Utopia is, at its essence, about creating a perfect world, yet in this way, it is always in opposition with the present.
In 1516 Lawyer and Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More published Utopia – a book that gave name and form to an idea that captured the human imagination – that of aspiring to an ideal future and better society.
More conceived of an island community – independent, insular and able to prescribe its own ways of living. Yet at the root of More's proposition for an ideal world is contradiction. The term utopia was taken from the Greek ou-topos meaning no place. A perfect nation can never be realised, because it is different for everybody – it is nowhere and yet everywhere.
This exhibition crosses genres, media and timeframes to provide a playful and provocative framework for probing how Britain's literary and visual culture has perpetuated an idea of a utopian society that fosters nostalgic yearnings for a seemingly lost past.
Within the exhibition, Whitworth Young Contemporaries have created a space that uses the Whitworth's collection to start a conversation on what utopian-thinking looks like for young people today.
31 January – 27 September 2020
Image: Map from Thomas More's Utopia (1516), Courtesy the John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester