PROJECT: Make a proposal for a piece of work, considering the concept, material and process.
noun. The belief in or pursuit of a state in which everything is perfect, typically regarded as unrealistic or idealistic. (Oxford Dictionary)
Notes: This definition of utopia reminded me a of a thought experiment proposed by Robert Nozick in an argument against Hedonism.
School of thought that argues pleasure or happiness are the most important pursuits of human life.
THE EXPERIENCE MACHINE:
This is a thought experiment that argues against the case of Hedonism. It is as follows: There exists a machine that is capable of giving you experience of living in a perfect world free from pain and suffering, in other words, a utopia. However, it is simulated, not real. If you were given a decision to either live in this simulated yet euphoric world or the bitter but real world, which would you choose?
Assuming the latter was chosen, Nozick argues that there is more to life than the pursuit of happiness (such as the pursuit of truth).
Notes: Though this is an philosophical argument against hedonism, I found this thought experiment to relate heavily to utopia. It made me realise there are many problems with achieving utopia, the first of which is the loss of truth or reality.
The word 'Utopia' derives from the Greek words 'ou' (meaning not) and 'topos' (meaning place). A direct translation meaning no-place or nowhere. Although, it means a perfect world, originally the term meant an imaginary place, or fantasy. First used in Thomas More's novel: 'Utopia'.
Notes: This fits into place nicely with the idea that in the pursuit of a perfect utopia, from another perspective it may result in dystopia. The origins of the word did not distinguish between good and bad, More's world could have been interpreted as either utopia or dystopia, reflecting the conflicting views people often have on ideals or philosophies that claim to be the path toward utopia. This is evident in writer H.G. Wells' belief
'people who cannot live happily and freely in the world without spoiling the lives of others are better out of it'.
'What they build may carry within it its own potential for crushing or limiting human life'
Notes: H.G. Well's statement can be met with mixed opinions. Such extreme and unwavering resolve may allow 'good-natured' people to live in peace but it also restricts freedom. This conflict of view is embodied in critic Carey's statement, one person's view of utopia may be someone else's view of dystopia. Paraphrased from his book 'Faber Book of Utopias', the ultimate conflict in utopia is the divide between human centered systems and systems that diminish or obliterate mankind. Should Utopia be achieve through a selfish 'human centered system', holding humanity above all else, or through a system that destroys mankind, killing off the parasite of the world that is humanity?
There are many problems in achieving utopia, it seems impossible and rather irrational to aim towards it. I rather prefer to think about individual utopias. Cary again says, 'Most utopias reform the world, some reform the self. They suggest that if only you were to look at the world, with all its imperfections; in the right way.. you would be secluded in your personal utopia, irrespective of what was going on outside.'
Similar to the 'experience machine', this idea seems to suggest that people are able to blind themselves to the suffering in the world and live in a bubble of happiness. I believe individual utopias are not uncommon. Many people live in the world, including myself, who live in awareness of atrocities and pain yet don't do anything to actively prevent it. Perhaps there is too much suffering in the world to be upset over, perhaps it is out of selfishness (and the desire to be happy), or perhaps it is in defeat of how impossible it is to help everyone. Still I want to represent this indifference towards pain, and individual UTOPIAs in my final proposal.
The below images are examples of silk made in China and Britain. Silk was seen as a luxurious garment and could convey the owner's wealth and affluence. These associations are related to the idea of utopia, a perfect and luxurious world.
Notes: Silk was later often used in quilting and pillows. Pillows represent dreams and fantasies, relating to the etymology of the word 'utopia'. It originates from the greek words ou meaning 'no' and topos meaning 'place'. This suggests that utopia is a fantasy world that is very idealistic and does not exist.
I took note of this page in the fabric reference book in my research to see how silk is used. For my final proposal I would use 'silk habotai' that most silk pillows and quilts are made from.
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