What does utopia mean to young, Northern artists? In this issue, contributors paint up their predictions, hopes and dreams for the future. Ranging from dynamic art, witty poems and thoughtful essays.
For centuries the idea of a perfect world has been mused upon by many. From the philosophical and political realm of Plato’s republic to the spiritual promise of enlightenment or pure peace- it seems that every culture, community and individual has their own ideas about what it means to live in an ideal state.
Thomas More coined this notion of a conceived ‘good place’, which, translated from Greek, can also mean ‘no place’. From the onset, then, the term Utopia has been versatile, but mostly encompasses the ideas of freedom, equality and harmony.
It’s hard to discuss utopia without bringing to light the notion of dystopia. Perhaps a more familiar tone in this current climate of environmental destruction, draconian police bills and inhumane immigration laws. The two coexist and intertwine. Picturing more well-known dystopian scenarios such as The Handmaid’s Tale or 1984 can be viewed through the lens of a failed utopia. A society structured on seemingly promised cohesion and coexistence. One man’s utopia can certainly be one woman’s hellish dystopia. If these examples seem a bit far-fetched, you only need to look around you to see the grasping at, and failings of, a utopia.
This can be seen within the context of our ecological crisis. In an ambition to live in a better and more sustainable environment, many councils and cities push their bad habits and waste outwards onto others, filtering into more marginalised communities. It’s idyllic to imagine the fresh, clean scenery of our local areas and even homes- transporting litter and waste out of sight. Around 60% of our waste lands abroad, in countries such as Malaysia and Turkey. Thus, making the quality of life in each respective country into a tipping scale favouring those rich enough to produce and export the most waste. To create our own space of cleanliness, we are, quite literally, shoving it onto the responsibility of others.
We must stop ourselves from falling into the trap of looking simply at a snapshot of a broader picture. Zooming out and realising the interdependent and multifaceted consequences of our actions challenges the meaning of, and how we go about achieving, this so-called perfect state. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. The aspiration for perfection may be a snapping glimpse of a teetering balancing act. As Lorde puts it ‘what the f**k are perfect places anyway’? With voices richer and louder and stronger disintegrating the pleas of others less powerful. Ina world with billions of wants and a myriad of desires grappling on top of each other, more often than not, a perfect world seems out of reach.
But through art and collective spirit, a utopia founded upon global equality, freedom and rights can be imagined. There is power in envisioning a better world, in the process of transforming towards that which is more liberatory and welcoming. This process is distinctly different from a corruptible reality of achieving any imaginary state of idle perfection. I love how this issue conjures up utopia from the individual looking outward, collecting the raindrops of voices and songs and dreams of a Northern (and global) utopia. Utopia starts from us. In a movement of reaching out, towards our goals, towards a good place (or no place at all). And maybe none of it is a perfect reality. We, ourselves, are imperfect. We, ourselves, just like you, reach for imperfect ambitions in an imperfect world.
This issue shows what artistic inspiration young Northern creatives have drawn from the concept of Utopia. Dreams. Desires. Fantasies. We create our own utopias through shaping our art and identity. It is dynamic and transitory and constantly being created. And as we strive, so we become.
As a highlight, this issue features the winner and runner up of SINK’s last essay writing competition, based on the theme of a distinctly Northern utopia.
As well as non-fiction essays, some have chosen to draw (or rather, sketch and paint) artistic inspiration from the prompt of ‘Utopia’, whilst others scribed verse or prose.
“We’ll plant more trees
and tie them together with internet cables, or something,
so their roots can stay connected like us.
The next extinction will be fascism…….
We’re going to pour soil into the Earth’s mouth
and sew it shut. Then we’ll water it every day,
so the generations to come don’t have to live through
the phrase “daisy chains” becoming archaic” - Harry Birdsey - Tomorrowism
"In this moment I am free, I am released.
if my subjugation to me means liberation, what does it mean to him?"
Charli Cowgill - On Kink and Liberation
Keep an eye out for what’s to come. In the meantime, keep drawing and dreaming of your utopia.
Interested in reading more about forming and deconstructing perfection? Check out these resources SINK has compiled: https://www.sinkmagazine.co.uk/post/utopian-inspiration
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