A talk by A. M. Awad (Director)
Ossama Al Mashini Theater, Jordan Ministry of Culture
The concept of utopia has had a troubled history. Beginning with the Republic, Plato’s perfected society necessitated the exclusion of poetry, or of what we might today call aesthetic practice. In the centuries to follow, similar Platonic ideals worked their way into medieval thought. Thomas More’s publication of Utopia, when the term was properly coined, came with ambivalence, and the book was interpreted by some as satirical commentary rather than a work of earnest speculation. Such ambivalence persisted into the 20th century, when the concept was used to consolidate phenomena as disparate as European fascism and liberation theology.
In this talk, we will situate the practice of art in Amman against the concept of utopia. In what ways does the utopian imagination serve as a veiled extension of, rather than emancipation from, the way things already are? Is utopianism, in its traditional form, an unwittingly conservative endeavor? And if the concept of utopia itself has been incorporated into consumer culture, with what other language can we go forward? In considering heterotopia as an alternative, we will explore modes of thoughts which push past the boundary between the possible and impossible. We will ask, in turn, what kind of art can we cultivate?