On a Quest


«But if you had been with me in Utopia and had presently seen their fashions and laws, as I did … then doubtless you would grant, that you never saw people well ordered, but only there.« Thus does Thomas More describe his vision of the ideal state in his 1516 book «Utopia.» If someone asked you which utopias were relevant for you today, what would you reply? Technological? Economic? Private utopias? Are we so self-involved or so chastened by the worlds in which we live today that we have given up dreaming of a better society? Some people seem to think so who, after the collapse of socialism and the seemingly universal ascendancy of the economy, even saw in its crisis the end of the political utopia – and were presumably also disappointed in the face of the all-pervasive political cynicism.

We did not want to settle for that, and started to wonder instead why the concept of utopia is currently enjoying such a resurgence, particularly in the realm of art. To find out, we invited artists who conceive, explore or investigate utopias in their work, or who fight for real-life utopias, to show their work at kunstraum lakeside. «Auf der Suche» («On a Quest») is the broad concept we chose for Winter Semester 2010/11, assembling under this heading projects and ideas with widely disparate utopian potentials.

anna kindgren and carina gunnars from Sweden, for example, ask why the idea of social justice that was once postulated as a utopia and was a declared goal at least in the social welfare state is something today’s politics deliberately turns a blind eye to, instead capitulating more and more to the experience of inequality. In their lecture they analyze as an artistic practice examples of changes in the social welfare system in Sweden, raising with their interventions important issues that touch on both power and ­powerlessness.

The history of communal life, especially of the rural and «social drop-out» communes in 1960s USA, is a key reference point for the work Martin Beck is presenting here. He is primarily interested in architectural models and design and the spatial organization of these utopian communities. From this modular system, a ­specific formal language was developed that finds its translation in this exhibition. At the opening, theorist and art critic Christian Höller will join Martin Beck in speaking about the history behind this work and the research that went into it. The series «Urban Utopias» by London- based artist Virginia Nimarkoh is the result of an interdisciplinary research project conducted over several years. In her ­photographs the artist shows the «city as a place of ecological promise» and asks questions about its history, use, beauty, community-creating efforts to build or maintain these places, and multi­cultural aspects of the use of green spaces in the city. In a talk on the evening of the opening, she inquires into the ­«politics of the landscape» in various ­contexts.

Following intense artistic and theoretical research into subjects including vampiresses & vampirism and horror film & haunted houses in literature and film, the author, artist and theorist Judith Fischer looks in her lecture at the theme of liminal creatures. These are transitional beings that, because of their indefinable status and their existence in gray realms, summon potential for utopias and visions and make it conceivable that other varieties of social organization might exist beyond the bounds of our ostensibly hierarchically ordered world.


Christian Kravagna, Hedwig Saxenhuber