Lost Futurities: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art from the Middle East

Muller, Nathalie (2022) Lost Futurities: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art from the Middle East. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Nathalie Muller PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted May 2022_Final Award Aug 2022.pdf - Accepted Version

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Lost Futurities examines science fiction (sf) in contemporary artistic practices from the Middle East. Focusing predominantly on works produced in the second decade of this century (2006-2020), when artists from the region started engaging more explicitly with sf, the study is transnational (including Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Syria) and interdisciplinary, drawing on a variety of fields in the humanities (including sf studies, area studies, postcolonial studies, visual culture studies and the environmental humanities). It looks specifically at how sf signals loss while simultaneously operating as a recuperative device. Each chapter foregrounds a sf trope that facilitates this - imperfect - dynamic of loss and recuperation, creating a speculative and interpretative method that redresses issues of historicity, dispossession, violence, identity, belonging, and the nation state.

The first chapter, ‘Lunar Dreams’, focuses on the sf trope of space travel and pairs it with a discussion of nostalgia, modernity and lost dreams in relation to the nation state. In my second chapter, ‘Apocalypse Now’, I interrogate how trauma, memory and forgetfulness are played out in the wake of historical and ecological catastrophe. The third chapter discusses sf’s significant Others – aliens, robots and superheroes – and explores how tactics of masquerade reframe and complicate identity and belonging, as well as individual and collective history. In the fourth chapter I propose ruin as a sf motif that can unlock the future, rather than being a manifestation of decay moored in the past. I focus on ruinous landscapes as a way to identify horizons of hope, renewal and social dreaming. In my final chapter, ‘Liquid Monstrosities’, I turn to the sf trope of the monster as a complex figure of futurity and show how artists sound alarm bells over the extractivist practices of the Anthropocene through the lens of petro- and hydro-imaginaries.

Together these chapters aim to critically think with and through sf as an artistic and political project of speculative conjuring, imaging loss, opening possibility and worldbuilding. Lost Futurities wants to broaden the conversation on contemporary art and politics from the Middle East, extend the lexicon of sf tropes, and propose sf as a critical and speculative method of analysis for the humanities by studying the arts and politics of futurity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
24 May 2022Submitted
16 August 2022Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Science fiction, Middle East, visual art, futurism
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-04 - cinematics and photography
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts > Birmingham School of Art
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2023 10:45
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2023 10:45
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14217

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