Source: Elie During, “What Do Cities Dream Of? The Ghosts of the Metabolism”, in Pierre Jean Giloux, Invisible Cities, Paris, Zéro2 éditions, 2018.
Temporal intuition must be complicated. It is necessary to begin by increasing the density of time, by recognizing in it a thickness or a depth that suspends or at least slows down its inexorable flow, in the image of eddies which are formed in a fast-flowing stream or, even better, in the image of the process of percolation in which, as in every good expresso machine, the formation of thin rivulets of time is preceded by a preparatory phase necessary for the accumulation of energy ‘on the spot.’ The idea of a gaseous time responds to such a state of thermal excitation: something like a pulverized, stochastic time. The concrete durations of which the world is woven assume the subtlety muted action of a time that does not pass, that comes back to itself and that, in the end, owes nothing to fluvial metaphors.
To such a temporal field, art can offer visibility, and, at times, a concrete shape, whenever it is employed in discerning the futures traversing the present. This is probably what the instigator of the Metabolist movement, Kisho Kurokawa, was aiming for in a poetic formula: “Time,” he writes, “must not be conceived as a linear evolution, rather it must be apprehended as autonomous fragments, as particles floating in the air.” Fine particles in suspension, or even according to, the flower petals of cherry trees twirling in the wind against a clear azure background, can suggest this cloud-time, this swarm-time in which retro-futures find refuge like fireflies twinkling in the night.
Metabolism, Pierre-Jean Giloux’s first film in his Invisible Cities series (link), is the perfect image for what would be an active and affirmative retro-futurism—a retro-futurism of the present. In effect, the future is not in front of us, it does not wait for us just over the hill, a bit further down time’s road, it adjoins the present and doubles it at every instance, and so does the past from which it originates. Retro-futures are contemporary to us through the effect of relative speed. On a train journey, whenever a second train passes us by on a parallel track, across the windows of the car that slows down and is immobilized for a moment at our level, the life of other passengers strangely similar to ourselves is discovered in a fugitive vision. The image vacillates for an instant on the glass before once again accelerating and definitively vanishing into the night.