Carnival of Futures: one step at a time like this

one step at a time like this are a collective of performance artists who specialize in transforming the “audience” into the performer, through a unique approach to contemporary arts practice. Bridgette Engler and I were approach by one step about a year ago, to ostensibly “help them” with a futures project. Bridgette and I designed a creative and interactive process of two half-day workshops that would run them through a foresight process to envision the futures of contemporary arts practice – 50-100 years from now. However in what might be described as “inversion” or “entrapment”, we the futurists soon found ourselves being repurposed as props and performers in their own mad, inspired and brilliant reconfiguration of what we understand to be futures studies….

How did we end here in the first place?

Often it’s a question we ask ourselves when something has gone horribly wrong! In this case, we were delighted to become “futurists as props”, but the road here was both interesting and strange.

We had a number of “client” meeting with them over the course of a few months. Basically everything we threw at them, weak signals, causal layered analysis, design futures, mangled rusted nails, etc they chewed up and devoured. Many clients want the facilitator to do the brain work and make it all sweet and easy, and fair enough!!! Execs are pressured to perform, managers must manage. But this crew were different, they became true students, immersing themselves in our world.

After this we designed a futuring process that we thought they would enjoy and which would help them envision the futures of contemporary arts practice:

Half Day 1 

  • Forecasting game
  • Harman Fan scenario building

Half Day 2

  • CLA using Lego Serious Play
  • Integrated Visioning

Process Day 1

Forecasting Game

The forecasting game combined elements of emerging issue analysis (Graham Molitor) and  weak signals / future sign (Elina Hiltunen).

We started out by generating a list of “emerging issue” based on a brain storming process and with some dot voting.


Here is the list of issues with dot voting on key / interesting ones


We then ran a forecasting game based on the work of Elina Hiltunen (weak signals). Each made bets and wagers with funny money based on their assessment of whether an issue was weak to strong

Harman Fan 

Using these same issues as a basis, here Bridgette explains the Harman Fan scenario process


Here they are beginning to organise issues chronologically and narratively


and more organising


and more


Harman Fan is starting to take shape in a 100 year time frame …


final form of Harman Fan


Fan debrief with Bridgette

Process Day 2

Doing CLA with Lego serious play

We guided them through the layers of Causal Layered Analysis. One the downswing…  Litany, Systems, Worldview, Myth / Metaphor. On the upswing, what is the new myth / metaphor, what is the new culture, what are empowering systems / structures aligned to this, and what are the new KPIs, how do we measure this new narrative direction?

starting off with Causal Layered Analysis using Lego Serious Play


beginning to explore litany


litany constructions


exploring and crafting systems level problems


reviewing systems level


connecting up the systems into structural understanding


and deeper


and deeper


to worldview level / cultural depictions


and the statements around the “stakeholder’s” worldview


and more


working at myth metaphor level


and reframing


more reframing


and more


the mythic legoscape

Integrated Scenarios 

We used the integrated scenarios method developed by Sohail Inayatullah, with the group doing skits for each scenario.

depicting the used future


depicting the preferred future


depicting the disowned future


depicting the integrated scenario


depicting the outlier future

The aftermath

After the workshop we had some very good conversations about futures / foresight more generally. They were to take the experiences from the workshop as material to develop their performance. They hinted at the question of whether we might be interested in playing a part, which we were, but there was no idea as to what this might be.

A few months later, one step brought us in to see what they had in mind. Indeed, we were more than props, and had become active elements in their production. In the lead up to a showing, where the one step performance would be experienced by a cohort, we did a few runs and began to inhabit and play parts in their futures imaginarium.

The showing itself happened a few weeks later, where we got to experience the whole “performance”. In short, what they put together was amazing, rivalling anything I have seen or experienced. It was a remarkable fusion of futures and art, with unexpected combinations and hybrids – true “mutant futures”.

Where to from here?

Fast forward a year later, and one step have established this as a bona fide “performance” that the public can experience for themselves, called Carnival of Futures. The show will run from Wed 8 Aug to Sun 19 Aug (2018), at the Arts House in North Melbourne. Here as well is the Facebook page where tickets can be bought.

Here is their overview: 

How do we create the future?

one step at a time like this have created theirs using two futurists.

Carnival of Futures is a series of one-on-one micro-performances that dance around questions, insights and predictions of our personal and collective futures. A cavalcade – well, five or six – of experiential provocations, from the individual to the global, from science to seer, conjured to let you envision a pathway for the times ahead.

Share breakfast with a mutant futurist, kneel before an oracle, journey to your own end, measure your hope/lessness – or simply have a lie down.

A chance to pause and imagine, face difficulties and obstacles, Carnival of Futures invites you to reflect, act and ‘dream forward’.

“…few performances manage to so completely tear through the bubble of reserve in which we spend most of our lives.” RealTime, on en route

one step at a time like this (Suzanne Kersten, Clair Korobacz, Julian Rickert)
Collaborating Futurists:
Bridgette Engeler, Jose Ramos
Associate Creative:
Sharon Thompson
Lighting Designer:
John Ford
Associate Artist:
Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy
Erin Milne (Bureau of Works)
UK Producer:
Richard Jordan Productions
Supported by – Carnival of Futures is supported by the Besen Family Foundation, Bureau of Works, Richard Jordan Productions, and the City of Melbourne through Arts House. It was developed through CultureLAB.