Successful Utopias in Arts and Design Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2827 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Architecture

Artistic Utopias

Utopia is from the Greek term outopos, (no place) or eutopos (good place), and refers to an imaginary place where there are ideal laws and social conditions, where everyone is happy and knows no suffering. Some of the world's earliest writings have utopian themes, such as Hesiod's Golden Age depicted in his Works and Days, to Virgil's and Ovid's classic Arcadia, depicting a time and a place of rustic simplicity based on harmony between nature and humans. Plato's Republic was utopian, as he depicted the ideal city where humans attained mastery over nature. Plato's Republic inspired much of the Western utopian movements. Virgil created the most clear image of Arcadia that has ever been described. It was actually a city that existed in the mountainous region in the centre of the Peloponnesus that had grown in legend as being a uniquely happy and peaceful place:

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Yet you will be singing, O Arcadians, to your hills of this: alone Arcadians are skilled to sing. Ah how softly then may my ashes rest, if your pipe once may tell of my loves. And would God I had been one of you, and yours been the flock I kept or the ripe grapes of my vintage!... Here are chill springs, here soft meadows, O Lycoris: here the woodland: here with wasting time I too at thy side would waste away.... I will be gone... resolved in the woods, among the wild beasts' dens, to embrace endurance, and to cut my loves on the tender trees; with their growth you, O loves, will grow. Meanwhile I will range Maenalus amid the rout of Nymphs, or hunt the keep wild boar; no rigour of cold shall forbid me to encircle Parthenian glades with my hounds. Even now I think I pass among rocks and echoing groves, and delight to send the Cretan arrow spinning from a Parthian bow (Virgil, lines 31-60)

Term Paper on Successful Utopias in Arts and Design Assignment

Romanticism is a name that originally meant a harkening back to ancient Roman things, and another name for Utopia is Arcadia, as in Arcadia of Sannazaro, a romantic novel from the 1480s by Jacopo Sannazaro writing under the name "Actius Syncerus," and circulated in manuscript form before it was published. Finally published in Naples in 1504, the Arcadia is an account of Sincero, the persona of the poet, disappointed in love, withdrawing from Naples to pursue in Arcadia an idealized pastoral existence among the shepherd-poets, in the manner of the Idylls of Theocritus. Inspired by the classical Roman and Greek myths and history, other utopias have been created, but Arcadia is the classic Romantic novel.

The societies of Greece and Rome were and still are considered utopian. Looking back on them creates a cloudy mist of unreality, as we imagine the people to have been happy members of a true democratic society. Recreating these buildings and gardens creates the illusion that the ideals of Greek society will return. There was a huge Greek Revival in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. In Nashville's Centennial Park stands an exact replica of the Parthenon, including the huge statue of Athena at its center, recreated as the Parthenon must have been seen in its best days. Built for the Centennial Exposition in 1897, it was hugely popular and remained so, as Greek Revival architecture and other things Greek and Roman gained popularity. Still standing today, it reminds us of the utopian ideals that successfully flooded cities and rebuilt Greek temples, or likenesses thereof.

One of the most successful depictions of ancient utopias is found in Montgomery, Alabama, where they have reconstructed an Olympian Garden with buildings, the facades of which are adaptations of Greek temples, including one of Hera, the oldest sacred building in Olympia, Greece. The Doric columns of the portico are exact size of those on the original seventh century B.C. temple and the colorful acroterian on the roof is a replica of one in the Museum in Olympia (Jasmine, para. 2). Not only were the buildings built, but I n the Great Hall of the Olympian Centre are displayed reproductions of some of Greece's finest works of sculpture, including one which stood in the Temple of Hera in ancient times, Hermes of Praxiteles. The Peplos Kore with her nose restored stands with the other Korai. Originally, these Korai stood on Athens Acropolis near the Erechtheum, a sanctuary dedicated to Athena. (Jasmine, para. 25).

As part of the nostalgia for happier, better times in nature and natural settings, historic gardens and research on them has grown popular. After the manner of Ian Hamilton Finlay, owning the visually ideal garden has become akin to owning fine art in one's home. Some gardeners restore not only the actual garden of the past, but garden with the tools and techniques which originally created the gardens of the past. Gardeners are look at old photographs to glean images of gardens; books and oral traditions are alternative resources. The gardens of little-known, ancient people are researched as indications of man's ancient and harmonious relationship with nature and as valuable evidence of ancient Indian tribes' important contributions to history. "There is no evidence for reuse of the archaic garden plots by later Maori who fished along the coasts" of Africa. Yet the small groups who created these gardens were dedicated gardeners and the restoration of their gardening practices is an important part of the research on these ancient cultures (Leach, p. 311).

Older garden practices are largely out of date, such as hauling water from a well, having a bare yard in order to guard against snakes, swinging a scythe instead of pushing a mower, letting bugs continue to live on plants, and allowing plants to die during droughts. Yet historic-appearing gardens are encouraged as being the perfect accompaniment to the older home. Plants, gazebos, designs and layouts from the past restore and renew history in a manner that is both Romantic and idealistic.

Successful utopias are not restricted to the Western World. The Japanese people have long been Romantic devotees of the ancient, natural garden, creating in small places expansive-feeling miniatures and creating mountains out of mole-sized rocks. Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), a noted writer on Japan, said this about Japanese rock gardens:

In order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand - or at least to learn to understand - the beauty of stones.... Not only is every stone chosen with a view to its particular expressiveness of form, but every stone in the garden or about the premises has its separate and individual name, indicating its purpose or its decorative duty" (Schumacher, para 1).

The tie with nature that the Japanese feel and seek is expressed in their love of the natural shapes that the stones form. This is the true and ideal state of being, which the Japanese and other cultures of the Orient seek, a feeling of being one with nature and being in a perfect place, in other words, being in a small utopia.

Taking for granted that in every age there have been visions of the perfect city, the perfect government and the perfect society that creates a paradise for humankind, the construction of a revolutionary utopias, even the art of utopia through gestures, one might look for the perfect city in the images of artists today.

Idealized versions of Utopia, in the form of a city of the future were created by Sant 'Elia, Magritte, Claude Nicholas Ledoux, Boccioni and De Chirico, all modernists. Contemporary visual artists again admire and attempt to recreate the ancient feelings gained from archaic art and ideals. At the exhibition of Contemporary Classicism at the Neuberger Museum of Art in 1999, which dealt with Roman and Greek-inspired art by American artists, many works of art inspired by these ancient cultures were exhibited, such as Ellen Lanyon's painting series, Archaic Garden, recalling ancient sites near Rome (Resource para. 5).

Architects seem to have a penchant for imagining the perfect city. Richard Meier creates pure white buildings for those with utopian visions. In the Atheneum, created for New Harmony, Indiana in 1975-1979, he describes it:

The starting point for the tour of the historic town, [it] is intended to serve as a center for visitor orientation and cultural community events. Its architecture is conceived in terms of the linked ideas of architectural promenade and historical journey of one of America's most significant utopian communities. The ideal vision of the relationship between habitation and social life exists in the restored architecture of New Harmony (Meier).

New Harmony was the site of two utopian communities in the early 1800s, one religious and one scientific and educational, and was one of hundreds of utopian communities established around the United States that are still remaining today. In the Americas, groups were attracted by the "free land" from the time of the early religious groups who settled in the colonies to form their brand of "utopian" societies, to the late 1900s, when hippies grouped together and formed… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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