Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 7:41PM
Curator

utopia:dystopia is an ambitious series of exhibitions and events planned for the city of Bath during 2016. This creative initiative is inspired by the 500th anniversary of the publication of Utopia, Thomas More's reflections on the idea of an ideal society. Since 1516, the year of Utopia's release, the world has witnessed countless attempts to establish a perfectly ordered community, in reality as well as in print.  Yet the frequent outcome of such ambitions has been the decay of Utopia into Dystopia. From no-place to bad-place. In modern times the two concepts seem inseparable.

FaB16 is inviting artists in all media to particiate in a series of imaginative responses to the themes of utopia or dystopia, or both. The FaB projects are being complemented, or supported, by events involving other Bath-based cultural organisations, including Bath Fringe, Bath Spa University, the Holburne Museum and Komedia. 

The key exhibition and performance venue is Walcot Chapel, one of Bath's most popular locations for contemporary art. Artworks of all kinds are invited for submission, whether image, object or sound, moving or still, interior or exterior. We are also encouraging submissions by performance artists. We are open to wide and personal interpretations of the themes.

We are open to wide and personal interpretations of the themes - from the most public expression of these themes to the most private and intimate - from politics, society, the global environment to inner workings of the mind and personal identity.     

We intend to explore one question proactively: What could be a utopian art for our times? This question acknowledges the fact that the concept of an ideal way of living has lost its appeal for many people, not least after a century of utopian projects (of both right and left) causing the deaths of millions and bringing the world close to annihilation. In modern culture, for every utopian fantasy there are a dozen dystopian nightmares. Yet isn't the growing determination to rebalance humankind's relationship with the natural order a utopian project on a global scale? And if this utopian ambition is not realised, will that not lead to a dystopia of unprecedented proportions?

We have already started to engage with artists who are keen to address these questions, and we wish to invite more - to work together but in their own, distinctive terms. We seek artists with the urge to physically and conceptually transform Walcot Chapel into a place of exploration and inquiry, through site-specific installations, artworks, activities, workshops and conversations. The precise nature of these interventions will be defined by the artists, but we aspire to make Walcot Chapel a zone of flowing activity during the course of the FaB fortnight. 

In addition to the Walcot Chapel initiatives, we are a planning a one-day event on Bank Holiday Monday, May 30, which will feature the participation of both artists and public. The Utopian Promenade at Sydney Gardens is an open invitation to groups and individuals to create a free-flowing and spontaneous happening in the manner of the promenades of self-presentation that frequently took place in Bath's most celebrated pleasure garden - during the city's golden age, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This occasion presents an opportunity for inspired dressing-up with no rules, and also for spontaneous performance, music and dance. Into this freeflowing movement we invite artists to introduce periods of concentration and structure. 

In addition to the Walcot Chapel initiatives, we are a planning a one-day event on Bank Holiday Monday, May 30, which will invite the participation of both artists and public. The Utopian Promenade at Sydney Gardens is an open invitation to groups and individuals to create a free-flowing and spontaneous happening in the manner of the promenades of self-presentation that took place each day in Bath's most celebrated pleasure garden, during the city's golden age, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This occasion presents an opportunity for inspired dressing-up with no rules, and also for spontaneous performance, music and dance. Into this freeflowing movement we invite artists to introduce periods of concentration and structure. The Holburne Museum is offering us a fabulous interior/exterior stage for spectacular display.

We are also encouraging promenaders of a more dystopian kind. After all, golden age Bath may have been utopian in its architectural and social ambition but it also betrayed dystopian tendencies.  At the height of its worldy fame, it was closer in reality to Las Vegas than Arcadia. And, like many prominent cities of the time, Bath was a city funded by the proceeds of illegal gambling, prostitution and that most dystopian of enterprises, slavery, as well as high-class entertainment.

Utopians and Dystopians alike will be made welcome to the post-promenade ball. 

Complementary events during the course of the Fab fortnight (and on other dates during 2016) include: a Utopia-Dystopia Symposium, organised by Bath Spa University; presentations of storytelling, poetry, film and ambulatory art; musical offerings; and works by notable visual artists in prominent venues throughout the city. We shall also be creating a utopia:dystopia website, again with the collaboration of Bath Spa University.This website is intended to continue as a longterm resource, beyond the events of 2016.

 

 

 

Article originally appeared on Fringe Arts Bath Festival (http://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/).
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