Misquoting Stephen Hawking


Why do we remember the past but not the future?

— Stephen Hawking, 1991.

When the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking poses this strange question in 1991, in an autobiographical film, he does it so in the context of explaining his early curiosity and interest in learning how time works, and how it moves three-dimensionally through the universe.
Here in turn, in an act of tribute and misleading appropriation, his query is taken as a motto to question the influence that past and future narratives exert on our understanding of the present, and consequently our ability to act upon it. Through its overlapping with an Automated Cellular simulation exercise, commonly referred to as “Forest Fire” for its similar effect to the circular destruction and regeneration of a forest fire, the question is re-articulated and associated with the symbiotic temporal cycles of life and death.
The “why” of remembering the past but not the future is redirected and pointed to our inability to look at the present without normalizing it. Even against all that is possible and impossible to calculate about the now, and especially about what will come. We ought to remember the future, not in search of a nostalgic hope of philosophical becoming, but in search of a perception of the present as something more than an isolated point in a continuous line. An understanding of the present as an interconnected and sympoietic atmosphere in which our now is only one among millions of nows. Nows that do not belong to us, but with which we share a natural pact of responsibility.



Video 4’, 2018
Quote by Stephen Hawking (‘Stephen Hawking – A Brief Story of Time’ by Errol Morris, 1991) and visual clips taken from a cellular automata code simulation by Ehal256 (posted online as ‘Forest Fire Cellular Automata’, 2014)




November 2018, Treino de Bancada, Open Studio Campanice, OPorto.
May 2018, Lote #1,Poste_Matosinhos, curated by Luísa Abreu and João Baeta, Mercearia S. Miguel, Matosinhos.