Arid lands and deserts are multifaceted and carry many complex imaginaries and histories. They can be seen as geographical realities, extreme environments, boundary zones of a dominant power or metaphorical landscapes. They are also natural or social spaces, places for spiritual retreats or hedonistic celebration, as well as sites of artistic and counter-cultural subversion and utopian social projects.

Historically, drylands and deserts have been viewed as places of emergency and crisis, “empty spaces” or “waste-lands” ready to be occupied, exploited and extracted. Today, particularly the Arctic and Antarctic polars deserts have become embodiments of various forms of anthropogenic exploitation, such as colonial dispossession and resource extraction. In the face of ecological collapse, arid lands have also become laboratory spaces for experimentation and sites for simulating the future occupation of other planets.

This ongoing artistic research project Arid Futures, in collaboration with madeyoulook, explores the drylands of Lieberose Desert in Brandenburg Germany and the Błędów Desert in Poland both as landscapes of ecological desertification and organic destruction as well as metaphorical landscapes for social and cultural decay. Questioning the concept of deserts as empty spaces, the project seeks to unlearn the desert, opening up possibilities to see, think, and imagine other arid futures.

In collaboration with IMPULS, madeyoulook and Amol K Patil