Utopia500

The project is a part of the long-term research of the artist devoted to the 500 years anniversary since Thomas More’s book Utopia has been published.

The artist spent a week at the patchwork station situated between the arts and the foreign language sections in the library. Here the artist made an effort to learn the Cyrillic alphabet by stitching together the signs of the Utopian letters and Cyrillic.

The patchwork station was placed in the context of the installation constructed from the textile diaries of the artist, which she has been producing since spring 2014. In the diaries the artist has put references to the various topics which she is interested in, such as climate change, ecology, progress, apocalypse, civilization, future and hope. The works have been exhibited in various modifications in Norway at Bergen Kunsthall, NoPlace Gallery, Vestlandsutstillingen and Kunstnernes Hus. Installation included also various editions of Thomas More’s book from the library collection. Some of the books were dated by the early years of USSR. Stamps made at their pages refer to different years in the history of the Soviet Utopia, which played its role in developing the phenomenon of the Nordic miracle.

During the Barents Bird festival week, a dialogue program was taking place. The topic for the lectures, workshops and discussions was textile as text, as a medium for transmitting meaning and as a medium for expression of human creativity.

Signs of the Utopian, Cyrillic and Latin alphabets can be understood by those, who have learned these languages. However, there are signs, which can be found in several cultures and can be understood by the people who belong to those. The solar signs can be such an example. Another is the Polar star, which can be found at embroidered or knitted textiles produced both in Norway and in Russia.

The patchwork station functioned as a meeting place for women interested in foreign languages, teachers of Norwegian as well as tapestry, embroidery and patchwork masters.

 

Margrethe Kolstad Brekke. Project Utopia500. Curator: Ekaterina Sharova.
Arkhangelsk, Regional Scientific Library named after N. Dobrolyubov. November 21-29.

In the history of art, as in any other history, there are dominant and less audible voices.
History varies within and outside of the borders of the late Soviet State. Why not construct alternative histories of art, where the peripheries are found within the center of action? Why not create a synthesis of meanings – using logic of the relational aesthetics and materials, which can connect people of different generations?

Textile, unlike metal, stone and digital media has a direct connection with the human body. Earlier, during archaeological excavations decayed pieces of cloth were thrown away, seen as useless. Today they can become the central elements of historical exhibits in a museum, like a sweater from the Arctic expeditions in the Regional Museum of Arkhangelsk.

In Thomas More’s Utopia, Raphael Hythloday says, “… I discuss with myself the wisest and most holy establishments of the utopians, in which a state is controlled by so few laws, yet so successfully, that a virtuous man meets proper mark and, despite equality of property, one can notice a general well-being everywhere”.

Next year will mark five hundred years since the book was published. How much has changed over the centuries? Social challenges, military conflicts, uneven distribution of resources… Today we face the foreseeable climatic challenges associated with levels of consumption, including that of textile products. “When will the day come?” Nikolay Dobrolyubov said.

In the treatise of Sir Thomas More Utopia we read about a Utopian alphabet (Vtopiensivm alphabetvm), invented by his friend. The inhabitants of the legendary island-country Utopia wrote and read in it. The alphabet is a synthesis of Greek and Latin, each of these languages are related to the East and the West.

The language of art, however, knows no boundaries. It is always possible to learn a new one. We could learn it together.

Ekaterina Sharova