Utopia Catalog

Ken Roemer writes:

The antique book collecting company Erasmushaus (hdb@erasmushaus)—Bäumleingasse 18, Postgach, CH-4001, Basel—has published a beautiful little catalogue (#927) entitled Utopia. The annotations are in English and the catalogue is loaded with illustrations.

Thanks Ken!

Dreams of Biology

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I was sent a copy of Dario Altobelli’s I Sogni Della Biologia: Utopia e Ideologia delle Scienze della Vita del Novecento, which I cannot read because I do not read Italian, but the title translates (roughly) to Dreams of Biology: Utopia and the Ideology of Life Science in the 20th Century. Those of you who do read Italian may want to check it out.

Political Uses of Utopia Workshop, April 18-19, 2013

Founder’s College at York University in Toronto presents the Political Uses of Utopia Workshop, April 18-19, 2013.

The workshop features scholars representing different traditions and perspectives within political theory. The goal is to explore in a focused manner what the idea of utopia and different forms of utopianism can contribute to political thought across different traditions, including liberalism, radical democracy, anarchism, Marxism, Critical Theory, environmentalism, and feminism. Six leading international scholars have been invited, together with six emerging scholars, to lead a discussion with students and faculty from local universities as well as a more general public on the different possibilities for thinking utopia politically.

On each of the workshop’s two days, three sessions will be held during the day at Founder’s College at York University in Toronto. The first two will be introduced by papers by leading scholars in different subfields of political theory, to be followed by questions from the audience. The third, afternoon session will be launched by a panel in which the presenters will be joined by three emerging scholars; together, they will seek to engage the audience in a more general discussion of the themes that have arisen so far.

In order to facilitate involvement, texts will be circulated texts in advance—those the speakers will present and/or others chosen by them to serve as a basis for discussion—both by email among the participants and more broadly by means of a website constructed for this purpose. Each day will then culminate in a public lecture by a senior political theorist whose work on utopia has not yet attained the attention it deserves within English-language political theory.

For more information please email Nika Jabbarova (event coordinator) at nikaj@yorku.ca

 

Utopia Could Be the Answer

 

From Ken Roemer: “Via snail mail Mickey Abrash, one of the two founders (along with Art Lewis) of SUS, sent me this photo he found in his file. The photo was taken in the “Speaker’s Corner” in London. MIckey said it was sent to him in 1984. He doesn’t know who the sign holder was. Maybe someone in cyberland can identify him.”

It would be interesting indeed to see if anyone out there knows who this is. Either way, it is an interesting photo. Enjoy.

—ed.

New Harmony Then and Now

About a week ago, I received a book in the mail from Indiana University Press called New Harmony Then and Now, that the press describes as follows: “New Harmony Then and Now is a photographic and historic celebration of two of America’s great Utopian communities located in New Harmony, Indiana. The Harmonists, started by George Rapp, labored to provide physical, intellectual, and spiritual wealth for its members. Ten years later, the Owenites, founded by Robert Owen and his partner William Maclure, settled there, intent on improving humanity through innovations in social theory, educational systems, and discoveries in natural science. Though Owen’s communal experiment would not endure, a new social frontier prospered. Today, New Harmony remains a haven of promise, a village that honors its progressive heart. Intellectuals as well as artisans are drawn to this place of science and spirit.”

This is a beautiful book with beautiful pictures, and I recommend you check it out. —AH

The Open Utopia

“. . . though no one owns anything, everyone is rich.” —Thomas More

You may have seen the fliers for The Open Utopia on the tables at the Welcome Reception at this year’s SUS annual meeting, but if you haven’t yet visited the site, here’s what it’s all about: Stephen Duncombe has created an open version of Thomas More’s Utopia, “open to read, open to copying, open to modification.” The latter refers specifically to “an annotatable and ‘social’ text available for visitors to comment upon what More – or [Duncombe] – have written, and then share their comments with others.” There are even audio versions of Utopia, “user-generated galleries of Utopia-themed art and videos,” and “[f]or people interested in creating their own plan of an alternative society, . . . a wiki with which to collaborate with others in drafting a new Utopia.” Additionally, “all the letters and commendations, as well as the marginal notes, that were included in the first four printings of [Utopia in] 1516-1518 in which More himself had a hand” are included.

