Tate Live Thought 2 'Rehearsal for Utopia'

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BMW TATE Live Thought Workshop 2 "A Rehearsal for Utopia" happened at amazing Victorian Hoxton Hall in London  

This post comes a week late, sometimes it takes longer to digest a really fulfilling event and understand how it contributes to current projects and ideas..  Such was the case of this second Tate Live Thought workshop, where we continued to develop each of our "ideas for change", this time specifically focusing on the concept of "Utopias".

Lunch and dinner was prepared for us by Mazí Mas, a roaming restaurant that creates employment opportunities for migrant and refugee women.  An amazing project by founder Nikki, advocate of social justice and women's rights, giving an opportunity for these women to share with the London public their traditional home cooking and story-tell their own lives.

“Utopian Consciousness wants to look far into the distance, but ultimately only in order to penetrate the darkness so near it, of the just lived moment, in which everything that is, both drives and is hidden from itself. In other words, we need the most powerful telescope, that of polished Utopian consciousness, in order to penetrate precisely the nearest nearness.”  Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, 1954-59

A talk from Dr Richard Noble, Head of Department and lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths with a background in political philosophy, also editor of the Whitechapel Gallery publication Utopias, presented the concept of Utopia and how artists and philosophers have approached it.  The main points I underline:

- Utopian ideas can be used to critic the way things are in the present. - Utopias challenge the myths that sustain our existing reality. - Utopia means not giving up hope. - Utopian projects in history have failed because these were independent 'utopianism': it fails to understand the conditions under which revolution is possible in large scale.  Failure of Utopian projects can also mean naive dreamers with good intentions, which deliver, naive solutions (Marx). - The thought of utopia in symbolic realm, it cannot be achieved but it can be present in creative art:  aesthetic production not political activity (Adorno).  In the process of creating is the representation of utopia not in content of what is said but in capacity to make things take shape.  "What happens if...?" - Critical utopianism can be a strategy for understanding the world, through projecting a better future it allows us to understand the present. - Utopia is a way of getting out of the trivial life, it resists conformity.


The practical workshop for the day was led by Andreas Lang of artists and architects Public Works.   We thought through our individual projects in 3 stages:

Now - Participants introduced where they are at present. my project 'Sometimes Change is Not about Changing' focuses on preserving traditional ways of making and producing, through knowledge transfer between old makers and new innovators.   I will be developing the tools to generate this conversation and eventually allowing for a knowledge transfer method.

Far - Scenario modeling in groups, visualizing and speculating on how ideas will develop over time and a collective future scenario. my project links well with Abby's (focusing on generating new Polymaths) and Chris' (focusing on a time-banking system).  We developed a future scenario where our 3 projects interlink in a story of a 'day in the life' in year 2500.

Near - Take action individually. The action that I chose to take was to begin writing a manifesto for 'Sometimes Change is Not about Changing' and the importance of preserving traditional ways of making and producing things - with out hands.  Using technology to allow for a time-capsule of these traditions so future generations can access, and present innovators can 'innovate from'.


As in the previous workshop, the group spirit and enthusiasm maintained, and as we grow to know each-other ideas begin to link together.  The wonderful phenomenon of collaboration begins to happen when someone is willing to let go of their own idea a bit, in order to make the group's collective idea work better.  The inter-cultural, inter-generational, inter-background gap we initially had, now begins to become common ground to develop ideas.   Regardless if they are accomplished or not, it is the notion that we all share, a common vision of the future we want as people, that is what will remain.

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