Liam Young, 14 10 14

New City is a series of animated skylines of the near future developed by Tomorrow’s Thought Today’s Liam Young. In intricate 5k detail they depict a speculative urbanism, an exaggerated version of the present, in which we can project new cultural trends, environmental, political and economic forces. Photographs taken on expeditions around the world with nomadic studio Unknown Fields, to document these emerging phenomena and weak signals have been meticulously stitched together and extrapolated to form each city skyline. In this way ‘New City’ slips between the real and the imagined, between the documentary and the visionary, where speculative fictions become a way of exploring a world that the everyday struggles to grasp. To accompany the animations the authors Jeff Noon, Pat Cadigan and Tim Maughan have been invited to write a story for each skyline, to breathe life into its characters and cultures and give form to its streets and spaces through a suggestive narrative fragment. Original New City soundscapes have been developed by Coldcut. The animations have been commissioned by Z33 and are screening as part of ‘Future Fictions’.

This skyline is narrated by Pat Cadigan and is titled The City in the Sea. Read the short story below. 

Those silly yellow ducks came back from West GP, showing up right after one dog bell. Kids were so eager to see the Westies’ answering messages, they started jumping into the water, bobbing around with their floaties and tangling their tethers. Kids old enough to know better did, too. If I hadn’t had dog watch on the still, I mighta jumped in myself even though fourteen makes me a pre-adult.

I was just so bored. Four days outa the last seven, I’ve drawn still duty–not my dream job. I want tek stream. My mentor Shesea claims the fresh water distillery is the perfect place for an aspiring tekkie. But Klick’s mentor told her it’s vital for her and Klick wants meteorology. I guess all the mentors have to say that to fill the rota; somebody’s got to make sure the plastic keeps crying. I can’t wait for monsoon season and we fill up on rainwater. The sea can get pretty choppy and last year we had some scary-big waves. But the advantage of living in a plastic city is, you wibble and wobble but you never sink.

My mother rode out the KaiHuKa, short for Kai Hula Kahiko–”ocean hula.” The storm was so bad and lasted so long, they cut the Patch into modules with no more than a dozen people each. Mam was little then but she says she remembers every moment of being strapped into big puffy inflatables with her brother, and how he got seasick and yakked all the time, not just from chop but because he knew everyone’s pee got saved for filtration. The water tasted just like still; it was knowing where it came from. Uncle Jahid tells it vice versa. Me, I think it was both of them.

Afterwards, the pilots homed in on the Big Buoy signal to reunite and restore the Patch. Not everybody made it; some drowned and washed up on one island or another, and one just vanished altogether. Some people didn’t want to stay and cut themselves loose again. A few wanted to abolish the Patch altogether and tried to blow it up. I don’t know what they were thinking–stuff would just accumulate in the same place and without anyone to make use of it, it would just be a lot of crap for marine life to get tangled up in or choke on.

The official story is, they got deported, airlifted out by some island’s coast guard. But there are whispers that a pilot took them into the North Pacific Gyre and cut them loose with nothing but a good luck charm and five days’ worth of food and water–no smart-map, no radio, not even a beacon.

I wouldn’t really want to see another KaiHuKa but I kinda like the idea of cutting the Patch into pieces and rearranging them. Looking at the sat-receiver array and the solar collectors, I know I could position all of them better. I made a model out of beads and plastic remnants and showed it to my mentor. Shesea said I showed promise but I had a lot more still shifts to go before I got my hands on actual hardware.

And they say we’re a more flexible society than landlubbers. Sometimes I wonder.

New City
Liam Young
Tomorrows Thoughts Today

Project Team
Alexey Marfin
Zhan Wang

Soundscapes by Coldcut with additional sound design by Aneek Thapar

Jeff Noon
Pat Cadigan
Tim Maughan

Curated by Karen Verschooren and produced for Z33, Future Fictions Exhibition