Duncombe has clearly put a lot of work into this project, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Do so at http://theopenutopia.org/home/.

Building Expectation: Past and Present Visions of the Architectural Future

The David Winton Bell Gallery will present Building Expectation: Past
and Present Visions of the Architectural Future from September 3
through November 6. An opening reception and lecture by the exhibition
curator Nathaniel Walker will be held on Friday, September 9, from
5:30–7:30 p.m.

It has been said that the past is a foreign country—but it is the
future that remains undiscovered. Despite the obvious truth that no
one has been to the future, that no one has even seen a photograph of
it, the last two centuries have witnessed the rise of a body of visual
codes and tropes that are commonly seen and understood as
“futuristic.” These “progressive” or “modern” attributes are derived
from an entirely imaginary landscape, indicative of a destination that
is impossible to visit; yet nearly everyone can recognize the place
where no one has been.

Building Expectation: Past and Present Visions of the Architectural
Future offers a glimpse into this undiscovered country, presenting a
collection of historic and ongoing visions of the future from the
nineteenth century until the present day. The focus of the show is
less upon canonical designers or art-historical movements and more
upon broadly based, popular speculation in the public sphere. The
exhibition’s content has been drawn from a number of university
libraries and private collections, as well as the Swiss
state-supported museum of utopia known as the Maison d’Ailleurs (House
of Elsewhere). Many of these objects have never before been exhibited
in the United States.

The “world of tomorrow” has usually been imagined first and foremost
as a place—the new Promised Land, the millennial landscape. And
architecture, cast since the Enlightenment as the calling card for
cultural and technological periods in the “grand narrative” of human
development and progress, has always been one of the future’s most
revealing and recognizable features. The exhibition’s collection of
past architectural visions has been divided into three categories,
each highlighting a different motive or guiding principle in the
crafting of future worlds. First are imaginary places designed to
articulate and support political reform schemes, such as Robert Owen’s
early-Victorian industrial paradise of New Harmony, brought to life in
the highly detailed drawings he published to advocate a new world
order framed by garden-filled Gothic factories-for-living. The second
group of futuristic visions consists of exotic locales crafted to make
money on the open market by functioning as amusing and/or inspiring
distractions, such as the sparkling, whirring glass cities which fill
early-twentieth century pulp magazines and utopian romance novels.
The final category of past visions is made up of futuristic cityscapes
constructed to lend the prestige and promise of “the future” to
personalities, products, and corporations by cleverly (and often
beautifully) drawn lines of association, such as Syd Mead’s 1969
“Portfolio of Probabilities” commissioned by United States Steel.
Considered together, the many futuristic codes created and deployed in
these different categories of vision are revealed not as truly
“forward-looking” glimpses of tomorrow, but rather as artifacts of the
past that have been aesthetically formed and have acquired meaning in
historical processes of their own.

The final portion of the exhibition is dedicated to contemporary
visions of the future, chosen or commissioned for their makers’
ability to continue the critical conversation about the “world of
tomorrow.” A number of the participants offer futuristic design
paradigms that openly defy some of the most persistent dogmas of
progressive Modernism, while others take the conceptual processes of
technological evolution to their furthest extremes. All of them call
into question those aspects of “the future” that have been, and often
still are, taken for granted. Artists such as Pippi Zornoza, Jane
Masters, and Brian Knep, all based in New England, have created large
installations that are architectural in their scope as well as their
content. Others such as Swiss artist Christian Waldvogel and the
urban design firm DPZ are showing works resulting from years of study
and refinement in sites around the world.

Spanning the gap between past visions and contemporary concepts of the
future is a new drawing by illustrator Katherine Roy. It depicts the
wonderful but deeply troubled city of “Industria,” a radiant urban
landscape described in the largely forgotten 1884 novel Ignis by Comte
Didier de Chousy. A fevered, delirious paradise, it is the stage for a
satirical tragic comedy of utopian proportions, and Roy’s illustration
speaks on multiple levels to the past and ongoing cultural processes
that may be said to “build expectation.”