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Utopia

Responses

Week One

There were several points that particularly stood out to me from the readings, probably because I have either been thinking about similar issues and haven’t been able to distinctly verbalize them, or they provided to me a new perspective of the absolutely loaded word “Utopia.”
Starting with the excerpt of Thomas More’s Utopia in the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, I found it exciting how More’s ideas fit into the context of the then contemporary world he was living in and thus critiquing. The poverty, crime, and political corruption of England (and beyond) during the 1500’s is contrasted here with the Utopian ideals of harmony, equality, stability, exclusivity and prosperity. Yet within the description of the Utopian culture and (un)laws, there is a vast assortment of contradictions, which in fact, do not translate as Utopia in the least.
These contradictions also reflect More’s contemporary world, but to a reader in the year 2011, we find numerous flaws. Some of these include; abolition of private property and the existence of slaves (as well as engaging in philanthropic practice towards other nations, yet still the existence of slaves in Utopia); emphasis on equality, but with wives still subservient to their husbands, and segregation by sex (also, again, slaves subservient to their masters who do not own them); claims of Utopia as being highly developed and sophisticated, yet with trade school as the only educational system for its citizens; and the freedom of religion, but a limited freedom of expressing those religious beliefs.
This communicates to me an extension of a discussion we have had in class briefly about Utopian principles and strategic city planning in that it is nearly impossible to plan or even think about a Utopian goal or a potential “best” way to live without commenting on or involving the current practices at work. If someone plans to build a city, or even just a product, that is slightly different than but better than the here and now, people will be able to conceptualize it and accept it as a possibility. If an idea is too out of the ordinary or unfamiliar to the society in which it is effecting, the people won’t buy it. In this way, Utopia has to be a conglomeration of pre-existing practices, notions, laws, and ways of cultural life known at the time.
In the UTOPIAS reading, I found the incorporation of language into societies and ideas for better living to be particularly interesting. Identifying utopian goals naturally illuminates the limitations of the world, therefore leading to a dystopian reality. Similarly, it was noted in a few of the passages that the discussion of Utopia cannot be had without addressing what is wrong or unjust. This makes it impossible to discuss utopia in a positive way, making the term innately negative. I also was struck by the notion that science cannot be utopian. What about the idealistic goal of complete understanding? Isn’t it considered dystopian to live in a world with secrets or information kept from you? I suppose this is because scientific inquiry ignores the emotional or intuitive forces that push or pull someone toward leading an idealistic life. Maybe it’s just too realistic. And with “utopia” meaning “no place”…
A good majority of the passages mentioned a common theme—the encouragement to move from passive to active, or idle to engaged. In Orwell’s 1984 excerpt, the commandment “Thou shalt not steal” becomes “Thou shalt work in order to live happily.” This incorporates the psychology of the reader/listener of these commandments or principles as being another entire function of the Utopian intention, with a brainwashing effect.
In mentioning the intention, I came across a standstill in the readings that didn’t resolve itself, and therefore created a tension in me while reading, but also afterwards. I have been thinking about it extensively and can’t seem to fully realize how to address it. Maybe it’s a personal issue. A few moments discussed the political tendency in Utopian art, and how the forms that utopian artworks take can be one of four; a model, a manifesto, design/technology, or collaborative actions. Later on in the text, Richard Noble mentions “a small paradise, one’s childhood, a hot summer afternoon in the country, peace, forgotten values, simple pleasures.”
The term “simple pleasures” is quite the opposite of a distinctly defined political critique offering an alternative counterpoint or plan for the future. I wish the reading had gone into it more, but I am wondering whether one is an arguably more successful strategy in art-making than another? What about the work that suggests no definitive political critique, but only offers the simple pleasures? And is it possible to measure the success of these utopian artworks? To critique them? This brings into question the intent of the artist; if the intent is achieved, then logic says it must be considered a success. Is it enough to just put art out into the world and hope that it resonates with someone somewhere?
Apibal 02:00, 6 October 2011 (UTC)

