Utopia?t - Stefaan van Biesen

 

U T O P I A [ just around the corner?] version I, II, III . .

 

 

 

 

'Today, in a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. Art is the favourite realm for dreams and utopias, a catalyst for human connections that roots us both to nature and the cosmos, that elevates us to a spiritual dimension. Art is the last bastion, a garden to cultivate above and beyond trends and personal interests. It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference. It builds us up and edifies us. At a time of global disorder, art embraces life, even if doubt ensues inevitably. The role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are more crucial than ever before within the framework of contemporary debates. It is in and through these individual initiatives that the world of tomorrow  takes shape, which though surely uncertain, is often best intuited by artists than others'.

 

[Christine Macel, director Biennale Arte, Venice 2017].

 

 

'I got tired of hearing some people complain, over and over again, about the ugliness of some neighborhoods in their own city or village, but without wanting to do anything about it themselves. Because you can change the energy of a place with very small gestures and cheap things. That is why I started a new initiative with befriended artists and inhabitants: reading a space specific letter in a neglected place and leaving an in situ artwork behind. Kind of a love gesture for a place that is not looked after. The Utopia book emerged from that. A book that travels and that its owner can show in places that, due to their social, societal, aesthetic dysfunction, show a sign of commitment and compassion.'

 

Stefaan van Biesen

 

Above: the 'Utopia Book' [Version I] a travelling nomadic book: a first presentation by Annemie Mestdagh and a first walk in the city of Braga in Portugal, december 2016. Art work by Stefaan van Biesen. Transparent textile cover by Annemie Mestdagh.

 

 

P L A C E S / L O C A T I O N S :

Several versions of the Utopia Book are travelling and have been shown (or worked with) in: 01. Utopia, just around the corner [the Milena principle, Braga Portugal 2016], 02. Urban Emptiness Network [NeMe Art Center, Limmasol Cyprus 2017], 03. Utopia, just around the corner [Lefkosia Dance House, Nicosia Cyprus 2017], 04. Utopia, just around the corner [Parsons School for Design, New York USA 2017], 05. Urban Emptiness Network [Académie Royale de Beaux Arts, Brussels Belgium 2017], 06. Independent Art Fair [Platform Projects, Athens Greece 2018], 07. Library of Walks/Libraries as Gardens [TAF: The Art Fondation, Athens Greece 2018], 08. S.T.E.P. (Saunter, Trek, Escort, Parade) [Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows Park, New York USA 2018], 09. Brasilia Brazil 2018, 10. Analogio Festival Athens 2018, 11. LISTEN Festival, a summer of sound art, Frome (UK) 2019, 12. Library of Walks / Utopia [Academy of Fine Arts] Ypres Belgium 21.03.2019, 13. [END: Empirical Nonsense Daily] Jimi Dams Envoy Enterprises . NYC USA.

 

 

Utopia Book [version IX] Brasilia Brazil 2018.

 

 

Utopia Book [version IX] Brasilia Brazil 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LISTEN Festival, a summer of sound art, Frome (UK) Sound Walk Sunday 01.09.2019.

 

 

LISTEN: Utopia, a drift for dancers and silent walkers. A silent walking and movement performance directed by Geert Vermeire conceived on the “Utopia” book by Stefaan van Biesen. Dancers: Soo Wright, Karen Burnett and Jackie Adkins

 

Dancers move around – in silence- through the city, with no other intention then to get lost, with a book, inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia, but containing in this version only one word and in a format that challenges the very idea of a book.

 

 

 

It is a book that resembles a walk – a movement, it is not linear, it opens from different angles, it has pages folded in pages, you can open and browse through it in different directions, actually it is not a book to be read, it is a book to be shared spontaneously between the silent dancers/walkers, carried around and to be opened on places that come towards the performers/walkers, symbolically opening the places, inviting to read the place, the walker and the moment in which they stand. The public is invited to join in with the dancers.

 

A silent walking and movement performance directed by Geert Vermeire, conceived on the “Utopia” book by Stefaan van Biesen, together forming an artistic walking duo since 2001 developing in a collaborative practice called the Milena principle.

 

 

Photos by Mel Day.

 

2 Bridge Street, Frome a drift for dancers and silent walkers – with Geert Vermeire. 

A silent walk at the LISTEN, A Season of Sound Art, Frome (UK).

 

Dancers move around – in silence- through the city, with no other intention then to get lost, with a book, inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia, but containing in this version only one word and in a format that challenges the very idea of a book.

 

As a duo of walkers, they invite guest artists and the public to perform with them in a continuous series of walking performances in contemporary cities around the world. Interview video. Utopia is a performative silent walk, adapted to each place and shaped by the participating dancers/walkers, and organized since 2016 in Braga (Portugal), Nicosia (Cyprus) 2017, Brussels (Belgium) 2017, Brasilia (Brazil) 2018, New York (USA) 2017/2018, Athens (Greece) 2018, Queens 2018 (New York USA), Ypres (Belgium) 2019.

 

The walk goes along with an Utopia soundscape, called ‘Hythlodaeus 2015’ composed out of the poem ‘Unfolding the City’ by Geert Vermeire and ‘Siren’ by Stefaan van Biesen. Voice and composition by Stefaan van Biesen. Field recordings by Geert Vermeire and Stefaan van Biesen. The name of the sound piece is inspired by the explorer of Utopia, originated during field recordings of walks of the artists in Venice and in Antwerp where Thomas More wrote his book. This digital material was composed to a soundscape for the Utopia sound project for Cities and Memory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utopia Book [version X] Analogio Festival Athens Greece 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utopia Book [version III] a silent drift for three walkers or more. New York 01.11.2017.

 

This walk, some days ago in Manhattan, as a tender and slow gesture towards the city, suddenly moves into another perspective after the terrorist attack some hours ago in the same place that was walked. Sharing the images as a balm for a city where today pedestrians and bikers were savagely attacked.


With Freddie Dessau, Jose Ernesto Rivera Perez and John Gorgone, inhabitants of New York and students of the Studio Walking as a Practice at Parsons New York (lead by Lydia Matthews). 

A parallel / simultaneous action with Utopia Walk Brussels, with students of the Walking as a Research Lab at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts with Stefaan van Biesen, Annemie Mestdagh, Lydia Bollen and Alice Finichiu, as part of the Urban Emptiness Network.

 

A silent group walk, moving in a flow through New York City, departing from Gracie Mansion, with no other intention then to get lost, with a book, inspired by Thomas More's, but containing only one word, "Utopia".

 

It is a book that resembles a walk, it is not linear, it opens from different angles, it has pages folded in pages, you can open and browse it in different directions, not a book to be read, but a book to be shared spontaneously between the participating walkers, to be carried around in silence and to be opened on places that come towards them, as an inviting to open and read the place, the walkers and the moment in which they stand.

A silent walking performance by the Milena principle (Belgium) with Geert Vermeire (performance artist), conceived on the Utopia book by Stefaan van Biesen (visual artist), and together forming an artistic walking duo since 2001 developing in a collaborative practice. As a duo of walkers they invite guests artists and the public to perform with them in a continuous series of walking performances in contemporary cities around the world. Photographs: Freddie Dessau, Jose Ernesto Rivera Perez, Geert Vermeire, John Gorgone.

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation of the Utopia Book at Platform Projects [the Independed Art Fair] School of Fine Arts Athens 2018. Booth 29 the Milena principle. Curated by Artemis Potamianou (Moma NY & Tate London).

 

'Utopia (just around the corner). A silent group walk, moving in a flow through Nicosia, Brussels, NY City, with no other intention then to get lost, with a book, inspired by Thomas More's, but containing only one word, "Utopia". It is a book that resembles a walk, it is not linear, it opens from different angles, it has pages folded in pages, you can open and browse it in different directions, not a book to be read, but a book to be shared spontaneously between the participating walkers, to be carried around in silence and to be opened on places that come towards them, as an inviting to open and read the place, the walkers and the moment in which they stand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A walking performance with a group of people [the Milena principle] Brussels Belgium. An exciting start of the Walking Lab Brussels as part of the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, initiated by Vermeire Geert in collaboration with Lydia Bollen (ARBA - Architecture School University of Mons), Alice Finichiu (ARBA - Urban Design / ULB University of Brussels) and Enzo Pezzella (artistic director ISAC - Higher Institute of Arts and Choreography) together with the Urban Emptiness Network.

 

Invited artists/researchers Stefaan van Biesen, Adonis Volanakis, Lydia Matthews, Marielys Lely Burgos, Stella Mygdali, Christos Kakalis.

 

From October till end of December: seminars, walks, talks, workshops, simultaneous with other Walking Labs in New York and Athens (Parsons - Fine Arts and Odeon - Conservatoire Athens), a creation lab and joint exhibition with CSCA Lab / European University Nicosia and Dance House Nicosia, Cyprus, with Sophie Gee and Arianna Economou.

 

http://portail.arba-esa.be/…/urban-emptiness-la-marche-com…/

 

 

 

Invited artists/researchers Stefaan van Biesen, Adonis Volanakis, Lydia Matthews, Marielys Lely Burgos, Stella Mygdali, Christos Kakalis.

 

From October till end of December 2017: seminars, walks, talks, workshops, simultaneous with other Walking Labs in New York and Athens (Parsons - Fine Arts and Odeon - Conservatoire Athens), a creation lab and joint exhibition with CSCA Lab / European University Nicosia and Dance House Nicosia, Cyprus, with Sophie Gee and Arianna Economou.

