UP—Future fiction: an explorative method for self-learning ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 

Urgent Pedagogies Reader.


From the Archive


From the Urgent Pedagogies Issue #3: Modalities, this text by Marc Neelen and Ana Džokić describe how they are using the curatorial as a method for speculating futures within institutional contexts, employing a fictive approach that engages critically with the neoliberal urbanization of Eastern and Western Europe´s geographies.

From the Archive re-surfaces pieces that have previously been published as part of Urgent Pedagogies Issues.

Hands drawing on a large sheet of paper

Drafting future scenarios 2029, process for Enterprises of Survival, Bezdan, 2019. Photo by STEALTH.unlimited.


Future fiction: an explorative method for self-learning


Marc Neelen and Ana Džokić, STEALTH.unlimited



Theory (Text Comission)


June 2021


Belgrade, Serbia and Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Commoning, Community-based, Housing, Urban, Urbanism


“Pressured to find a way out, to plot a necessary long-term strategy to secure ‘our’ survival, we once more decided to call upon future fiction to make a jump ahead.”


How can we desire something if we can’t even imagine it yet? How do we anticipate what could cross our path – or obstruct it – if we can’t picture the voyage to arrive there? And to choose the right companions for such a journey, if we can’t envision where to start from? These questions have confronted us increasingly during the last decade while exploring alternate urban futures that might lay ahead. Thus, for us, future fiction has become a method not only to grasp aspirations better but equally to “preview” how such different realities could unfold.

Using future fiction as a playful but equally powerful tool has been a long story in the making. In 2011, a few years following the start of the Global Financial Crisis, we delved into a universe of pioneering communities to understand how they might envision a city (in part) co-created through their collective actions. Their city was Bordeaux, and time seemed right to offer such a future perspective. As large-scale urban developments got stalled across Europe, it looked like space for a different take on the city had opened up. This broader context and a generously funded urban biannual (under the artistic direction of Michelangelo Pistoletto) allowed us, co-curator Emil Jurcan and the architecture center arc en rêve, to envision a horizon different from the usual autopilot neoliberal course. We started from the question: How would the future look if citizens’ collective capacity would grow and become Bordeaux’s primary driving force? It resulted in a piece of social fiction in the format of a novella and exhibition. Once Upon a Future became an imaginary fast-forward to a possible Bordeaux of 2030 – giving an unexpected twist to that target year by which the city authorities aimed to surpass the magic threshold of one million inhabitants.

What started from the ambitions of remarkable but vulnerable pioneering communities on the ground in our hands grew into the silhouette of a 2030 urban reality – in which they are no longer marginalised underdogs but have instead become dominant practices. Working with writer and philosopher Bruce Bégout and a dozen local graphic and comic artists, a still rather abstract future suddenly acquired personalities and names, precise locations, dates and events, colour, smell. It got narration, voices, rhythm and pace. It counted breakthroughs and defeats. It became possible to identify with it, absorb it, or reject it. And in the latter, one could choose to plot a different trajectory instead. Although, to a large extent (still) wishful thinking, drawing it out became an important, empowering and insightful method. To the featured local groups, it opened a possibility to place their endeavours into a larger whole, propelled far enough in time to detach from daily preoccupations. To ourselves, it proved a confrontational experience. Would we be ready to wait some twenty years for such a different city to arrive, or should we instead start acting in that direction?


This text has been commissioned and written uniquely for Urgent Pedagogies.

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Ana Džokić & Marc Neelen are architects working and living between Belgrade and Rotterdam. In 2000 they founded STEALTH.unlimited. Although initially trained as architects, for over 15 years their work is equally based in the context of contemporary art and culture. Through intensive collaboration with individuals, organisations and institutions, STEALTH connect urban research, visual arts, spatial interventions and cultural activism. Ana Džokić was trained as an architect at the University of Belgrade and completed a two-year postgraduate program at the Berlage Institute in Amsterdam. In May 2017 she received PhD at the Royal Institute of Art (KKH) in Stockholm, with a practice based research titled Upscaling, Training, Commoning. Marc Neelen received his degree in architecture at the Delft University of Technology in Delft, and from 2012-2017 held the position of a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield, School of Architecture.

STEALTH.unlimited’s curatorial interventions are a base for projects that, since 2004, mobilise thinking on shared future(s) of the city and its culture in a/o Teasing Minds at Kunstverein Munich, Archiphoenix at the Dutch Pavilion at the Architecture Biennial in Venice, the Tirana International Contemporary Art Biennial, IMPAKT festival Matrix City in Utrecht, the fiction-based project Once Upon a Future for the Evento biannual in Bordeaux, and the exhibition A Life in Common with Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto in Italy.

Their spatial interventions, since 2006, include a 600 m2 interactive installation at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, a public art commission for a schoolyard in Knivsta, Sweden, made in collaboration with artist Marjetica Potrč, a three months long hands-on intervention in public space made in collaboration with Röda Sten Konsthall and the local community of Gothenburg, a cultural development node out of recycled materials in a slum neighbourhood of Medellín, Colombia, made with the art group El Puente_lab.

For about fifteen years STEALTH investigates the urban developments in Western Balkans, starting from their Wild City research on the massive unplanned transformation of the city of Belgrade since the 1990s. Since 2009, STEALTH have been running four editions of the Cities Log research that investigate the roles of different players in the development of cities in the region. A(u)ction, the Novi Sad edition of this project received Ranko Radović Award in 2011. As part of Unfinished Modernisations project, they produced Kaluđerica from Šklj to Abc in 2012, an illustrated narrative on a dream of just legalisation of this, one of the largest informal settlements in the Balkans.

Since 2010 STEALTH co-initiated the platform Ko gradi grad (Who Builds the City) in Belgrade and within it in 2012 the long-term community based project Smarter Building. In 2013 they formed Stad in de Maak (City in the Making) association in Rotterdam to, through a ten-year long process, tackle the “toxic assets” of the stranded Dutch welfare housing.


Urgent Pedagogies is an IASPIS project.