September 9, 2016

Unity Culture Club: On Your Radar – 09.09.16

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s radical work, Utopia; a text which continues to influence us today.

The book imagines a perfect society of communities living side by side with a shared, common culture and way of life – sparking pub talk for centuries after its publication.

Since its release, visions of what this community might look like and actually mean have been debated, prompting different interpretations and realities for many. One man’s utopia might well be another’s dystopia, after all.

But such debate helps us strive for something better. So, with this week’s On Your Radar we are feeling More-ish – and hopefully you can develop your own views on utopia and achieve greatness.


Taking Utopia’s themes and anniversary as an inspiration, the inaugural London Design Biennale opened this week at Somerset House. The epic, sprawling series of exhibitions are each an interpretation of utopia, engaging with some of the fundamental issues facing humanity. After all, design has the power to innovate, inform and provoke real change – a concept that Oscar Wilde summed up in 1910 when asserting that ‘progress is the realisation of Utopias.’

Participating countries have each presented their compelling visions of utopia, focusing their projects on contemporary cultural issues. For example, Russia’s exhibition opens a window on to a previously unpublicised era of Soviet innovation. Featuring Moscow metro train carriages, modular kitchens and even an experimental snowmobile, the exhibition showcases the recently rediscovered archive of Soviet design and research organisations, whose ideas were so utopian that they often proved beyond the capabilities of modern industry.

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On the flipside, explorations of dystopian visions also have their own merits, offering insights into the effects of society’s vices – something particularly important to consider at a time of tension and conflict (we only have to look to Calais and this week’s news of our government building a wall around the refugee camp to see a symptom of our own dystopia).

So, the announcement of 59 Production’s latest project is of particular interest; an adaptation of Paul Auster’s novel, City of Glass. Marking the visual and technical design company’s first original theatre show, the collaboration with Duncan Macmillan (author of People, Places and Things) will incorporate projection mapping stagecraft, magic and illusion to immerse audiences into the play’s dystopian world.

The show will reach London in April, but we advise keeping an eye out for tickets – this is one not to miss.

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Eunjoo Lee, a UK-based illustrator, has created Fantasy Consumer; an illustrated zine depicting the tale of a girl who tries to reach her own utopia within her dreams by taking sleeping pills.

Inspired by Krishan Kumar’s work Utopia and Anti-utopia in Modern Times, which claims that modern man could ‘consume their own fantasy’ to make their utopia come true, the artist believes that it is a temporary paradise that is actually created – particularly in contemporary society where realising a fantasy through money and material objects cannot be permanent.

It’s a beautiful way of visually presenting her interpretation of utopia, as well as offering a thought-provoking analysis of modern culture.

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Abandoned Places is a new photo book by Kieron Connolly that explores 65 fascinating lost worlds from all around the globe.

From industrial to military sites, ghost towns to submerged buildings in the desert, the book explains the story of how each place came to be abandoned; whether it was natural or chemical disaster, war, economic collapse, or changing attitudes and tastes.

Surely everyone has their own imagined dystopian future – whether that’s a desert world, burned out cars on wide empty roads or tumbleweed on sandy streets. Look through this and you might find a real-life illustration of your own vision.

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Wikipedia’s definition of a ‘utopia’ is: an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. Not to brag, but we might have just reached a real-life state of utopia, having this week been named as the Most Creative Agency in the World by the Holmes Report Global Creative Index 2016. This is the third time in four years and we’ve definitely reached an ideal state of being. Perhaps one agency’s utopia is another’s dystopia, after all. To take a peek at our award-winning campaigns explore our website.

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