The following is an extract of the 32 pages magazine " American Utopias : Our Journey " that we have created as part of our crowdfunding campaign which will be launched this fall.
I like to wander aimlessly in bookstores and libraries, browsing through the shelves to my heart's content. A few years ago, on one such occasion, I stumbled upon a book that sparked in me a passion for the idea of utopia. It also gave rise to my project to visit alternative and original communities and to meet the builders that created them.
Before reading this book, I did not know that a utopia could exist outside the realm of imagination, or as something more than a crazy idea that arose from there. I read with a growing interest as I discovered cities with obscure names and unusual concepts : Auroville in India, Christiania in Denmark and Uzupis in Lithuania. Those places, I heard, were incarnations of the perfect city conceptualized a few centuries back by Thomas More in his book Utopia.
In Auroville, money is banned. As noted in the community's Charter: "Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole." In Christiania, there are no cars and every democratic decision is taken in citizens' assemblies. In Uzupis, they follow a very original constitution in 41 articles. For instance, the second article tells us that "everyone has the right to hot water," while Article 3 states that "everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation."
Intrigued by these novel ideas, I wanted to meet the people who dared to believe in a life not born out of necessity, but from intent. I say "dared" because the first meaning of the word "utopia" often refers to an imaginary project, impossible and impracticable. Can we believe in something impossible?
In today's society, those who venture down that road are quickly labelled as idealists, an easy way to criticize uncommon or unexplored ideas. However, the communities that captivated my attention were in fact very real and seemed to live as humanly as the rest of the world, but with a few extra touches. It is those small atypical details that intrigued me for so long and finally motivated my journey to meet these utopians.
It is said that leaving home to travel and explore, unknown lands will help you grow as a person. Following in the footsteps of yesterday's travellers and as a certified cinema buff, I decided to dive in, as Jean Baudrillard did before me, the stream of America's cinematic landscape. "The US is Utopia achieved", he concluded. I wanted to see it for myself.
And so I bought a camera and a car and convinced my girlfriend to come with me. And when spring came at last, we travelled for three months to visit five communities, each more original than the last.
The rest of this story will be available in our magazine via our crowdfunding campaign (next fall). The following is an extract of the 32 pages magazine " American Utopias : Our Journey " that we created as part of our crowdfunding campaign which will be launched this fall.