21 June 2016 00:28

How will we be living in 2051? How do we want to be living?

These are the questions a team of researchers from the Institute for Social Futures (ISF) have been asking members of the public, community groups and fellow academics as part of the funded research project ‘Mobile Utopia 1851-2051’.

The project team, Monika Büscher (Centre for Mobilities Research [CeMoRe]//Sociology), Nick Dunn (Imagination/LICA), Carlos Lopez-Galviz (ISF/LICA), Lynne Pearce (English and Creative Writing/CeMoRe) and Nicola Spurling (ISF/Sociology), together with PhD students Georgia Newmarch and Cosmin Popan, have spent the past four months hosting workshops, consultancies and a ‘Campus in the City’ event to capture the hopes and visions of as many people as possible.

As part of this process, CeMoRe Director Monika Büscher, has devised a novel means of helping participants visualise what form their ideal future will  take – namely, the ‘utopian object’.

The photograph here shows some of the everyday objects that participants brought to the recent CeMoRe  ‘Awayday’  and whose future use they then explained on the label attached.     

Throughout the project people have also  been asked to talk about their utopian object  – be this a rusty key, a model car, a toothbrush or a living plant – and describe what it symbolises in their ideal future. Several of these accounts have been recorded and may be found on the project website at http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/mobility-futures/mobile-utopia/.

The project culminates this weekend (24 to 26 June) with an exhibition at the ‘Utopia Fair’ taking place at Somerset House, London.

At the stall, members of the public will be invited to barter a (labelled) ‘utopian object’ of choice for a copy of the illustrated book that has been produced by project artist, Oliver East, who  designed the covers for two of Elbow’s best-selling albums.

The drawings in East’s book, Mobile Utopia, have, themselves, been inspired by the participation of members of the public at ‘Campus in the City’ and other events, making this, like the project as a whole, a work of genuine co-creation.

And what does this collective Utopia look like?

Team member Lynne Pearce says:  “In a word, green! The image that captures our hopes for the future more than anything else is, seemingly, the humble blade of grass – and Oliver East has now made this the central motif for his drawings.”