When discussing the concept of utopia, questions are raised about the meaning of the future in the present. Designing a fictive society, a utopia searches for the possibility of practical intervention in existing conditions to create accelerated progressive trends and to prevent destructive ones. As one of the first philosophers of his time, Francis Bacon addressed the quantitative quota of knowledge and the infinity or finiteness of progress in his novel “Nova Atlantis”, describing a far different and technically advanced civilization. This shows the vision of progress in the conventional sense was the central notion, considering the enlightened idea of the unbreakable chain between economic growth, scientific progress and the pursuit of social justice. Since the 19th century, characterized by the acceptance of cultural evolution and the progressive automation of machines, theorists and philosophers referred to the close link between technological progress to the emergence and support of the capitalist and consumerist economic system. Following this, progress is not only connected with the increase of labor productivity, but involves both qualitative innovations and dynamic efficiency which have the potential to create new incentives for the products aimed at human consumption. Apart from this, postmodernist perspectives share the idea that the engine of progress is not the primary driver for success of an idea or invention over another.
The operating system society rather functions through encounters and coalitions of successfully coexisting ideas. With the use of daily basis devices, our constant strive for technical innovation is increased by a satisfaction and a fascination for rapid technological development. This 'technophile intoxication' froze the conscienceless of the original and creative power of information technology. For those who raised distrust in the consequences of technology as described in Norbert Wiener’s forewarning cybernetic theory, the ideas seem to fulfil themselves. Particularly the fear regarding computerized weapons, surveillance technology and the machines capability to overcome human control rises. A neo-materialistic view (depicting the concept of virtuality as being deeply materialistic) reveals the human potential to make good use of media literacy and critically handle complex possibilities of material basis if they were aware.
The exhibition "new atlantis" focuses on international contemporary artists who address with culturally critical and optimistic approaches the idea of progress and its origin in utopias dedicated to the development and the impact of innovation. They constantly investigate new definitions of the materiality of our consumeristic society and its mechanisms of production. A select few are dealing with evolutionary development processes and are experimenting with the synthesizing of heterogeneous objects and their mutual influence. Others reveal the importance of new technological additions and how they are used for authoritative purposes through the interaction between economic, politic and military spheres. The aesthetics of intelligent machines and expanded systems is hereby used to disclose the possibility for a diametric definition of their capabilities and functions. Therefore it is up to the viewer to decide on their inherent power as being good or evil.
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