What’s it all about?

I thought I should post something to explain what’s behind ‘Blog: Future Renaissance’, before I get much further on, as much for my own peace of mind than anything else. Future Renaissance is a term I thought would already exist, but turns out I made up, to reference how the Arts might be represented and perceived in society in some far off future we can’t even conceive of yet. Except I’m trying to conceive it, to research and shape my writing as an adventure-science fiction-fantasy author in waiting. My intention is to fill this blog with musings, articles, thoughts and imagery to equip me with the vision I need to write. It’s also my intention to make it interesting and fun for my audience to read.

I live in Dubai, a city that in the past few decades has sprung from sleepy trading post with two dhows, some palm trees and several herds of camels to a thriving city with one of the world’s most recognizable skylines and a taste for the finer things in life. In the past seven years, I have watched as architecturally stunning buildings rise from the sand and the bleak landscape is coloured in with roads, schools, hotels, parks, shopping malls, metro trains and water parks: all of it undeniably big, bold and beautiful. The vision of the Sheikhs who have ruled here for the past forty years was ambitious beyond what most people thought was possible, but still they are building, and still people come. It is a city that has almost anything you could wish for, and plenty you couldn’t, but the huge exception to this is history. There aren’t centuries of buildings that can be dated by cross gables, sash windows or Corinthian columns. There aren’t thick tomes written about civil wars, kings and queens and the invention of the printing press. The population is largely expatriate and people come and go according to the relative financial and political comfort they can look forward to here in comparison to their home countries. Sometimes they just come for the sunshine. The history of Dubai is the sum of their parts, and when they leave, so do their stories.

This transience is a leading cause of Dubai’s cultural desertification. It may be a beautiful city, but the lack of museums, theatres, concert halls and libraries is symptomatic of a population who seem to have neither the time nor the inclination to invest in creating a collective cultural experience. Why not, I wonder? Are the Arts simply not required in a modern day society? Is fashion, film, cuisine and a smattering of galleries enough to satisfy the contemporary audience who thrive on smart phones and fast cars? Or do the Arts just come last when you build a city from scratch? Imagining Dubai as a sort of city in a petri dish, I wonder how the experiment will progress, and whether the embryonic beginnings of an Arts scene here – a literature festival, a new independent theatre, a gallery devoted to being socially impactful – will ever amount to more. I wonder if it is indicative of what would happen in future settlements in cities we will never live to see, that without history there is no common culture, and with a majority fugitive population there is no perceived need to establish one. Or maybe we are just witnessing in close up, the longer term effects of the technological revolution we are in the midst of. Smart phones put the world at our fingertips and 3D printers will soon be able to recreate it. We are preoccupied with technology to the point of distraction. A lunch hour spent wandering a museum or gazing at sculptures seems somehow harder to fit in than checking Facebook or Twitter. But how difficult is it, to be inspired, when you never look up from the screen?

And that, I guess, is my cue to leave…

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