The year 2016 marks the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia, which famously presented the idea of a perfect state and social system. In honour of the occasion, the first edition of the London Design Biennale tackles the subject of impossible harmony. To mark the occasion, we would like to display five ideas, which were Polish concepts to make humanity happy.
Ignacy Krasicki’s The Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom
Ignacy Krasicki is not only the author of the unofficial Polish anthem from the end of the 18th century, but also the writer of the first polish novel: The Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom (1776). The story touched upon the topic of a utopian state for the first time in Polish literature.
The story has the main character describe his childhood and many adventures. One time, he accidently arrived on the utopian island of Nipu, where any political system, institutional religion or reign of one human over another didn’t exist except for parental authority. Every family had their own piece of agrarian land. All of the island inhabitants were equal both economically and socially. They didn’t kill animals, didn’t pay taxes and education was mostly about ethics and morality.
Konstanty Ciołkowski‘s Outside the Earth
Ever considered a utopian society in space? Konstanty Ciołkowski, founder of cosmic rocketry and a space technology pioneer, came up with the idea at the beginning of the 20th century. His belief was that the colonisation of space would provide immortality to the human species. The action of his novel takes place in the year 2017, in a world of peace and prosperity. There is just one serious problem: overpopulation. The only solution is for humanity to migrate into the cosmos.
Oskar & Zofia Hansen’s Open Form & the Linear Continuous System
'We need to be l’enfant terrible, we need to make so-called utopian projects, to build social consciousness today and to make it real tomorrow,’ said architect Oskar Hansen in an interview with Czesław Bielecki in 1977. Over a decade earlier, Hansen had formulated the utopian idea of the Linear Continuous System (LCS), which transferred his most important idea of Open Form (invented with Zofia Hansen), which emphasises the co-creation of space by its users, to the urban scale.
In LCS, Hansen was demanding the organisation of life without the traditional development around a city centre. Instead of that common idea, he proposed a concept of agglomeration, spread in four parallel lines from the mountains to the sea, where industrial or service districts would exist between living areas. Thanks to that plan, divisions between centrum and peripheries wouldn’t be a problem and everybody would have the same access to work places and leisure stops.
The social egalitarianism proposed by Hansen required the rebuilding of whole countries and, most of all, great amounts of money, so unsurprisingly it didn’t quite create the revolution perhaps it should have. But Hansen’s idea was realised in smaller versions: you can see it in Słowacki’s subdivision in Lublin, and in the Przyczółek Grochowski area on the right side of the Vistula river in Warsaw.
Juliusz Machulski’s Sexmission
This cult 1983 movie directed by Juliusz Machulski presents a dystopian vision of an all-female city deep underground. The story begins in 1991 when two volunteers, Maks Paradys and Albert Starski, undergo the experimental process of hibernation. They wake up, not three years later as planned, but more than fifty, after the world has been destroyed in a nuclear war that killed off most of the men. Women began to reproduce by themselves via in vitro, and thanks to genetic control, only girls are born.
Zbigniew Libera's Walser
The visual artist’s film debut is a story about Earth after a catastrophe that leads to the destruction of civilisation and social regress. The film concentrates on a tribe of forest people who live in isolation with their only contact being nature. They don’t eat meat, they communicate with plants, they speak a language with no past tense, and none of them even have a name. This ideal life without the burden of history is interrupted by the main character, Walser, who wants to rescue them, but brings only chaos and annihilation to their world. Zbigniew Libera says:
This adventure of a lifetime for train worker Andrzej Walser, which is a story line of our movie, is an attempt to tell a story about lost chances. Nonetheless that this story belongs to the fantasy genre doesn’t cancel its inherent truth, as it could potentially happen in the future.
Originally written in Polish by Agnieszka Sural; translated by JO, 8 Sept 2016