Week Two

When addressing utopian art, change and progress are inevitable topics of discussion. Where are we as a society? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? The problematic idea of progress in the 1970’s depicts how a society can fall into chaos and confusion, searching for positive and measurable change, incapable of directly confronting the frustrations caused by our lacking sense of unity, community, justice and nationalism. The issues raised in the 70’s including the oil crisis, race riots, rise in divorce levels, abandonment of inner cities, collapsing youth culture, and the rise of feminism creating an additional tension within communities, which led to the popularity and somewhat escapist genre of science fiction, made me think about how our current view on progress relates to our notion of utopia.
Today, the world is constantly under construction. Natural disasters, healthcare reform, economic depravity with little future promise. The Gulf spill and inevitable disappearing of resources, massive accumulation of debt, rise of reality television. Overwhelming technology wave that we allow to consume us with progressively more and younger people constantly being “hooked up,” creating a collapse of immediate social unity (however ironic). A standstill in the fine arts and the role of the artist, and the rapid decrease in the quality of Saturday morning cartoons. We are left as a people struggling to find relevance in art and searching for this measurable change. We are no longer satisfied with the art that complains about the world or simply points out unjust practices, but we also do not expect art to completely revolutionize the world anymore. Wochenklausur’s “art should…” statements reflect this, suggesting that through activism and agitation, we set modest goals with the more realistic potential of achieving them.
In the excerpts “Predicament of Contemporary Art” and “Art of the Possible,” an interesting tension is presented. The culture of the artist as rebellious and oppositional has been eliminated, steering us further away from conflict, even though we are increasingly removing ourselves from the confines of a museum, and addressing public space as one of the few remainders of identity and unmediated interaction. However, if creativity flourishes because of diversity, not consensus, then how do we reconcile this with our ambitions of a unified utopia? This is where the inherent totalitarianism surfaces. If we use creative, innovative, and active thought to see a glimpse of utopian ideals, then become satisfied and stagnant, settling into complacent happiness, the search for utopia creates a cycle—a direction, not a destination.
The most enjoyable part of the reading for me was the parallel between Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol as oppositional representations of art practices because it was so precise and accurate. Both were active during the 1960’s, but with radically different approaches of creating work. Beuys plays the role of therapeutically-oriented, warm, active, and solution-based artist; Warhol plays the media-oriented, cold, passive, problem-based artist. If we’re talking metaphors, Beuys is a window, and Warhol is a mirror. Their philosophies, which can be summarized by the expressions “love of life” and “love of death,” are reflected in the methods and materials of their work. Beuys uses modest, human, everyday, mundane materials like fat, wax, felt, and brown paint (similar to Thomas Hirschhorn who does so to break down the artist’s ego and create accessibility to his work), and Warhol uses detached industrial processes, the narcissistic practice of photography, stark repetition and desensitization. This takes me back to one of the early statements in the reading; Wochenklausur writes, “Theoretically, there is no difference between artists who do their best to paint pictures, and those who do their best to solve social problems.” I suppose an artist is an artist is an artist, but I find that to be a lazy dismissal of an otherwise exciting and provocative sentiment. I believe there is a difference between these two artists, but not on the evaluative level. (How can you measure success anyway?) Apibal 02:00, 6 October 2011 (UTC)really nice!

Week Three

As Liam Gillick points out, utopia is a problematic concept. At this point in our class discussions, we have come across as much. He suggests that those who believe art is inherently utopian are fools, and those artists who find utopian aesthetics or ideas to be of interest are blind to making actual, productive change. Can an artist not make change with an ideal goal in mind? But we can take advantage of this perspective. Superflex talked about using art because of what it is capable of doing—disrupting of communications, expectations, boundaries, territories, schemata—free from conventional thought and action, allowing for experimentation. The use of individual, small-scale utopias as a building block and source of discussion generation is valuable; the work is successful, if for nothing else, for having this conversation included in the public debate. I appreciate also the way Gillick proposed that we can use the complexity, contradictions, and errors in utopian ideals as a tool for thought generation and a conversation starter in the gallery. Using utopia as fuel for thought, we can then challenge and motivate each other with more support and dynamism. Once we set aside our grand notions of what utopia should be, we can create a more productive and attainable model for action (the land project). Let us make the distinction between utopian utopia and realistic utopia, if that makes sense.

