UTOPIA & NATURE
Based on H.D. Thoreau's “Walden

EXPERIMENTATION AND RESEARCH IN CONTEMPORARY
ARTISTIC
PRACTICES



Utopia as an expression of unlimited imagination and desire is a concept that has always fascinated artists. Art can see in utopia a means to lift the restrictions of reality and accomplish the free expression of its visions. Starting from this connection and its various instantiations in the history of art, this workshop deals with the multiple significations, implications and dimensions of utopia. In everyday discourse the term ‘utopia’ is usually connected with an ideal future, with what seems impossible within the confines of reality, and is thus bound to create margins for many and often contradictory interpretations. Utopias are the places of dreams and hopes for a better life, which provide an escape from an always incomplete and constraining status quo. Sometimes they involve grandiose metaphysical schemata, other times they take the form of ephemeral shelters distanced from detailed sociopolitical reflection. Always, however, their creation is based on the criticism of established (political and aesthetical) institutions and social structures. Inspiring antithetical political and artistic practices, praised but also criticized, utopia has been a focus of debate for many disciplines and approaches. By blending theoretical discussion, aesthetic reflection and the artistic work of the participants, this workshop aims at critically exploring the various interconnections between theory and praxis, vision and reality, desire and finitude, utopia and dystopia.
In this workshop we will research methods and tactics and we will ask from the students to collect material or to archive material that they already have and reconsider it, to think alternative ways of presentation of materials, ways of incorporation of them in their pictorial language. The aim of the workshop is to exhibit the results of this research, the ideas or the work that will come out of it.

This year’s workshop investigates the relationship between contemporary artistic practices and the natural environment. Art is often seen and spoken in terms of being environmental, critical and subversive. For the past decades, the natural environment has seen radical changes and has been at the forefront of many contemporary art projects. What is the relationship between art and nature? During the workshop, we will consider different ideas in contemporary art making and theory to examine from varying perspectives the question of art and nature.


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ASFA (Athens School of Fine Arts)

Organizers-Facilitators: Vassilis Vlastaras, artist, Lecturer, Athens School of Fine Arts and Maria Glyka, visual artist, teacher BA & MA Vakalo college of Art and Design.

ASFA annex
Evligia Hill, Rethymno

Basic timetable:
4 July: arrivals
5 July – 7 July: artists presentations
8 - 20 July: preparation of the work
21-23 July: show and presentations of final works
24 July: end of show – departures

Number of participants: 11

In collaboration with:
Mr. Gary Woodley, artist and lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.
Mr. Klaas Hoek, artist, head of the postgraduate department of University of Utrecht and head of the printmaking of the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

Guests Professors and artists:

Mrs Caroline de Lannoy , artist and lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art, Byam Shaw School of Art, Central St Martins College of Art - University of the Arts London, and West Dean College.
Mr. Jim Hobs, visual artist.
Dr.Yannis Stavrakakis, associate Professor of Political Sciences of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica,
Dr. Fay Zika, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theory of Art Department of Theory and History of Art The Athens School of Fine Arts
Mrs. Katerina Gouziouli, art theorist.


further reading

Ernst Bloch, "The spirit of Utopia",  (publication 2000).
This is one of the great historic books from the beginning of the century, but it is not an obsolete one. In its style of thinking, a peculiar amalgam of biblical, Marxist, and Expressionist turns, in its analytical skills deeply informed by Simmel, taking its information from both Hegel and Schopenhauer for the groundwork of its metaphysics of music but consistently interpreting the cultural legacy in the light of a certain Marxism, Bloch’s Spirit of Utopia is a unique attempt to rethink the history of Western civilizations as a process of revolutionary disruptions and to reread the artworks, religions, and philosophies of this tradition as incentives to continue disrupting.


Mary Shelley, “Frankenstein”, (publication 1818).






The title of the novel refers to a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful

read more here



Aeschylus, “Prometheus Bound”, (415 b.c.).







