The brief asks me to 'Bring Your Own Utopia'. A big ask in such a time of turmoils, but there's nothing quite like a pandemic, a right-wing resurgence, fractious identity politics, and political chaos to bring artsy folk together. Tomorrow, I fly to Estonia. From Tallinn, I take a bus to Tartu, and that fair and distant City of Literature will be my home for 8 days. While there, I aim to explore, encounter, engage and explode in creativity, and perhaps some glimmers of a utopia will begin to emerge. So far, the pieces of the puzzle look tantalisingly good. My collaborator Henri seems to be an extraordinarily imaginative and experimental soul. There's an arts festival happening over the weekend called 'Crazy Tartu' with all manner of curious acts on the line-up (including little old me). And everyone I've been in touch with remotely have been super friendly and keen.
But wherever there's utopia, dystopia lurks nearby. I am nervous. More nervous than I've been about anything for a long while. This is a massive leap into the unknown for me. I've never really done a creative residency before, and I'm already worrying that I should have done more prep work, more Estonian immersion. I'm also not wild about travelling on my own, preferring the company of a trusty loved one with infinitely more sense about things like connecting flights and travel insurance. And then there's this wee devil on my shoulder smirking as he waits for me to show up at the creative brainstorm with nothing but a brick wall in my mind and demonic butterflies in my belly.
But dystopias are not real. And neither, really, are utopias. There can never be one without the other; there is always hope, and always shadow. The trick is to find ways to weave and stitch the two states together into something that resembles a vision of meaning; a connective tissue that myself, Henri, and/or our audience find useful, inspiring, or challenging. A kind of Artopia, I suppose.
Well, it's a start. I'll try and keep this blog updated as I go with more rambling and pretentious thoughts. I have also, for some godforsaken reason, expanded my social media repertoire by joining TikTok. The videos there should form some kind of travelogue of sorts. Again, let's just see where it all goes.
OK. Passport clutched, boarding pass braced, suitcase cheering me on like a friendly robot companion. Time to bring it. Whatever it turns out to be
Tartu here I come.