Notes towards a publication
FoAM is a network of transdisciplinary labs for speculative culture, founded in the year 2000 in Belgium, with studios across Europe and collaborators around the globe. FoAM was established to explore the gaps, overlaps and intersections between the arts, design, science, technology and the practice of everyday life. With our motto, “Grow Your Own Worlds”, we re-frame and re-imagine what alternative presents and possible futures might look like when rigid borders between fields and cultures become permeable edges.
The year 2015 marks fifteen years of FoAM’s existence. To commemorate this occasion we are compiling a book which distils and celebrates the unique mix of knowledge, experience, people, ideas and initiatives that emerged during this fertile period. FoAM's distinctive approach to tackling acute techno-social challenges through creative public experiments that directly engage with work and life, makes a publication like this all the more timely. This book encapsulates the hindsight, insight and foresight of a cultural laboratory, whose forward-looking experiments inspire diverse audiences and whose open processes have been tested and applied across a range of contexts.
The working title, “Grow Your Own Worlds”, has been FoAM's motto since its inception, and encapsulates our aim for the book as well: to incite a sense of agency, to encourage a playful exploration of how things could be otherwise, and to think on a scale of both seeds and worlds. Just the same as participants and collaborators, we see our readership as inhabitants of these worlds wherever and whoever they may be. The door is ajar – an invitation to come in and join the conversation.
We see this publication as a story and celebration of the people we've travelled with over the last fifteen years, a travelogue and memoir of collective engagements and creative experiments. These stories are manifold. Bridging gaps between physical and digital worlds in responsive environments, tangible interfaces and generative media. Exploring the edges between technology and society, social robotics, glitch and “(bio)technologickal” arts. Making the world more luminous and green by entangling ecology, culture and technology with human-plant interactions. The exploration of alternate realities and possible futures represents another important thread, along with the origins of our research on post-science (thalience), syncretic rituals, and the art of doing nothing. And throughout, the stories emerging from our hosting culture including food and cooking as ambient social glue, bonding many a transdisciplinary and intercultural collaboration into friendship (and the occasional marriage).
In this way, we intend the book to present both a legacy and a manifesto: a document of fifteen full years that can be drawn on and transmuted into future vision and action by interested parties anywhere. We eschew an exhaustive “catalogue” of past work for a sense of open-ended discovery, informed by strong images and atmospheres that reflect a multiplicity of worlds, people and processes.
As an embodiment of practice-based research and inhabited theory, the book will feature a number of personal accounts: conversations with FoAM's founders, observations and anecdotes from collaborators, and the appearance (and disappearance) of several other dramatis personae at key points in the story. We see these accounts as being informed throughout by a feedback loop between the microcosm of FoAM and the macrocosm of wider societal trends and change drivers, where FoAM has functioned both as fertile compost for cultural experiments and a speculative incubator for futures yet to come.
Since 2002 FoAM has self-published several books that have been enthusiastically received. Although self-publishing has been a rewarding experience, we are well aware of its limitations. Since this book represents an important milestone in FoAM's existence, we are seeking to collaborate with an established publisher to ensure that we make the best use of our material, and are able to reach a potentially wider and more diverse audience than would be possible otherwise.
We are looking for a publisher who is open to a process of co-creation, ideally with interest and experience in transgenre, transmedia projects that have a strong visual and aesthetic language informing all aspects of production.
We plan to write, collate, design and edit the material largely in-house, so ideally we'd be looking for a close dialogue with our publisher throughout the process of production. We are keen to discuss possible target publics, explore alternative distribution and communication methods, etc. In sum, we'd like the process as well as the result of this book to be authentically in line with FoAM's mission and methodology.
Four core members of FoAM will be responsible for the compilation of the Grow Your Own Worlds book: