This month Schlock presents an entire issue dedicated to one of the most misunderstood concepts of political debate: Utopia. In this issue, led by guest editor Elise Billiard, we will proclaim that Utopia is not dead, that Utopia is not an escape to or from reality, but on the contrary a way to propose new possible realities. Indeed, as many thinkers have stressed in recent years, the lack of political alternatives is limiting our ability to improve our world.
Utopia is not (only) the latest fashionable concept. In this issue architect Alberto Favaro describes how detailed depictions representing utopian and dystopian scenes played a crucial role in the Italian city of Siena in the Middle Ages, centuries before Thomas More’s imaginary island. These illustrations of the consequences of good and bad governments were placed in the council room of Siena to inspire the decision-makers and to remind them of their responsibilities towards the population they administered. Architecture at that time was not just about beauty or functionality, as it is too often today, but also about socio-political issues.
We could even go back further in history and argue that Plato’s Republic was also a utopia or wasn’t it?
Let us reconfigure our definition of Utopia. Anna Katarrh ‘s manifesto provides a great opportunity to think about the etymological base of the term: ‘no-place’. For Katarrh, a utopian space is necessary to enable debate, conflict, negotiation and collaboration – interactions which all too often take place behind closed doors- particularly in our privatized world. Finally, Elise Billiard’s provoking essay brings into play the dark forces of the after-world as a possible universal ‘no-place’ of reunion through collective grief.
So dear readers, it is now time to take our dreams seriously. Time to speak them out loud, time to shake up the austere present made of “realist economic and political strategies” which are becoming a nightmare for many of us.
Cover by Daniela Attard.