Utopia installation by Penny Woolock

Posted on August 10, 2015 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

utopia installation


What is the definition of 'utopia'? According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition is as follows: "An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More. The opposite of dystopia."

This year, The Roundhouse invited award-winning British director and filmmaker Penny Woolcock to create a ground breaking installation Utopia. In collaboration with set design team Block9, Utopia is a multi-sensory exhibition focusing on urban issues in recent times including inequality, consumerism, housing, gentrification, education, crime and social media.


utopia installation utopia installation


Akin to an immersive theatre setting (except there are no actors involved), visitors are encouraged to spend an hour wandering around the atmospheric setting filled with art and sound installations. There are audio testimonies and stories of Londoners – including drug dealer, prostitute, NHS worker and teenager etc – throughout the exhibition, and each story reveals the harsh reality of life or as an outcast of the society.

In one of the rooms, it is filled with tower of cardboard boxes that resembles a self-storage warehouse, and each box is branded with a label – desirability, cool, glamour, happiness and spirituality etc. These goals or our society's emphasis on achievements merely create more discrimination, inequality and dysfunctionalilty; and in essence, they are shallow and unrealistic.


Penny Woolcock: Introducing the Artist Behind Utopia 


It is probably more appropriate to use the word 'dystopia' as its title, because there is no perfect world here (nor in real life), utopia is an illusionary world that exists in the minds of the deluded. On paper, it would be easy to dismiss the exhibition as patronising and pessimistic, but I found the exhibition genuine, thought-provoking and inspiring. At the end of the day, we have to accept that human beings are conditioned and flawed; however, we also have the extraordinary ability to create, empathise and support each other. Altruism may not be a word that is associated with our capitalist society, but perhaps this is the closest solution to the issues that we are facing in our dystopian society today.


Penny WoolcockUtopia is on until23 August at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8EH.

This post was posted in London, Exhibitions, Social issues, Art, Sound art, British art and was tagged with London, art and design exhibitions, British art, sound art