 

http://portail.arba-esa.be/…/urban-emptiness-la-marche-com…/

 

 

 

 

 

 

U T O P I A [just around the corner] [ 2 0 1 7 ] .

 

A walking performance [the Milena principle] Nicosia Cyprus. Walks in Limassol and Nicosia

with Stefaan van Biesen, Annemie Mestdagh, Vermeire Geert and Marielys Lely Burgos.

 

 

 

[Utopia and walking] : a book and a place, about the word Utopia as a gesture, how books open, walking as being together and transformation of a space, being the place, about flow, exchange, drift as a method of letting people and the environment come to you. About playing the city, about change of perspective, about inner knowledge, words and nature, words as giving attention and carrying around the word Utopia, as a gift.

 

Utopia. A book of longing. During the Urban Emptiness Network exhibition at NeMe Limassol Cyprus. Following on walks and interventions in Limassol and Nicosia February 2017. Curated by Geert Vermeire. Book by Annemie Mestdagh & Stefaan van Biesen. Project started as a pilot in Braga Portugal December 2016. Photo's (of the walks and interventions by Stefaan van Biesen and Annemie Mestdagh) : Marielys Lely Mendelez (Porto Rico) walking with us in the devided and occupied city of Nicosia.

 

 

 

Video talk between Stefaan van Biesen and Vermeire Geert about the work Utopia [Just Around The Corner?]. A drift for three walkers (or more), walks in Limassol-Nicosia and the related walking score, as part of the Urban Emptiness exhibition at NeMe, Limassol.

 

Walks in Limassol and Nicosia with Stefaan van Biesen, Annemie Mestdagh, Vermeire Geert and Marielys Lely Burgos.

Video in the house of Pandora in Limassol during Urban Emptiness Network at NeMe Art Center.

 

 

 

 

Installation in the Art Centre. Another version of an Utopia book with the registrations of a walk in Braga december 2016. A seminar at the University of Limassol about media, silence, walking/movement in urban space in relation to Urban Emptiness. Geert Vermeire moderating a conversation/presentation. A talk about your experiences within Urban Emptiness 2016 and possible future approaches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Utopia * just around the corner?] NeMe Limassol Cyprus February 2017.

 

The Utopia Book. Helene Black (NeMe) in Limassol, Cyprus, reading a book of longing during the Urban Emptiness Network exhibition at NeMe. Following on walks and interventions in Limassol and Nicosia February 2017. Curated by Geert Vermeire. Book and walks by Annemie Mesrdagh, Stefaan van Biesen and Geert Vermeire. Video and camera by Stefaan van Biesen/the Milena principle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Hythlodaeus 2015] Utopia Sound Map : Cities and Memory ⋈ Oxford UK 2015.

Composed, mixed and produced by Stefaan van Biesen/the Milena principle 2015.

 

Making a soundscape 'Hythlodaeus 2015': during the Milena principle 'Sea Born' project in Venice 2015, Geert Vermeire and Stefaan van Biesen made field recordings in Venice and later in Antwerp. They used this digital material to make a soundscape for the Utopia sound project of Cities and Memory. The theme was the map of Utopia made by Ambrosius Holbein in 1518. The Milena principle soundscape created by Stefaan van Biesen can be heard on section C6 of the map on the website of

http://citiesandmemory.com/utopiagrid/

 

Soundscape 'Hythlodaeus 2015': texts 'Unfolding the City' by Geert Vermeire, 'Siren' by Stefaan van Biesen. Voice by Stefaan van Biesen. Field recordings by Geert Vermeire and Stefaan van Biesen.

© Stefaan van Biesen / the Milena principle.

 

CD 'Hythlodaeus' available on Band Camp: https://b-hive.bandcamp.com/album/hythlodaeus

 

On 22 May 2015, more than 50 sound artists and musicians from across the world will reimagine one of the greatest works of English literature, using sound.  The Cities and Memory: Utopia project creates something new from the words of Thomas More and the collective imagination of artists around the world – an entirely new Utopia of sound. Using a woodcut map from the second edition of Utopia  from 1518, sound artists each took a small section of More’s imagined country of Utopia, and created a new soundscape imagining how that place (and the society living in it) might sound. 


A free album of highlights from the project, entitled Utopia, will be released via

http://citiesandmemory.bandcamp.com/album/utopia

 

 

Stone plaque on the floor in front of the cathedral in Antwerp pointing at the meeting of Thomas More and the traveller Hythlodaeus in 1515 who told him about Utopia.

 

 

 

 

 

©stefaan van biesen-annemie mestdagh 24.07.2021