If we remove the active, participatory, conversational and socially-engaged work being created from not only the context of art but also of social work, we can extend our work and our ideas beyond traditional boundaries into an unknown place, which provokes curiosity from viewers and art-makers. This in itself has utopian implications, and acts a kind of realistic utopia. If artists are able to use art for its advantageous catalyst qualities, and remove it from its disadvantageous categorization qualities, we can create a provocative discussion around which genuine interest is sparked in the viewers, we could potentially reach a greater number of people and give way to a broader and more fundamental understanding of positive thinking and creative solutions to everyday life’s problems. This ideology was reflected in the No Ghost Just a Shell project; Annlee was liberated from the confines of its story and the representational image. It exists in between, but also beyond the categories of art and literature, leaving it in a curious no-space, provoking more thought than not.

Antony Gormley suggests that the artist as object-maker is dying, or at least being left behind by the artist as globally conscious positive creator. The object-maker defined purely as one that makes objects will stick around, and can even participate in a more globally conscious creation of objects. What Gormley is saying is the traditional mindset and culture around what he refers to as object-making, is no longer desirable, if needed. It does not address these pertinent issues and is in this way, selfish and irrelevant to life right now. People need more than just a painting to look at or a sculpture to walk around. Ilya Kabokov mentions the inherent human tendency to leave something behind; leave our mark on the world, often taking the form of object creation. This is how we establish who we are—creating as an act of validation or proof of existence. Is there anything wrong with wanting to contribute to this pile of the left-behind by making objects? I think we just need to find a way to include a critical engagement with the context of contemporary art while doing what it is we want, which will deem it not only relevant, but useful—to more than just the artist’s ego.
Apibal 02:00, 6 October 2011 (UTC)also really nice...--Dsherefkin 02:13, 6 October 2011 (UTC)

Week Four

A few readings from this week discussed disposability and suggested it as a potentially utopian idea. Dan Graham’s ‘Homes for America’ exist apart from standards of good architecture and are not built to satisfy individual needs or tastes. But Americans are known to value choice highly; an offshoot of consumerism/capitalism, which makes me question: Are options inherently utopian? And if so, are too many options dystopian? The disposability of these standardized houses are immediate and short-lived, serving no other function than a (cheap) place to live. Catherine Bernard’s thoughts on scientific “progress”—regarding plastic surgery, preservation of life at all costs, reproduction manipulation, etc.—explore the disposability of the physical body, and therefore reality. In discussing digital networks, which have become an extension of the self, a kind of prosthetic limb, one can also say that we are being removed from our physical bodies, suggesting again the disposability of the body, human interaction, and identity. The performances provide an opportunity for bodies to exist in different spaces without being necessarily negatively pitted against each other and “reflect on the blurring of our perception of different levels of reality.”

I appreciated the brief discussion of the fall of formalism in contemporary art, especially responding to the quote: “What he calls a ‘gallery aesthetics’ is just a set of strategies for making that artists can use now because they are more pragmatic and pluralistic, and have a handle on formalism’s pitfalls.” Our narrow historical context in which we place the critical analysis of artworks could be slighting the creativity of form. We adhere to standards predetermined by the past, for talking about our work in the present and planning our work for the future. There is a certain anti-academic suggestive tone here, which is encouraging. We need to think outside of these restrictive prescriptions. This made me think about artwork with inner logic forming a coherent separate world, whether or not it can be fully verbalized or broken down. How to achieve this understandable organization? How can a non-representational, non-referential, apolitical and amoral piece of art simply “make sense” within the realm of itself. Inner logic as a form of idealism or utopianism is highly intriguing to me.

The necessity for religious language also connects to this idea. If a large number of us are not religious believers, but religious speakers, then the universality of this language and the ability to disregard religious differences in order to address issues in our communities, then disposability in this case is absolutely utopian.

Week Five

Jackson talks about human nature as it pertains to imposing structures on geography, conquering environments, and ownership of land—relating to either the political or inhabited landscapes, or both. These landscapes can be talked about as separate identities, but in reality, they can only be understood in coexistence. They are constantly changing and adapting and informing each other. The road serves as a perfect metaphor for dependency and relationships between people, which relates to his discussion on boundaries in a satisfying, self-referential and continuous way in that just as a boundary is established to isolate, protect, and prevent, a road is created as a means of bringing together, communicating, and the “strengthening and maintenance of a social order” (22).

The natural landscape provides a stage on which the political landscape can take form, but often times, we impose on the natural landscape, despite topography or geography, our systematized political man-made structures (highways, the grid, etc.), leaving the two landscapes in tension with each other, battling for dominance instead of searching for balance.

