Utopia Station

The Map of Friendship between Art and Philosophy

Works of art follow reality; they call for a hundred flowers to appear; things fall apart. The arts are entering the space outside themselves, looking hard to the future.
By Molly Nesbit

This page begins a collaboration between Utopia Station and Le Monde diplomatique. It attempts to answer a question: what now is the role of the artist? It is an all-out search. Many see a state of emergency.

Utopia Station came into being in 2003 as an exhibition project for the Venice Biennale and then the Haus der Kunst in Munich but has since assumed different forms, virtual sites (www.e-flux.com), pages, gatherings, seminars and a set of interventions on the oblique at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2005. Over 300 artists, architects, writers, musicians, and performers from around the world are contributing to the definition of Utopia Station, which is simply a way-station, an itinerant way-station really, organised by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Rirkrit Tiravanija and myself. The project has become a tool, a way to self-organise and provide a set of options, a passage, where one can meet en route to Utopia, or the better life.

A Station is defined as much by its activity as by its things. It is a place to rest, reconsider, ask all the questions, eat, sleep, learn, watch. Everything becomes part of the exhibition; the exhibition extends into the ground of everything and everybody present. Nothing is fatally separated from anything else. Stations can be large or small. But the ground of any Utopia Station is temporary, subject to history, shifting. Somewhere ahead another world might be possible.
Utopia Station first met as a group in Poughkeepsie, New York, in February 2003 on the weekend of the great international peace marches. The pictures from the day show it snowed. Inside, Utopia was a question held open so that it could exist as a catalyst, but it was hardly a formality. From the first, Utopia Station has been dogged by the reality of war, the weight of the world, the cold machinations of finance, and the spectre of the planet-to-come.

This Utopia Station set up in Le Monde diplomatique has been given over to the artist Thomas Hirschhorn, who in turn has invited the philosopher Marcus Steinweg to collaborate on a map. The Map of Friendship between Art and Philosophy begins as a handshake, gripped by shared concepts. Impossible to tell which hand is which. Each finger is tattooed with one: hope, form, assertion, headlessness, courage, universality, resistance, autonomy, love, war. These concepts radiate into great red blocs where the artist and the philosopher enlarge on the concepts and keep glossing them. Hope, they decide, contains future, action, change, life, dream, progression, innocence: three pictures and two long citations. The map records two people who know each other well, who have worked together often, setting and sharing their terms.

It takes two to make a handshake. Art does not illustrate; it participates equally. Politics is not isolated, but assumed to be in the bloodstream. And negation? Each red bloc comes with a blue square, like a shadow, to express the things rejected. Hope, for example, coldly rejects sentimentality, narcissism, God, tearfulness, cynicism, criticism, self-criticism, bad and good conscienceness, illusion, glamour and fashion. It is not clear whether the blocs map a dialectic or a rhythm of differences. The two have introduced the work of many other artists and thinkers, past and present, into their friendship. There is Nietzsche¡¦s dream of enlightenment. There is the cover of the Nazis¡¦ Degenerate Art exhibition. They join the dreams and the so-called degenerates. Friendship keeps bringing new, unexpected alliances.

Like an open site, the page deepens. Passages appear. Like any map, they give the main lines, main roads, links, an orientation, and then accept the fact that the small details will blur, since in reality no map attains a 1:1 ratio. This world does not belong to Borges. Reality is always bigger than the map. Look carefully and you will see blood. The artist and the philosopher make a contribution to a situation in which they know full well that they are neither first nor last.

This page is a Station but it is also an object designed to be taken away, to enter other spaces, to be used. Think of it as a reality. Think of it as a work-in-progress.


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