After Images of the Present: Utopian imagination in contemporary art practices


  • Nadja Gnamuš University of Ljubljana (Academy of Theatre, Film, Television) Jože Plečnik Grammar School


Palabras clave:

Key words, utopia, utopian impulse, imagination, perceptual transformation, phenomenal environment, experiential difference


While discussions on utopia in contemporary art generally revolve around socially and politically charged issues of utopian thinking, I will focus on alternative vision of utopia in art. Instead of artworks which propose politically »motivated« utopian projects, putting forward either manifestoes or collaborative actions with a particular aim in mind, I will take into account those artistic perspectives which through carefully constructed and perceptually manipulated artistic environments engender utopia as a state of mind. In these cases we do not speak about utopian themes, related to a particular historic place, time and context, but rather about images of utopia which bring about characteristic aspects of the utopian such as hope, imagination and a possibility of change. I discuss such utopian potency through selected projects of James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson and Anthony Gormley, whose work establish phenomenal environments which can elicit utopian projections. Differently to traditional utopian visions, avantgarde utopian projects and in contrast to microutopian concerns and participatory strategies of most contemporary utopian art projects, these works do not propose models of alternative ways of being, coming out of  discomfort in a global world status quo. On the contrary, here utopian visions are produced on an abstract level - as mental images embodied in a real, »sensorial« space, which can function as a metaphor and as a projecting place of utopian seeing. Utopian in these works resides in the perceptual engagement with the work, that is in the experiental situation itself, which by challenging participant's perceptions leads her/him into a different state of being, in which she/he can undertake a spiritual, emotional and intellectual transformation.

Biografía del autor/a

Nadja Gnamuš, University of Ljubljana (Academy of Theatre, Film, Television) Jože Plečnik Grammar School

Art history, Film criticism

PhD in Historical Anthropology of Arts