The pre-enactment is the Flagship exercise of our phase 4 Simulating and Performing New Worlds. It's the holy grail that enables you to put your imagined futures to the test by translating them into a solid real-life situation that you can visit. The idea is to prototype an imagined future – or some aspects of that future – in an immersive experience. When sucessful, pre-enactments create embodied personal experiences of a possible future, and reveal behaviours, intuitions or unconscious collective patterns that are likely to be ignored or overlooked in predominantly cerebral futuring methods. These pre-enactments are particularly interesting to us as they blur the line between performance and real life, between dream and reality. They tickle our imaginations as prototyping experiences, and as preparatory acts for transformation.
A pre-enactment is an experimental situation set up in real life, where certain aspects of an imagined future are simulated and tested by a group of participants. A specific context and new rules of behaviour are agreed upon, and then played out by the participants to see what it provokes in them.
Pre-enactments build on LARP (Live Action Role Playing) and improvisation, but contrary to LARPs, participants don’t take on the role of a (fictional) character here: they simply place themselves in this unfamiliar (and sometimes uncomfortable) scenario and observe what happens.
Rasa A. developed a questionaire that can be used as a simple an efficient guideline to develop a pre-enactment.
By answering the 10 questions below, your pre-enactement takes shape concretely.
- What’s being pre-enacted (Title)?
- Based on what element or principle from what imagined world?
- What is the concrete situation or event of this pre-enactment?
- Where does it take place?
- What is the logic of this situation (how does this world or scenario function)? Are there specific rules to be followed?
- What is there to be created, exercised or done during this time (goals to be achieved)?
- What roles, tasks, responsibilities, jobs… are available?
- What do the participants need to know? How should they prepare ?
- What set, tools, material, or props are needed?
- How long does it last? What marks the beginning and what marks the end of the pre-enactment?
Once a pre-enactment starts, the most important rule is not to 'break' the universe: the participants are encouraged to stay in their role, and to keep all comments and reflections for a debrief session. The stronger the immersion, the more valuable the experience.
After the pre-enactment, a debrief and reflection moment is recommended in order to decompress and to translate the insights into applied learning. A group session or individual interviews can be conducted and the findings shared with the whole group. During the debrief, evaluate the experience and see how it could change your behaviour in the present, in everyday life, alone or collectively.
There are many ways to conceive, prepare and perform a pre-enactment. There's an elaborate tutorial in FoAM's Futurist Fieldguide. Heck they even made a Prehearsal Pocket Guide that compiles several methods and tools! It goes without saying that we highly recommend a visit to FoAM – they have been a major guide and reference during our research.
- FoAM website: https://fo.am/
- Their Libarynth: https://libarynth.org
- The futurist fieldguide: https://www.libarynth.com/ futurist_fieldguide
- Prehearsal pocket guide: https://libarynth.org/resilients /prehearsal_pocket_guide
- Article on FoAM's blog worth reading: https://fo.am/blog/2012/07/03 /future-preenactments
- Longer essay about pre-enacting futures: https://libarynth.org/resilients /prehearsing_the_future
We have tested several pre-enactments and prehearsals designed by students during a Master Class at KASK with the students of the Autonomous Design department.
Roger, one of the students, was willing to participate but he had a problem. He was moving to a new flat and had to prepare this flat: cleaning, plastering, painting, etc. He simply suggested to integrate this mission into one of the pre-enactments. We called it 'Work is calling'. We imagined a future employment agency that collects the wishes of the day. So we collected these kinds of assignments: tidying up little things, looking after things, singing on the guitar, listening and pampering, etc. Then we took the context of Roger's flat to practice all these activities on the worksite for a day. Of course, caught up in our rational habits, we had the intuition that certain missions would help Roger more than others and we were well disproved. Non-essential functions such as caring for objects, singing and welcoming people boosted the group. We leave it to you to imagine the prospects this opens up for improving the organisation of work. This is perhaps one of the most important sentences in the Grimoire.