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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Blog posting written by Jennifer Barish, Communication Management & Design ‘14, FLEFF intern, Skokie, IL
In my first definition of microtopia, I left out a vital part of the story.
I had only scratched the surface; you can have an individual experience within a microtopia, but it’s cooperation, collaboration, and organized chaos that creates a “different environment.”
With each improvised performance paired with silent film, Robby Aceto creates a singular microptopia from a diverse coagulation of sound. It’s all made up on the spot. Toy instruments. Mandolins. Cellos. Textured electronic audio.
The musicians in Aceto’s ensemble don’t have to compromise on creating one sound. Starting with a baseline of “respect” and trust among the artists, they’re equally a part of the process and collectively in control of their environment.
The exciting part, Robby expressed, is waiting for disaster.
As I watched clips from pieces of expressionist German film set to Aceto’s improvised melodies, my viewing experience created a profoundly “different environment.” Without an established soundtrack to comment on the film, I felt involved and emotionally invested. The musicians were not just “recreating” the notation of another artist’s vision, but interpreting the film—and welcoming the audience to talk about it, too.
It’s a beautiful, utopic thought—the idea that a group of talented musicians can successfully share an art-form while including a community of engaged onlookers.
But the moment is fleeting. The credits roll, and at the next performance, there will be new sounds, fresh reactions, and a different environment.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
In 1516, Thomas More wrote a book called "Utopia." In the book there is an island that is described as the absolute perfect place with: no private ownership, no locks on doors, free hospitals and communal meals. Of course many features of this imaginary society are a little outdated, like having two slaves per household or punishing premarital sex with compulsory celibacy, but the idea is the same.
But Thomas More meant to suggest that utopias only exist in fiction books. The word "utopia" comes from the Greek words ou 'no' and topos 'place.' So the word in-itself suggests that a utopia is unachievable.
But let's not despair; while this utopia we are told to aim for, is actually a joke at our expense, microtopias (or small utopias) surround us. Microtopias are often temporary and dynamic, like art installations, but can also be more permanent without being forever. They bring people together in conversation, in laughter, in common purpose. Microtopias are about looking at our communities, building community by creating third spaces, and improving our immediate environment. Just because a Utopia doesn't exist, doesn't mean we can't work towards a more perfect society.
I feel like often times we are so overwhelmed by feeling insignificant and as helpless as small fish in a big sea, that we fail to recognize the importance of the micro in influencing the macro. We want to enact big change, but sometimes we need to start local and start small.
That being said, although sustainability is a global responsibility, microtopias play a pivotal role. Instead of waiting passively for national and global laws/regulations that will protect and conserve our resources for future generations, it's up to us to create sustainable microtopias.
According to environmentalist and author Bill Mckibben, "people everywhere are excited by the treasures of the whole planet, but we crave, too, the security of belonging in some place whose scale makes sense. Anyway, in the end, it's only those vital local communities that can generate the music, the recipes, the solutions that are worth sharing around the world."
Even though the ideal society exists "no place," microtopias are everywhere. Let's not underestimate the power of micro.
Monday, February 20, 2012
In every academic paper I have written, I am always told to define my terms. But with a term as complex as microtopias, declaring a definition becomes daunting. The meaning of the complex concept of microtopias depends on personal perspective. But the same is true when defining utopias in general because perfection or the characteristics of a perfect society differs from person to person. So here are my terms.
A utopia is an ideal, perfect society. We imagine this society without limits or constraints, reminding me of the inspirational quote, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” For me, that means creating a sustainable community with a systems thinking mindset that utilizes nonviolent communication.
That being said, I define microtopias as a society that recognizes one cannot create a utopia for the entire world. Instead we strive to bring this concept to the little piece of world surrounding us. What makes up my entire world may not even be on someone else’s radar. It doesn’t make it any less important; it just makes it mine. Through this concept we localize, which is a vital characteristic to my utopian sustainable society that I defined above.
FLEFF itself can be defined as its own microtopian society. It’s here. It builds community. It sparks conversation about limitless solutions to local struggles.
How do you define microtopias? Is it possible to turn ideal into actuality? What would you do if you knew you could not fail?