Accepted paper:

Messianic utopias, human relationships, and the obliteration of meaning


Alex Flynn (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that cultural politics with activist connotations is increasingly premised in everyday microtopias, moving away from the utopian, the messianic, and the obliteration of meaning. In doing so social movements are rejecting solid architecture in favour of human relationships.

Paper long abstract:

In Relational Aesthetics (2002), Nicolas Bourriaud argues that social utopias and revolutionary hopes have given way to everyday microtopias stating that 'it is quite clear that the age of the New Man, future oriented manifestos, and calls for a better world all ready to be walked into and lived in is well and truly over'. For Bourriaud, microtopias, as a means of resistance, must be experienced on a subjective, everyday basis, and premised within fragmentary experiments. He argues that 'any stance that is "directly" critical of society is futile, if based on the illusion of a marginality that is nowadays impossible, not to say regressive.' The fragmentary essence of such a project is not just desirable but also pragmatic. When Felix Gonzalez-Torres makes clear that 'two clocks side by side are more of a threat to power than the image of two guys giving each other a blow job, because it cannot be used as a rallying point in the struggle to obliterate meaning', he highlights the danger of a position of critique that is imbricated within a utopian and messianic position. In this paper, I will explore the concept of microtopia as part of the creativity and improvisation of unscripted everyday lives by focusing on the contested transformative subjectivities of members of the Landless Workers' Movement (MST). The MST's cultural politics is shifting from the messianic and utopian to experimentation grounded in the fragmentary and in this manner such movements are rejecting solid architecture in favour of human relationships.

panel P002
Micro-utopias: exploring connections in anthropology, relationality and creativity