Utopian Reality – Art and Research @ Camp Pixelache
One of the opening activites at Camp Pixelache was led by two members of the Utopian Reality research project, a project based out of Helsinki, Finalnd. For the exercise – everyone was asked to stand up and head to the front of the room. We were then asked to look at other people and make eye contact and smile – and then head to the person that is the farthest away from you. Once you reach this person (or another person across the room who you headed towards), we were then asked to stand next to each other We were then to ask each other a question that we had always wanted to know the answer to – and for the other person to answer it. I ended up talking to a woman from Spain who asked me, “Is there hope?” I answered this to the best of my ability – then asked her my question which was about why daylight savings time exists and why we change the clocks back and forth.
We next had to find another person across the room – and then ask this person the question you were just asked. The result of this activity – was that we had become a group, and I had met a couple of people. This is an example of an activity of the Utopian Reality.
The Utopian Reality project is a research project that explores ways to change the world through a variety of methods and techniques of applying artistic methods outside the field of art. The goal of the project is to promote and enable change both in people’s private lives and in the society at large.
I attended the presentation of the team behind the project, and they gave us another exercise to do. We were asked to break up into groups of 3-6 people. We were then to go find another place in the building – and think about how a conference activity could be done in this space – but in a very different way.
The presenters reviewed what they called “a score.” The way they described the directions that they gave us on their blog is, “We created a score where the participants would divide into four Tactical Utopia Units; each unit would have the task of redefining the use of a particular space or setting and redesigning the conventions present in that space. Each person would also choose a specific perspective or focus, which would allow the unit to cover a wider range of possibilities. “
I ended up in a larger group – of about 8 people. Once person had an idea of a place – so we played follow the leader and ended up behind the main stage of the large conference room, headed up a small staircase- and sat in a small balcony that was backstage and hidden from the audience and presenters in the main room. We came up with the idea that this could be used as a discovery meeting center or a “present.” It could be used to have people find this place – then meet once you find it.
We then returned back to the presentation – and each group shared what place they had picked and visited – and how the space could be used. Once group came up with an interesting idea that the stairway could be used as a communication tool, using spoons. The idea was that everyone could be given a spoon upon entering the building, and you could communicate with others by banging on the handrail of the stairs. Another group picked floor 2.5 – or the landing between the two floor of 1 and 2. They found that people going up and down the stairs would talk to them – and that this was a great and surprising way to meet others.
At the end of the talk, I talked to the Utopian Reality team, and told them that I was interested in using these exercises in my classes in Fall. They talked about how using “art thinking” outside of art can have great potential. We talked about the exercise of thinking, “ How could this object be art?” can lead to lots of ideas. The example we did was to look at a bulletin board that had tacks on it – and think of how would this be art?
Behind the Utopian Reality team is the Reality Research Center (RRC), which is a performing arts collective based in Helsinki, Finland. Their works stem from critical perspectives that observe, question and renew our surrounding reality through performative means. They see performances as both a tool for and a result of artistic research. RRC produces several performance projects each year, which are situated in all kinds of spaces and situations, often excluding conventional performance spaces and theaters.
During the coming months, Utopian Reality will be developed and tested in the Utopia Laboratory. If you want to participate in the development process or have an idea to propose, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are in one of my classes next summer – get ready to observe your own life and surroundings from a utopian point of view: What kind of possibilities are embedded in it? How could it be changed?