Wayne State University Elaine L. Jacob Gallery
480 W. Hancock
Detroit, MI 48202
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NOEL NIGHT PROGRAMMING:
Building Utopia, organized by Lauren Kalman, Associate Professor of Art, Wayne State University, Detroit features works by Olayami Dabls, EcoTechArt, Aaron Jones, Asma Kazmi, Kambui Olujimi, and Wesley Taylor. Complex Movements. In collaboration with Siwatu-Salama Ra. Detroit is a site where entrepreneurs, investors, artists, and citizens have projected their desire to build a more perfect place.
But, utopic visions can be problematic, produced from a myopic vantage point, where the vision of the individual dominates over the population at large. Take for example, the socialist visions of Modernist architects like Le Corbusier, who designed the Les Quartiers Modern Fruges outside of Bordeaux. While seemingly altruistic, with the intent of mass-producing affordable homes for factory workers, it also projected a singular manifestation of ideal taste. The homes were stripped of historic decorative architectural conventions and the design disregarded popular taste, with the intent of spreading an enlightened minimalist aesthetic that promoted what was thought to be a visual, physical, and moral healthiness. After all, Corbusier insisted that ‘the design of cities are too important to be left to the citizens.’ The citizens however undermined Corbusier’s utopic plan by burying the imposed minimalism in decoration that suited their own taste and needs. Utopias have boundaries, but sometimes the wildflowers overtake the manicured garden.
We also see visions of utopia on a more personal scale. We design our domestic spaces to suit our ideals, we attempt to hone our mental states through meditation, and we sculpt our bodies through medicine, exercise and diet. In these small ways we might all be striving for personal utopias.
While some utopias are invested in the new and rooted in consumer culture others engage in repurposing and reinventing existing systems. The desire for utopia is not always negative, ideals are what move us to build a better world.
These artists explore issues surrounding the construction of utopia including the individual in relation to the whole, fabricated spaces and experiences, and the failure of designed systems.
This project was supported by Ponyride Artist in Residence Awards as an outreach project fand by Popps Packing through their artist residency program.