Every time I watch Steve Lambert's talk on Utopia, it makes me feel happy and excited. Best post I could think of to start my new blog with.
It's not easy to find people willing to discuss utopian ideas. My experience is that the reaction is often a sarcastic little giggle as if one had asked a rhetoric question to which the answer obviously is: no. Or sometimes I get a "are you serious" frown, followed by a warning: Utopia never led to anything good!
(A Utopian Reading of Pinker’s Better Angels Of Our Nature - is a good blog post on why that conclusion might not be so straight forward).
Not so often, I am lucky though and meet somebody, who hears Utopia and says: yes, let's think about that! When it happens it's always great fun. Go try dreaming yourself silly with someone. Crazy solutions for small problems are not hard to come up and have fun with. Try starting with small things that annoy you everyday. Like why can't my cat make coffee, put it on a drinks trolley and roll it right next to my bed, wearing a tiny nurse uniform? (My girlfriend came up with that one). Expressing imagined solutions, especially if they are completely silly and ridiculous, just feels good and makes me laugh.
The first time, I saw somebody doing this seriously outside of kindergarten (a place I do remember fondly), was getting to know my friends Ursula Boeckler and Georg Graw, and watching them dream up Mein Vorschlag: Friesenbad.
That was 15 years ago, and as they created Raum für Projektion those two let me become part of the fun. Werbung für Ideen (commercials for a concept) was the first cycle of projections and it featured me showing my drawings publicly, for the first time ever! Well, not really, the first time was a cd cover for J Neo Marvin, but this was different, because I was there, and experienced peoples reactions to it. Very exciting. (to get a taste of how exciting that was for me, take a look at some pics from the finisage. That day also happened to be my 25th birthday, so no surprise that's me on the floor.)
But the most fun was playing how to escalate ideas. Why not? And what if? Many projects followed, in some the two casted me as an actor in front of the camera, another thing I had never done before. We even dreamt up a story for a whole movie together, and in the process I ended up learning animation and making that movie. Later animation somehow became what I do for a living now. A life I would have never imagined before meeting them. They made me want to do things, that were so crazy, that somehow suddenly they seemed worth a try.
So when I saw Steve's talk, I realized that the biggest gift my friends gave me, was not, as I thought before, that Ursula and Georg helped me fall love with learning. That they helped me find the confidence and courage to become, what the media now calls, a self directed learner. Someone, who not only dreams of doing something, but tries to achieve those dreams learning to use the resources one can find or make work somehow.
The biggest gift was learning that naive questions are indeed important questions.
I also realized how much I missed the feeling of freedom that lies in asking them, and that these questions are best, if one explores them together with others. I want to do those things again. Things about Utopia. But I am not exactly sure yet what and how. I hope that sharing my thoughts and links about it here, will help me figure that out.
Download Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, 2000 to 1887 for free. More information about Steve twitter / webpage. The Center For Artistic Activism is a project Steve is working on with Stephen Duncombe (about whom I will make another blogpost soon). You can see the two talk about it here: