A deadly medley
Art is for everyone. This maxim is the Utopian Dystopia - the art, design and tech festival being held at Maradu near Kochi.
Art is for everyone. This maxim is the Utopian Dystopia - the art, design and tech festival being held at Maradu near Kochi. Mammoth installations, all grand to take in and containing a multitude of information, stories and ideas welcome the visitors. There are bright, vivid murals on the walls, and exhibitions of visual arts - painting, sculptures and whatnot.
Performance art is another highlight. With architectural designs that break the conventional standards, tech festivals and virtual reality (VR) film festivals, conferences and open mics, Utopian Dystopia has something for everyone.
Visitors get a welcome aperitif in dark, grey rooms, where art and technology create a ethereal experience. That’s just an aperitif. Utopian Dystopia boasts over 400 artists from across India, including NFT and digital creators, architects, scientists, and designers.
“This is a new concept. Not just established artists, but new and young people are exhibiting their works here. And the result is that there are new ideas in every corner,” says visual artist Girinath Gopinath, who has been a regular in the Indian art circuit since 2005. “The response from the audience has been great. I didn’t expect so many people to visit an art event here.”
Girinath’s installation Bionic-Bull, too, is part of the exhibition. The 3D- printed artwork is part bull, part bulldozer. One of the most thrilling installations here is the Mycelium Lego, a hexagonal architecture marvel and there is mycelium - a type of mushroom/fungus on them. The artists behind the ‘magical mushroom’ structure are two architects, Asif Rahman Junaid from India and Giombattista Areddia from Italy.
Running into an artist known as Lady Lazarus (Priya Varughese) is another amazing experience. She writes poems for each visitor. All one has to do is have a chat with her. Within minutes, she would write wonderful poems for you.
A big thumbs-up goes out to the team behind Utopian Dystopia -- curator Asif Rahman Junaid, an architect, deputy curator Vinod Ramaswamy and NFT curator-artist Unnikrishnan M Damodaran. “The themes are, of course, Utopia and Dystopia,” says Arif. “The idea came to us during the peak of the pandemic, in 2021. It was kind of a dystopian time.
All the work here is, in some way, connected to the themes -- how technology and new media have aided in creating a society that could be either a utopia or a dystopia. At the same time, we are connecting every element of art - visual arts, technology, design, fashion, music.”
Many of the artworks are by new artists and, for most of them, this is their first exhibition. Breaking the boundaries of what is considered art, one can see scientists and technology enthusiasts and NFT artists at Utopian Dystopia.
For instance, there is a brain-mapping interactive artwork by Abhijeet Satani. “His work has emerged as a highlight, a crowd-pleaser. He can help you experience the pain felt by plants when we destroy them,” says Arif. “He connected brain mapping with environmental destruction.”
Another crowd-puller is artist Rocky Jacob (Papa Rocky). His interactive installation is all about music. Visitors can join him to create music live. “Everything here has been beyond our expectations,” says event coordinator Kafeela Parvin. “We didn’t expect such a massive response.”
Vinod nods, and says daily about 1,000 people have been visiting the event, which was inaugurated by filmmaker and actor Basil Joseph on July 2. “Over the weekend, 3,000 people visited the venue,” he adds. “Art is not something meant just for the elite class. People generally believe works such as sculptures and paintings are only for those who ‘know’ art. That’s not true. Art can be enjoyed by anyone, and that is what is happening here.”
Utopian Dystopia is an experience with installations, murals, NFT exhibition, education expo, flea market, fashion events, food courts, workshops for children and the very first VR film screening. Another highlight of the event is the wide selection of music concerts. At least 35 music artists and bands are performing at the eight-day festival, says Kafeela. “The concerts are drawing huge crowds. Musician Arun Kumar, the concert director of Utopian Dystopia, has included many up-and-coming music bands, covering various genres, including psychedelic, alt-rock and trance,” says Kafeela. The concluding day (July 9) is set to be a heavy one. The lineup would feature popular alternative rock band Avial, organic trance band Shanka Tribe, and alternative hip-hop band Street Academics.
Kerala Startup Mission, along with Design Kerala and Little Martians, has been organising conferences, talk shows, panel discussions and debates at the event.
At Utopian Dystopia, the mega art event being hosted in the city, the conventional boundaries of creativity have been smashed. With over 400 emerging artists, 22 installations, music concerts, flea market and food court, this annual event has arrived