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.


.

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.


walden

Synopsis from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Economy: In this first and longest chapter, Thoreau outlines his project: a two-year and two-month stay at a cozy, "tightly shingled and plastered," English-style 10' x 15' cottage in the woods near Walden Pond.[2] He does this, he says, to illustrate the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle. He easily supplies the four necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, and fuel) with the help of family and friends, particularly his mother, his best friend, and Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Waldo Emerson. The latter provided Thoreau with a work exchange — he could build a small house and plant a garden if he cleared some land on the woodlot and did other chores while there.[3] Thoreau meticulously records his expenditures and earnings, demonstrating his understanding of "economy," as he builds his house and buys and grows food. For a home and freedom, he spent a mere $28.12 1/2, in 1845. At the end of this chapter, Thoreau inserts a poem, "The Pretensions of Poverty," by seventeenth-century English poet Thomas Carew. The poem criticizes those who think that their poverty gives them unearned moral and intellectual superiority.

Where I Lived, and What I Lived For: After playing with the idea of buying a farm, Thoreau describes his house's location. Then he explains that he took up his abode at Walden Woods so as to "live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Although he criticizes the dedication of his neighbors to working, he himself is quite busy at Walden — building and maintaining his house, raising thousands of bean plants and other vegetables, making bread, clearing land, chopping wood, making repairs for the Emersons, going into town, and writing every day. His time at Walden was his most productive as a writer.[4]

Reading: Thoreau discusses the benefits of classical literature (preferably in the original Greek or Latin), and bemoans the lack of sophistication in Concord, evident in the popularity of unsophisticated literature. He also loved to read books by world travelers.[5] He yearns for a utopian time when each New England village supports "wise men" to educate and thereby ennoble the population.

Sounds: Thoreau opens this chapter by warning against relying too much on literature as a means of transcendence. Instead, one should experience life for oneself. Thus, after describing his house's beautiful natural surroundings and his casual housekeeping habits, Thoreau goes on to criticize the train whistle that interrupts his reverie. To him, the railroad symbolizes the destruction of the pastoral way of life. Following is a description of the sounds audible from his cabin: the church bells ringing, carriages rattling and rumbling, cows lowing, whip-poor-wills singing, owls hooting, frogs croaking, and cockerels crowing.

Solitude: Thoreau rhapsodizes about the beneficial effects of living solitary and close to nature. He claims to love being alone, saying "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."

Visitors: Thoreau writes about the visitors to his house. Among the 25 or 30 visitors is a young French-Canadian woodchopper, Alec Therien, whom Thoreau idealizes as approaching the ideal man, and a runaway slave, whom Thoreau helps on his journey to freedom in Canada.

The Bean-Field: Thoreau relates his efforts to cultivate two and a half acres of beans. He plants in June and spends his summer mornings weeding the field with a hoe. He sells most of the crop, and his small profit of $8.71 covers his needs that were not provided by friends and family.

The Village: Thoreau visits the small town of Concord every day or two to hear the news, which he finds "as refreshing in its way as the rustle of the leaves." Nevertheless, he fondly but rather contemptuously compares Concord to a gopher colony. In late summer, he is arrested for refusing to pay federal taxes, but is released the next day. He explains that he refuses to pay taxes to a government that supports slavery.

The Ponds: In autumn, Thoreau rambles about the countryside and writes down his observations about the geography of Walden Pond and its neighbors: Flint's Pond (or Sandy Pond), White Pond, and Goose Pond. Although Flint's is the largest, Thoreau's favorites are Walden and White ponds, which he says are lovelier than diamonds.

Baker Farm: While on an afternoon ramble in the woods, Thoreau gets caught in a rainstorm and takes shelter in the dirty, dismal hut of John Field, a penniless but hard-working Irish farmhand, and his wife and children. Thoreau urges Field to live a simple but independent and fulfilling life in the woods, thereby freeing himself of employers and creditors. But the Irishman won't give up his dreams of luxury, which is the American dream.

Higher Laws: Thoreau discusses whether hunting wild animals and eating meat is good. He concludes that the primitive, animal side of humans drives them to kill and eat animals, and that a person who transcends this propensity is superior to those who don't. (Thoreau eats fish and occasionally salt pork and woodchuck.)[6] In addition to vegetarianism, he lauds chastity, work, and teetotalism. He also recognizes that Indians need to hunt and kill moose for survival in "The Maine Woods," and ate moose on a trip to Maine while he was living at Walden.[7]

Brute Neighbors: Thoreau briefly discusses the many wild animals that are his neighbors at Walden. A description of the nesting habits of partridges is followed by a fascinating account of a massive battle between red and black ants. Three of the combatants he takes into his cabin and examines under a microscope as the black ant kills the two smaller red ones. Later, Thoreau takes his boat and tries to follow a teasing loon about the pond. He also collects animal specimens and ships them to Harvard College for study.[8]

House-Warming: After picking November berries in the woods, Thoreau adds a chimney, and finely plasters the walls of his sturdy house to stave off the cold of the oncoming winter. He also lays in a good supply of firewood, and expresses affection for wood and fire.

Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors: Thoreau relates the stories of people who formerly lived in the vicinity of Walden Pond. Then he talks about a few of the visitors he receives during the winter: a farmer, a woodchopper, and his best friend, the poet Ellery Channing.

Winter Animals: Thoreau amuses himself by watching wildlife during the winter. He relates his observations of owls, hares, red squirrels, mice, and various birds as they hunt, sing, and eat the scraps and corn he put out for them. He also describes a fox hunt that passes by.

The Pond in Winter: Thoreau describes Walden Pond as it appears during the winter. He claims to have sounded its depths and located an underground outlet. Then he recounts how 100 laborers came to cut great blocks of ice from the pond, the ice to be shipped to the Carolinas.

Spring: As spring arrives, Walden and the other ponds melt with stentorian thundering and rumbling. Thoreau enjoys watching the thaw, and grows ecstatic as he witnesses the green rebirth of nature. He watches the geese winging their way north, and a hawk playing by itself in the sky. As nature is reborn, the narrator implies, so is he. He departs Walden on September 8, 1847.

Conclusion: This final chapter is more passionate and urgent than its predecessors. In it, he criticizes conformity: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." By doing so, men may find happiness and self-fulfillment.

    "I do not say that John or Jonathan will realize all this; but such is the character of that morrow which mere lapse of time can never make to dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."

Read the complete text online

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