Public sphere—maybe a reason we don’t sit around and talk about our ideas as much as we used to is because we don’t have the public space to do it anymore and these new public spaces aren’t conducive to the kind of interactions we want to gain from them. A strip mall doesn’t allow for that kind of social interaction and conversation. A flea market, like Jackson stated, is an unpredictable public space—do we need a public space to be predictable? So that people can willingly decide to enter knowing that it implies we are being an active member of society? Is the economic exchange of buying and selling enough? Although there are currently no ideas in dialogue there, besides the color of a brooch or the quality of a weed whacker, that doesn’t mean there is no potential in these newly found public spaces. Maybe we just need to celebrate the opportunities these congregations rise and find a way to activate these new spaces, instead of longing for the “lost” ones.

Week Nine?

Utopia Matters

These historical essays diverge from and expand on the following tensions, conflicts, and contradictions present in utopian theory and present in some manifestos:

  • primitive versus modern (emphasizing the pre-industrial versus embracing the technological)
  • religious versus humanist views
  • social purpose versus individual purpose
  • pragmatism versus aestheticism
  • pragmatism versus religious conviction
  • labor versus leisure
  • individualism versus the strong community
  • success versus failureA

I was interested in the suggestion that the terms utopia and dystopia have come to be one in the same, in some respects. Because they are so intrinsically tied, and every utopia has in a sense failed, then it is that much more tragic. Its demise is its totalitarian construction, antithetical to its purpose, but essential to its function. We can no longer discuss utopia as a thought on its own, so perhaps a new term must be assigned, that includes both levels of what seems to be one thought process. Atopia? Ambitopia? (These aren’t completely serious, but it is an interesting thought.)

Clearly, some of these thinkers, philosophers and artists have been developing, recycling, adjusting and appropriating the same themes throughout generations, and we will continue to do so. We will keep checking back in on and trying to reconcile the relationships of art and religion, practicality, class relations in regard to labor and leisure art activity, activism in art, creating functional and successful community spaces, beauty, and realism. We will continue to search and plan for utopia, despite its irrational, paradoxical, unrealistic and overly-romanticized qualities. This is because we are problem-solvers, thinkers, and builders by nature. Apibal 22:00, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Work

Manifesto and Image

Manifesto on Movement:


1. Movement facilitates learning and the building of neural pathways.
So move often.

2. We get restless and anxious when we go long periods of time without moving.
So move often.

3. We get bored with too much of the same thing.
So move happily.

4. We get lost if we wander.
So move with intent.

5. We like games.
So play with movement.

6. We demand freedom and say we won't settle for less.
So move honestly and freely.

7. No one likes to be lonely.
So move with others.

8. Not everyone likes to be alone.
Learn to like it.

9. Every movement is a transition.
So keep exploring.

10. Every movement is valid.
So move confidently.

Here is a video of my project based loosely on these principles, in addition to ideas of social structures pressuring people to adhere to certain unwritten rules or behavior, the monotony of daily routines and fear of breaking out of them, and protecting ourselves to the point of suffocation and/or immobility.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0oq_F70meo&feature=related Apibal 02:00, 6 October 2011 (UTC)

Proposal

I am interested in developing a unique coding or visual language for documenting movement and personal interaction, as a kind of data visualization. I have been researching choreographic documentation techniques and mapping systems, but more research is necessary. I would like to explore this in 2-d and 3-d work, as well as performance. I also am going to continue working on creating delightful small-scale performances that explore the idea of a "pleasant surprise." I know it's a broad idea, but I think the coding/mapping work will occupy most of my work in this class this term.
Apibal 02:05, 10 November 2011 (UTC) Some visual thoughts I have stuck in my head that I would like to realize through performance at some point maybe:
-suit of armor inspired protection, walking (oversized heavy backpack dragging)
-pods of children/wombs--watering can
-mowing very tall grass, children follow
-crawling slug people
-bucket of bouncy balls
-race through different mediums/obstacles
-balance beam
-gathering things, flowers, handing them out
-ice cream on heads?
-run down hill with material cape/wings
-maze or videogame like structure--get the key and find the treasure
-platforms, ladders and ropes going up and down/ playgrounds
-building together
-memory viles--sand, water, bugs, detritus, clothing
-ankles deep, knee deep in diff. stuff
-unrolling a carpet while someone walks
Apibal 02:05, 10 November 2011 (UTC)