveal the challenges and territorial transformations that inform the ideological, infrastructural and biological ecosystems to which we form a part. In this sense, listening practices are deployed as a way to critically traverse the “border territories” of the rural territories, challenging persisting notions about the “inescapable marginality”, “residuality” and “peripherality” of rural areas.

The Manifesto of Rural Futurism is a document produced as a result of a collective thinking and practical process brought on by artists, scholars, curators, critics and people in the framework of Liminaria, a 5-year project sound art residency and fieldwork-based research platform aimed at developing “sustainable” cultural, social and economic networks in the some rural regions of Southern Italy. As final outcome of this project, the Manifesto of Rural Futurism is founded on a series of propositions aiming at rethinking rural areas and re-imagining their possible futures, understanding them as complex spaces actively immersed in the dynamism of encounters, flows and fluxes of contemporary geographies and critically questioning the modernistic discourses of capitalism and metropolitanism in which they are marginalised and considered as doomed to oblivion.


#1 “Rural futurism” is a challenge responding to the current discourses about rurality as authentic, utopic, anachronistic, provincial, traditional and stable, and the binaries that support such discourses: belonging vs. alienation, development vs. backwardness.

#2 A critical approach to rurality is necessary, today more than ever before, to imagine other futures for rural communities, territories and places beyond the “otherness” vs. “identity” dichotomy.

#3 It becomes apparent that rurality today cannot be seen merely as a geographical space; rather, it has to be seen as an expression of “positionality”, in terms of an actual political position.

#4 We need to understand rural areas as complex spaces actively immersed in the dynamism of encounters, flows and fluxes of contemporary geographies, and critically question modern discourses of capitalism and metropolitanism in which rural territories are marginalised and considered as doomed to oblivion.

#5 “Rural futurism” addresses the complex dynamics between rural territory and urban space through technoculture, encompassing a range of issues such as “generation” and “time” within local communities (depopulation, movement, resilience and cultural heritage) and the peculiar geophysical characteristics of the place (remoteness, wind, energy, infrastructure and/or lack thereof).

#6 Different (human and non-human) life forms exist and insist on a territory, any territory, and they are mutually implicated in one another. Sometimes, they co-exist together peaceably; at other times, they are in conflict with each other. Conflictual coexistences are valuable too, as they generate “grey zones” within a rural territory, which can productively challenge any inherited notion of “environment”, “nature”, and “ecology”. Through its co-existences (and conflictual co-existences), the rural territory can in fact be approached otherwise, leaving aside contemplative, romantic or decadent clichés about “rurality”.

#7 Even if dominant narratives insist that rural spaces should be relegated to a space-time that can only undergo involution, there are many practices — theoretical, artistic, agricultural and technological — that attest to rurality’s potential resistance.

#8 “Rural Futurism” is a critical perspective, in which multiple points of view (and listening) converge: art, and techno-culture(s) more specifically, provide new and striking ways to rethink what ‘rurality’ is (and could be). In this way, rural areas become places of experimentation, performativity, critical investigation and change. It is possible to create future scenarios, starting from the assemblage of the seen and the unseen, of human and non-human elements. These objects, materials, speech, relational infrastructures and technologies give form to (and are formed as) specific modes of governance.

#9 Through the practice of listening it is possible to get a sense of the complexity and dynamics from which the territory reveals itself in unexpected ways and different perspectives. This emphasizes the value and the values of “deep listening” to experience the different topologies of a rural territory. Tones, harmonies and dissonances vibrate while these processes take place, and that can be registered through an “acoustemological” approach.

#10 In its materiality, sound invites us to experience rural locations and abandoned places as spaces in which to question our approach to history and landscape, our sense of living in a specific place and the relationship that we have with it. The sound of environments, spaces and landscapes reveal the challenges and territorial transformations that inform the ideological, infrastructural and biological ecosystems to which we form a part. In this sense, listening practices are deployed as a way to critically traverse the “border territories” of rural territories, challenging persisting notions about “inescapable marginality”, “residuality” and “peripherality”.

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