Utopia – an image of a perfect society, always out of reach, perpetually deferred to a time yet to come. Utopian visions have a function of forging collective identity, through a sublimation of diverging interests under a common vision of an ideal society in the future. The project of European integration itself is charged with plenty of utopian rhetoric. However, with the crisis that has befallen this project, mighty cracks have started to show in the dream of a Europe united in tranquil productivity and prosperity.
Financial crises, rising unemployment, increasing wealth divides and redistribution from the bottom to the top, as well as the resurgence of nationalism and xenophobia, are all part of the new realism that has replaced utopia for the time being. At this point, it is virtually impossible for news outlets to talk about Europe without drawing a link it to some kind of raging crisis.
Reversing is an act that produces a countermovement, a different position, direction or order. It means turning around, taking an opposite stance, changing one’s opinion or judgement. For the driver of a vehicle, the act of reversing brings with it certain impediments to control over vision and movement, which increases the risk of collisions. Due to low speeds however, accidents that ensue in the process often verge more on the comic rather than the tragic.
Reversing into something is driving in reverse right at this thing. Correspondingly, reversing into utopia could be seen as an attempt to use a device (in this case a poetic device rather than a mechanical one) in the opposite direction that it was originally intended to, and use it as a projectile aimed directly at the surface of a particular utopia.
The project Reverse into Utopia consists of a series of visits to different European capitals. In each city a group of singers or a brass band are brought together. They study a song of symbolic significance, most likely the European anthem, Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, or perhaps the country’s national anthem.
Instead of a usual recital, however, the song will be performed in reverse, in public. The reversal will be based on an actual recording of the song, so should a recording of the eventual performance be reversed again, it will recognisably resemble the original version.
Reverse into Utopia is an intervention in public space that – quite literally – performs a reversal of conventional symbols of unity and identity. This mode of action carries with it an unfamiliarity of operation, which has the potential to engender accidental outcomes, as well as to put a dent intoexisting hierarchies of identity production. Ultimately the project aims to destabilise conceptions of collective identities, of utopias, and to question the power of symbols relating to these.
The performance will be documented and the collected video will exist as material that can be played back in either direction, forward or backward.