Isola Utopia



“Only in us does this light still burn, and we are beginning a fantastic journey toward it, toward the implementation of the central concept of utopia. To find it, to find the right thing, for which it is worthy to live, to be organized, and to have time: that is why we go, why we cut new, metaphysically constitutive paths, summon what is not, build into the blue, and build ourselves into the blue, and there seek the true, the real, where the merely factual disappears – incipit vita nova.”

Ernst Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia


Utopia! We searched for her continuously, we never met her, but she has always been close to us. When we occupied a former factory in the Isola neighbourhood in Milan and, together with the gardens, we converted it into a new model for a centre for art, philosophy, music, and other activities and events of the district. When we stood up to unscrupulous real estate developers, cynical politicians, turncoat architects and servile journalists. When together with the children of Isola we sang “Il ragazzo di Via Gluck” (“The Boy of Gluck Street”) in front of the politicians of the district council, who had listened to us … without ever understanding. When one night, together with Christoph, we painted his mural Strategic Embellishment created for the news kiosk of Isola. When we threw the seed bombs over the wire fence of a space that was still closed to the neighbourhood … a space we wanted to open with the name of Isola Pepe Verde. When together with Macao we vacated the Galfa Tower in Milan and there we hung the banner “One could even imagine flying”. When we tried to raise horizons with Nikola’s solar cloud. Until, while flying to San Mauro Cilento in an orange bee-car, we finally met Utopia in one ofour daydreams, and she told us:

“Devour the past utopias and your wishes will start to fly! It’s true, all the old utopias have failed, or even worse, they have turned into dystopias. It’s true; neoliberalism has imposed itself on a global level. It’s true; the ‘gap’ between the rich and the poor has never been so wide as it is today. It’s true that for many, nowadays, the only possible form of social and economic organisation seems to be the capitalist model, and they are totally reduced to trying to improve only little details, so as to lessen the possible harm. These fools believe that there is no alternative to a society based on the exploitation of nature, human beings and their creativity. They think art can only exist as a commoditised luxury set aside for the very rich.

What a lack of fantasy, what a lack of logical thinking!

For years the movements against specific, individual aspects of capitalism have become more and more widespread: against the closure of factories, companies and hospitals, against cultural and job insecurity, against the destruction of the welfare state, against austerity policies, against the privatization of the public sector, against financial policies favouring banks and multinational corporations, against urban planning that devastates urban and rural areas, against property speculation and against gentrification, against the progressive restriction of democratic rights and individual freedoms, against discrimination and violence against women, against war and injustice… To all this and more, you said ‘No!’, but it is now the time to get back to thinking about the ‘Yes!’. The time of concrete utopias and fulfilling your desires has returned.”

Thus spoke Utopia.

We looked at each other, and without hesitation we decided to dedicate our research project to Her. In fact, we have called it “Isola Utopia”. A collective production which includes exhibitions and performances involving artists, students, residents, architects, curators, theorists, musicians, journalists and others, who will be all collecting and producing moments of thought and artworks for new, possible utopias.


Bert Theis
Isola Milano, July 2014


Published in

Utopian Pulse – Flares in the Darkroom, catalogue and research project curated by Oliver Ressler and Ines Doujak, Pluto Press, 2015 (English)