The tragedy is based on the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who was punished by the god Zeus for giving fire to mankind.

read more here



Herman Melville, "Moby-Dick"





Moby-Dick, also known as The Whale [1], is a novel first published in 1851 by American author Herman Melville. Moby-Dick is often referred to as a Great American Novel and is considered one of the treasures of world literature. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.

read more here



 W. Morris, News from Nowhere (1890)
Was first published as a serial in the Socialist magazine Commonweal in 1890. It was republished in book form in a revised edition in 1892 and went though many reprintings after that. This text is taken from the 1908 reprinting by Longmans of London.
It is a book that is often ignored by Marxists and others who denounce it as backward looking and it is indeed true that Morris' utopian vision is that of a society which has in some sense reverted to an agricultural and handicraft one and seems static. But activists among our readers will be astonished as the insight of this middle aged and middle class English poet and artist in chapter 17 or How The Change Came. Morris here foresees the process of a working class revolution which includes a period of Dual Power, the creation of a fascist movement when the ruling class is threatened, the key role of the media (newspapers only in his case) and the overthrow of the original working class leadership by a more vigorous and determined one together with the necessity of a decentralised but coherent political leadership. Looking at the far cruder concepts of revolution by other socialists who were his contemporaries it is a startling feat.
Few socialists are rash enough to attempt any precision about their desired future state but even his romantic view of rural toil and what we might consider primitive technology contains an attempt to get to grips with and provide an answer to the whole question of alienated labour which again, though little considered at the time, has resurfaced as an important component of Marx's thought. I think he is far too dismissive of science and technology since he sees science and mathematics, like art, as gentlemanly pastimes - though in his utopia of course anyone can participate in them. Otherwise he suggests that science was becoming a commodity, in his words "an appendage to the commercial system". He does not see it as an immensely powerful collective enterprise and the only means by which his population will be able to be as healthy and long-lived as they are. Other questionable aspects of his future society with which he attempts to grapple, including education or economic organisation will doubtless occur to readers as they study this work. (Marxists Internet Archive)

read more here




Tom Stoppard, Arcadia (1993)
Arcadia is set in Sidley Park, an English country house, in both the years 1809–1812 and the present day—1993 in the original production. The activities of two modern scholars and the house's current residents are juxtaposed with the lives of those who lived there 180 years earlier.
In 1809, Thomasina Coverly, the daughter of the house, is a precocious teenager with ideas about mathematics well ahead of her time. She studies with her tutor, Septimus Hodge, a friend of Lord Byron (who is an unseen guest in the house). In the present, a writer and an academic converge on the house: Hannah Jarvis, the writer, is investigating a hermit who once lived on the grounds; Bernard Nightingale, a professor of literature, is investigating a mysterious chapter in the life of Byron. As their investigations unfold, helped by Valentine Coverly, a post-graduate student in mathematical biology, the truth about what happened in Thomasina's lifetime is gradually revealed.
The play's set features a large table, which is used by the characters in both past and present. Props are not removed when the play switches time period, so that the books, coffee mugs, quill pens, portfolios, and laptop computers appear alongside each other in a blurring of past and present.

read more here


M. Pollan, "Second Nature"

“Second Nature is…as delicious a meditation on one man’s relationship with the earth as any of you are as likely to come upon.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“One of the distinguished gardening books of our time.”

—Noel Perrin, USA Today
“The best book about Americans and their gardens in decades. Second Nature reads like brilliant entertainment, but it is serious wisdom. Michael Pollan…is a genuine heir to my favorite nature writer, Mark Twain.”

—Simon Schama, The Boston Globe
“He’s written a book about gardening that even non-gardeners might want to read… Pollan can still remember that there are readers of intelligence and curiosity whose gardening habits amount to no more than a stroll through the yard every month of so to see what’s died.”
—Malcolm Jones Jr., Newsweek
“As a non-gardener, I never expected to stay up late and laugh out loud at a book like this, but I’ve been permanently Pollan-ated.”

