Not yet for now; not yet for here; not yet for you.
Alasdair Duncan makes graphic signs as stand-ins, signifying things that do not exist; emblems of the not-yet imagined; markers for as-yet unclear potentialities. He makes these signs, in a variety of mediums, under the rubric of Signs for the Future. The signs are designed to seem familiar, with a sense of having a meaning, of meaningness, often with a play of potential imagery held from resolution.
Duncan's signs are applied across a variety of media, including installations of wall paintings; banners; quasi-architectural models; posters; painted signs; digital signs - still, and as videos; c-prints; and vitreous enamel on steel. The emphatic material specificity of the signs work towards implicating the viewer in a relation with them, emphasising the stretch between the signs as things in the here and now and as things oriented towards what is absent.
The signs often work in a context which functions as a stage for the signs' operations - the signs theatricalise the location as context for undetermined potential action in which the viewer may be implicated.
Duncan is interested in making art that relates to the yet-to-be known of the personal, social, political, and technological, not without ambivalence, but presenting positive, progressive opportunity through conditions of possibility which exist now, but which are beyond view from the state of affairs in which we find ourselves. The subject seems pressing because the unknown of the future is currently more often represented in terms of fear rather than opportunity: a catastrophic end to the world can be easier to imagine than the progressive enactment of substantively new, different and better ways of living, both in small, personal ways, and in broader perspective.
Duncan’s pieces are titled in, and often integrate, the language of Je Zaum: a play on the idea of the synthetic language of Zaum. The Russian Futurist poets Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexei Krucheykh coined Zaum (pronounced Za-oom), the name combines the Russian prefix за “beyond, behind” and the noun ум “the mind, nous”. Zaum was described as a universal language, a language of indeterminate meaning that stands in for thoughts yet to be conceived. Je Zaum rearticulates this anew.