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Paperback | $24.95 Trade | ISBN: 9780262640695 | 240 pp. | 6 x 8.5 in | October 2009


Throughout its diverse manifestations, the utopian entails two related but contradictory elements: the aspiration to a better world, and the acknowledgment that its form may only ever live in our imaginations. Furthermore, we are as haunted by the failures of utopian enterprise as we are inspired by the desire to repair the failed and build the new. Contemporary art reflects this general ambivalence. The utopian impulse informs politically activist and relational art, practices that fuse elements of art, design, and architecture, and collaborative projects aspiring to progressive social or political change. Two other tendencies have emerged in recent art: a looking backward to investigate the utopian elements of previous eras, and the imaginative modeling of alternative worlds as intimations of possibility. This anthology contextualizes these utopian currents in relation to political thought, viewing the utopian as a key term in the artistic lineage of modernity. It illuminates how the exploration of utopian themes in art today contributes to our understanding of contemporary cultures, and the possibilities for shaping their futures.

Artists surveyed include: Joseph Beuys, Paul Chan, Guy Debord, Jeremy Deller, Liam Gillick, Antony Gormley, Dan Graham, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Paul McCarthy, Constant A. Nieuwenheuys, Paul Noble, Nils Norman, Philippe Parreno, Pil and Galia Kollectiv, Superflex, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Mark Titchner, Atelier van Lieshout, Jeff Wall, Andy Warhol, Wochenklauser, Carey Young

Writers include: Theodor Adorno, Jennifer Allen, Catherine Bernard, Ernst Bloch, Yve-Alain Bois, Nicolas Bourriaud, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Alex Farquharson, Hal Foster, Michel Foucault, Alison Green, Fredric Jameson, Rosalind Krauss, Hari Kunzru, Donald Kuspit, Dermis P. Leon, Karl Marx, Jeremy Millar, Thomas More, William Morris, Molly Nesbit, Hans Ulrich Obrist, George Orwell, Jacques Rancière, Stephanie Rosenthal, Beatrix Ruf

Documents of Contemporary Arts series
Copublished with Whitechapel Gallery, London

About the Editor

Richard Noble is a scholar of contemporary art, critical theory, and the interrelation of art and politics. He is a Lecturer in Fine Arts at Goldsmiths College, London.


"This volume is essential reading for anyone interested in the art-world's current impasse between willful na


"Richard Noble has brilliantly brought together a selection of writings by artists, political theorists, critics and philosophers in order to investigate the utopian in contemporary art and culture—how art explores the impulse towards a better world, as well as how it plays out the intimation of a dystopian and dark universe so near to us. From canonical historical texts such as More's Utopia of 1516 and Marx and Engels' writings in the nineteenth century, to Orwell's 1949 dark vision of utopia gone sour in Nineteen Eighty-Four; from Adorno's avant-garde negativity to Debord and Constant's views of the total integration of art and political revolution in the 1950s and 1960s; from Beuys' view of a practical and realizable utopia of the 1970s, up to Pierre Huyghe, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Philippe Parreno's views of relational communities and conviviality at the turn of this new century; this collection of essays and interviews provides insight and challenges us to imagine the twenty-first century with absolute freedom."
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Chief Curator, Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Artistic Director, Documenta 13

"This is an exceptionally stimulating book, helping explain why Utopia continues to mean 'Nowhere.'"
Arthur C. Danto, Johnsonian Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Columbia University, and art critic, The Nation