—Christopher Buckley, Vanity Fair
“Pollan is a hybrid—a gardener-philosopher-humorist-polemicist who has written a book that manages to amuse while it muses, a book that lures even the non-gardener into the physical and metaphysical garden.”

—Jocelyn McClurg, The Hartford Courant

read more here


Reynolds, R. (2008), On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook For Gardening Without Boundaries.








 www.guerrillagardening.org/






T. Richardson, Avant Gardeners









 www.thinkingardens.co.uk




Ernest Callenbach, “Ecotopia”, (publication 1975).



The society described in the book is one of the first ecological utopias and was influential on the counterculture, and the green movement in the 1970s and thereafter. The impressive, environmentally benign energy, homebuilding, and transportation technology described by Callenbach in Ecotopia was based on research findings published in such magazines as Scientific American. The author's story was woven using the fiber of technologies, lifestyles, folkways, and attitudes that were being reflected (from real-life experience) in the pages of, for example, the Whole Earth Catalog and its successor CoEvolution Quarterly, as well as being depicted in newspaper stories, novels and films. Callenbach's main ideas for Ecotopian values and practices were based on actual experimentation taking place in the American West. To draw an example, Callenbach's fictional Crick School was based upon Pinel School, an alternative school located outside Martinez, California, and attended for a time by his son.




Nicolas Bourriaud, “Relational Aesthetics”, (publication 2002).
is a mode or tendency in fine art practice originally observed and highlighted. Bourriaud defined the approach simply as, "a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space."



Claire Bishop, "Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics" October Magazine (Fall 2004, No. 110)
is a critique of Nicolas Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics (1998) and its claims to be a political and emancipatory mode of artistic practice.



Nicolas Bourriaud, “The Radicant”, (publication 2009).
In his most recent essay, Nicolas Bourriaud claims that the time is ripe to reconstruct the modern for the specific context in which we are living. If modernism was a return to the origin of art or of society, to their purification with the aim of rediscovering their essence, then our own century’s modernity will be invented, precisely, in opposition to all radicalism, dismissing both the bad solution of re-enrooting in identities as well as the standardization of imaginations decreed by economic globalization.


Nicolas Bourriaud, “Altermodern”, (publication 2009). 





Is an attempt at branding art made in today's global context as a reaction against standardisation and commercialism. It is also the title of the Tate Britain's fourth Triennial exhibition curated by Bourriaud.

read more here






Paul Seletsky,Sr. Mgr. of Digital Design, SOM New York,
"The Digital Design Ecosystem: Toward a Pre-Rational Architecture"
Note: This essay appears as the forward to a new book on digital practice arriving this summer, "Provisional Practice: Emergent Modes of Production in American Architecture," edited by Jon Dreyfous, Elite Kedan, and Craig Mutter.
Thirty years since its introduction, the personal computer’s impact on visual and industrial design has been unprecedented; changes in productivity and form-making have been pervasive. Digital technology’s impact on architectural practice, however, has not yet significantly altered the established landscape of paper-driven documentation or design process. Increased productivity, moreover, now threatens architects as primary leaders of the design process. This particular dichotomy beckons closer examination and discussion.

read more here


J.W.v. Goethe,
"Elective Affinities"

(German: Die Wahlverwandtschaften), also translated under the title Kindred by Choice, is the third novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1809. The title is taken from a scientific term once used to describe the tendency of chemical species to combine with certain substances or species in preference to others. The novel is based on the metaphor of human passions being governed or regulated by the laws of chemical affinity, and examines whether or not the science and laws of chemistry undermine or uphold the institution of marriage, as well as other human social relations.

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UTOPIANS 2010

UTOPIANS 2010
michalis, aglae
giannis, anna, andreas, klaas
natalia, maria, alkistis, Kristbjorg
fanis, garry, fay, giannis
maria, panagiotis, ryan, katerina
giannis, bryan, caroline, giorgos
victor, vassilis, jim, julia