The Imaginary 20th Century is a historical comic novel, written by Norman M. Klein and Margo Bistis, and published by the media art museum ZKM. With a team of artists, the authors have invented a unique narrative engine where facts and fiction split off and return to each other. The viewer accompanies the characters across three continents.
In 1901, a woman named Carrie, while traveling in Europe, selects four men to seduce her, each with a version of the coming century. At least this is how the legend comes down to us. Inevitably, the future spills off course. We navigate through the suitors’ worlds; follow Carrie on her misadventures; discover what she and her lovers forgot to notice. Gradually we find out that Carrie’s life is implicated in her uncle’s world of business and political espionage. For over forty years, Harry Brown was hired by oligarchs to erase crimes that might prove embarrassing. Thus, as he often explains, espionage is a form of seduction. In 1917, Harry sets up a massive archive of his niece’s world. In 2004, Carrie’s archive is unearthed and assembled in Los Angeles.
Featuring an exploratory interface of 2,200 rare images, the unfolding engine of archive and novel works as a ‘wunder-roman’, with its reveals and contradictions. The Imaginary 20th Century is at once a comic picaresque and a treatise on the last century. It is a playful and yet deadly serious meditation on one sentence: “the future can only be told in reverse.”