In March of 2007 Irene Barberis (RMIT and MetaSenta), Karen Forbes Visser (Head of Painting and Drawing ECA) along with three postgraduate students from RMIT School of art and Edinburgh College of Art took part in a residency at the ECA Studio, Chicago Illinois: living and working together for three weeks.
Notions of Utopia in Art and Architecture was the lens through which the participants were able to investigate the city of Chicago as a primary source for art-making. Through the earlier production of a reader and bibliography, all participants were able to formulate initial responses to the urban mass, ideas of utopia, and possible directions for interventions within the metropolis. The direct experience of the city, its buildings, character and history then impacted conceptually and practically on the artwork.
The John David Mooney Foundation is in the heart of downtown Chicago. It is a chunky five-story building containing studios, galleries and living quarters with the ECA Studios on the third floor and the main John David Mooney Gallery on the second. As there were eight of us, the six postgraduate students stayed in the ECA space while the two lecturers shared the second floor. There was movement, however, between the spaces as collaboration was a key issue for the project.
Three weeks of communal living, working, sharing, interacting and discourse around the fore mentioned theme brought about distinct outcomes. Where the two instigators had thought that everyone would most likely link up into pairs or threes, the entire team began to work around things corporately and then working independently as time passed.
The exhibition in the final week revealed intersecting ideas, transitions and a strong focus on the original utopian premise, opening possibilities and potentials for the future: Fold-out Futures being a most apt title for the exhibition.
Since the residency’s end three exhibitions and a two-volume publication are further outcomes to the Tokyo conversations. Edinburgh, Melbourne and New Harmony, Illinois USA will become new sites for explorations of Utopia in Art and Architecture, radical understandings of this terminology and thought, investigating the spectrum between ancient and traditional models through to esoteric underpinnings of future cities. This double volume publication balances the collaborative equation – ECA funds the studios, Metasenta Projects, RMIT School of Art, funds the publication, a harmonious, spontaneous and inventive solution to new, global collaborations.