ART IN THE TIME OF COVID – Revised Utopias

Two years ago I was asked if I could come to Alaska and give a lecture in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau to the Alaska Design Forum. I said maybe we should do it on Skype to keep carbon in the ground, but then there was talk of doing a commission, so I agreed to come and spend some of the time looking for a site and working with scientists and indigenous communities. So, in fact I have always wanted to go to Alaska – so it was on until Covid struck, so we were back to Zoom. My talk was the last in the series for 2020 on the subject of Revised Utopias and took place on last Tuesday 8th. It was open to people all over the world.

Normally with a live audience, I put up images and just talk in a kind of performance, but with Zoom you talk to a dead screen, so for the first time I actually had to have a detailed script, so I could stay on message and to time.

Here is my opening statement:

Revised Utopia

 Sir Thomas More coined the word ‘utopia’, in 1516 from the Greek ou-topos meaning ‘no place’ or ‘nowhere’ andeu-topos; meaning ‘a good place’. This is a contradiction in terms because to have no place – no home is a catastrophe and has happened to many peoples in the history of the human race. A good place suggests a feeling of belonging – a home

 Utopia is also a state of mind and we have been living in a dystopia where we take from the Earth more than we need to live. We burn fossil fuels stored in the earth for millennia. We deplete our own and others environments to the point that biodiversity is diminished and we face the biggest species extinction since the last ice age or even the era of dinosaurs. Everywhere the Earth is going into meltdown – we push up against nature and provoke new viruses so that thousands of our own species are dying. We may never be able to go back to the old normal and we badly need to find a new way of living in harmony with the earth. Indigenous peoples throughout the world have been telling us this for more than 300 years.

The richest nations take everything and the poor suffer. Even within our own nations the poor, people of colour, indigenous people, trans and others are all disadvantaged and live in poverty and discrimination. The Gig economy stresses us all out and mental illness is rife. Our Utopia where we have what we want when we want it based on economies of greed and acquisition, based on an idea of continual growth at the expense of the planet itself is destroying us, and we seem incapable of turning this around because we are wedded to this utopian idea of the good life which has turned into a nightmare life. I don’t have any answers to this – only that a revised Utopia will not cut it. More Utopia means we wont have a planet to have a utopia on. Instead we need to live in reality and we all need our sense of place, we need to belong.

These then are the works I talked about in reference to this theme:

Two days after the zoom talk I received a box of objects through the post which represented the three areas I would have visited.



ART IN THE TIME OF COVID – Revised Utopias | 2020 | Uncategorized