1990, 22:41 min.
Rachel Rosenthal

Like the best of dystopian fiction, filename:FUTURFAX (1990) at first takes us in with the premise that the future is a technological utopia where problems of hunger, deprivation, uncertainty, and unhappiness have been solved forever. The narrator receives a fax from a future civilization after a great “crash,” sent through a time warp, written and clarified by a computer operated by a team of scientists sending good wishes. Whispers of uncertainty slip in when you hear that art is no longer made after being deemed “superfluous and subversive” by the lawmakers (they do tell jokes, however). Recalling 1984 and Brave New World, the future civilization is founded on total technocratic control and scientific “progress,” having become “de-deified” and losing religion because they control all the natural functions formerly ascribed to mysterious divinities. And then moral and social decorum are maintained thanks to “the implants” (“should we say that?”). Soon it’s revealed that some people suffer incredible fits of boredom, and some, labeled “deviants,” even escape to the world outside the domed structures of the SSC (self-sufficient communities). These deviants have set up a parallel civilization, one that our scientist reports with great astonishment appears to worship the very environment, in spite of the great hardships imposed by the natural world and the ruins of 20th century civilization. Humanity, at this unknown future date, is reduced to a population of comfortable citizens living in an environment where every element, including themselves, is controlled, and a group eking out an existence and sacrificing themselves in the work of making amends with the natural world, often becoming sick or dying during cooperative clean-ups of the ruins.

filename:FUTURFAX is emblematic of Rosenthal’s prominent themes of environmentalism and animal rights in her work, particularly the importance of preserving some areas of the earth from human impact and control. In spite of its initial optimistic feel, the work ultimately served as an expression of Rosenthal’s despair. “When working on the piece,” she said in a 1992 interview with OMNI magazine, “I was continually sobbing and feeling absolutely depressed by and frightened at what I was saying...I can't bear to see this extraordinary planet lose its wildness and become a human cybernetic machine as it will be if humans prevail.” Indeed, the messengers from the future identify the 1980s as the last possible point for positive change, but also recognize that their message won’t change the future they live in. It’s only in a post-script from the messaging computer that we learn the inhabitants of this future are all women, none capable of reproduction. The extinction of humanity is only a matter of time. - Described by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellow 2020/2021, Jess Speer.