500 years ago Thomas More conceived a place called Utopia, with all its irony, ideology and polemics dwelling in the subtext. The concept remains a fascination for all cultures, and we are lucky enough to be examining it in depth with King’s College London academics and a plethora of artists, alongside Somerset House and the Courtauld Gallery and Institute.
The hope is that the idea can spark a cultural movement that can speak for all, either completely across the year or perhaps in one fleeting moment. What does Utopia mean in 2016? Is it something wholly different from 1516? Is Utopia a left wing ideal (who is a right wing Utopian artist)?
The pursuits bringing an Amaurot along the way for Utopia 2016, fly in from the humanities, social sciences, the sciences and excitingly King's health schools. The last of these is arguably the most Utopian pursuit to which humanity has ascended. The Enlightenment era spawned a time when unconditional, altruistic caring for other human beings meant hospitals, doctors, nurses and researchers proliferated. Confronting all potential ailments reads as a potted history, with panaceas claimed and disproved, and new technologies asserting a fleeting advantage over all the assailants to our fragile bodies and systems.
We reach a moment in 2016 when stem cells, genetics and nanotechnology offer us the chance to design a human body that can withstand today’s diseases, injuries and hereditary issues. This area of human endeavour comes closest to Utopia, where free healthcare, global distribution of vaccines, and seeing any human body without prejudice can mean a child anywhere could live to 100. There, of course, are a few external issues to deal with.
The Utopian Lab will sit in the middle of Paths to Utopia, in Somerset House from July 1st to September 30th, and will provide a smorgasbord of research being carried out at King’s College London, by way of offering a snapshot of what is occurring across all Universities, across the planet. The Nurse, Stem Cell Hotel, Tissue Engineering and Our Beating Hearts, are just a few of the places all comers can begin to understand by visiting the exhibition.
Utopia 2016 is about imagination and possibility, all of these things begin with an idea, whoever’s idea it was to try and mend another human being, started one hell of a Utopian voyage – you will not look at another person in the same way.