Mosley, J. and Warren, S., eds. (2012) Beyond Utopia. Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press. ISBN 9780982743935
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Publisher's URL: http://www.errantbodies.org/Beyond_Utopia.html
Beyond Utopia is a project initiated by the collaborative practice of Sophie Warren and Jonathan Mosley with writer of art and architecture Robin Wilson. Initial stages of the project were funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. With reference to the American Marxist theorist Fredric Jameson and the French philosopher Louis Marin the particular value of utopian thinking is explored in Beyond Utopia, not as a medium of escapism per se, but rather as a critical tool with which to speculate and reveal the limits of our present 'reality' and its systems. Our aim was to generate a utopian architectural proposal for a real site and submit it to the scrutiny of the institutions that dominate the design and programming of city space in order to establish a critical dialogue with these institutions and find new sites of productive tension between the 'real' and the 'fictional'. As artists we engaged these institutions through playful provocation, drifting as provocateurs in and through the procedures, systems and languages of planning, architecture and city development. Our provocation, the utopian figure of the First Build, a work of fiction rather than an actualised programme in the world, seemed to gain life as it was recounted and discussed, its narrative shared, activated and engaged through dialogue with and by planning officials and reviewers. It began to imagine something 'other' for its real site beyond the desire and discourse of the institution and speculate how a 'next move' might be determined. The Next Move The 'next move' takes the form of a publication entitled Beyond Utopia which reads as a screenplay accompanied by six essays or creative contributions. The research process forms the backbone of the publication and the premise for a departure into fiction. The screenplay (of the utopian figure of the First Build) infiltrates the languages of planning and utopian fiction, weaving interviews into narrative form, blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, the theoretical and the imaginary to assert itself as a fictional reality. The theory within Beyond Utopia develops a contingent relationship with itself and 'writing-as-criticism'1 becomes writing as language. Writers from various fields are invited to fasten on to emergent concepts raised in the screenplay and develop their propositional nature and establish new grounds for speculation as to how to play utopia. The publication aims to provide a place for contributors to 'worry' at the intersections of art and architecture, the theoretical and the imaginary, fact and fiction. Contributors are invited to bear in mind the reader as a critical other in the conversation around the utopian figure of the First Build. The publication Beyond Utopia aims to provoke speculation, proposition and play in the reader in the idea of 'something missing'2 in the production of city space and urban relations and in the question 'what if?'. The publication will ask the reader how we can actively resist restrictive canons of standardisation to produce a 'specific sociability'3 and an emergent environment built collectively, spontaneously and in support. 1. Mel Bochner, Solar system & Rest Rooms: Writings and interviews, 1965-2007, (Cambridge, MA; MIT Press, 2008). Our exploration of writing-as-criticism in relation to fiction and the presentation of a screenplay as an artwork in some ways relates to Mel Bochner's testing of the boundaries between writing-as-criticism and writing-as-visual-art 2. Bertolt Brecht cited by Ernst Bloch, Utopia Station, What is a Station?, Curated by: Molly Nesbit, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija for the 2003 Venice Bienniale, http://www.e-flux.com/project/utopia/about.html, p.1, 13/03/2009. 3. Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, 1998. The other nominated contributors are: Brandon LaBelle -Co-editor of Errant Bodies Press, artist, writer. Maria Fusco -Artist, creative writer, Director of Writing, Goldsmiths. Marie-Anne McQuay -Curator, Spike Island. Paul O'Neill -Curator, theorist, art critic and writer, Research Fellow Situations, UWE. Elizabeth Price -Artist. Jane Rendell - Architectural designer, historian, art critic and writer. Director of Research at UCL. Lee Stickells- Academic, architect, Senior Lecturer at University of Sydney.
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