Preview: ‘The Spirit of Utopia’ @Whitechapel Gallery

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Ernst Bloch:The Principle of Hope (1954–59)

From 4th of July-5th of September,’ The Spirit of Utopia’@ Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX.

This Thursday 4th of July  ‘Spirit Of Utopia’ opens at the infamous Whitechapel Gallery. This scientific and philosophic exhibtion features ten artists and collectives from around the world whose work speculates on alternative futures for the economy, the environment and society itself, asking, ‘what if?’ From a live studio pottery, to a verdant greenhouse, a remarkable series’ of installations and events engage us in playful, provocative and creatively pragmatic models for social change. In a new iteration of his Soul Manufacturing Corporation (2011–ongoing) Chicago-based Theaster Gates creates a studio for making pottery, training apprentices and investigating skill, teaching and craft.

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Theaster Gates, Soul Manufacturing, 2011- Ongoing

Photo: Dan Weill

In the spirit of William Morris, labour becomes both communal and uplifting. Mexican artist Pedro Reyes invites visitors to enter a Sanatorium offering therapy for the urban dweller. A highlight of dOCUMENTA 13, his utopian clinic is manned by therapists who can guide us through a sequence of rooms and objects, dedicated to ‘Sociatry’, the science of art and healing society. The installation evokes the idea of a clinic which mixes art and psychology. His suite of rooms offer visitors participatory ‘therapies’ and they can check in to make an appointment and take part in a range of self-discovery sessions created by the artist.

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Pedro Reyes, Sanatorium (2013)

Photo: Dan Weill

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Pedro Reyes, Sanatorium (2013)

Photo: Dan Weill

Our relationship to the environment is explored by London collective, Wayward Plants who use experimental greenhouses to grow tomatoes, potatoes and mustard plants. They fuse new possibilities in food production with scientific narratives, from futuristic seed gardens to sending plants to space. The humble earthworm, crucial to agriculture, is at the heart of an installation by US-based artist Claire Pentecost whose apothecaryjars full of soil examine bacterial life and thelink between the health of the soil and thehealth of our bodies.

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Wayward plants, Improbable Botany, 2013

Photo Courtesy of: White Chapel Gallery

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Wayward plants, Improbable Botany, 2013

Photo Courtesy of: White Chapel Gallery

Alternative economies are a focus for Time/Bank, founded by Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle who work between Berlin and New York. Visualising micro-economies based on the exchange of time, their research is complemented by a series of lectures by academics who propose alternative modes of exchange. Danish collective Superflex promote self-organisation and countereconomic strategies with their film, The Financial Crisis, showing a hypnotist addressing the financial meltdown of 2008.French-Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s installation asserts individual narratives within historic structures of colonial power. Just as early twentieth century avant-garde artists deployed graphics and cinema as aesthetic activism, Barrada’s Say Don’t Say posters use terms which subversively  react to bureaucratic demands. Scale-model cinemas evoke her cinema club in Rif, where the rich heritage of Arab film can be viewed and discussed.

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Photo Courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery

UK-based Peter Liversidge asks institutions to join him in making utopian proposals. Some of his ideas for performances and artworks can only be imagined. Others are made concrete, so that snow may fall on a summer’s day and comedy is performed in the white cube. In the forest of directive and incentivising signs that are the hallmarks of a capitalist culture, he interjects with expressions of pure freedom.

What kind of social groups can be formed outside of work, politics or religion? For Turkish collective Ha Za Vu Zu it is sound that brings people together to create and resist, using pure noise to spark interest and participation. Once a crowd has formed they are structured to continue to make sound together, documenting the process.

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The Russian design lab Ostengruppe make their contribution to the cultural life of Moscow by publicising cultural events with dazzling posters that combine new technologies with drawing and collage. Evoking the graphic legacies of artists such as John Heartfield or El Lissitzky, they have created a poster for each of the exhibitors in The Spirit of Utopia.

For more Information please go to: www.whitechapelgallery.org

All images courtesy of: White Chapel Gallery

 

 

 



About VC Maurer

After receiving her Masters degree in Curating Contemporary Design at Kingston University in London, UK , the Florida native ‘VC’ is now back stateside. Working all over London from Notting Hill to Hackney Wick to central Soho, now based in New York, NY she will continue to represent FADwebsite across the pond as editor for FADNewYork. With a background in art history and a passionate thirst for knowing as much as she can about the contemporary art scene- she revels in studio visits and one to one interviews with practicing artists from various artistic and creative disciplines. So if you are an emerging/ established artist or gallery looking for more coverage in New York- VC is the person to contact!

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