Author(s): Richard Noble
Throughout its diverse manifestations, the utopian entails two related but contradictory elements: the aspiration to a better world, and the acknowledgment that its form may only ever live in our imaginations. Furthermore, we are as haunted by the failures of utopian enterprise as we are inspired by the desire to repair the failed and build the new. Contemporary art reflects this general ambivalence. The utopian impulse informs politically activist and relational art, practices that fuse elements of art, design, and architecture, and collaborative projects aspiring to progressive social or political change. Two other tendencies have emerged in recent art: a looking backward to investigate the utopian elements of previous eras, and the imaginative modeling of alternative worlds as intimations of possibility. This anthology contextualizes these utopian currents in relation to political thought, viewing the utopian as a key term in the artistic lineage of modernity. It illuminates how the exploration of utopian themes in art today contributes to our understanding of contemporary cultures, and the possibilities for shaping their futures.