Utopia is an illusory state that embodies human aspirations for an ideal society with perfect social conditions. It is directly related but also contrary to social reality. Heterotopia, in contrast, is a place of transcendence and a place of reality. It is a representation of varied phenomena and results on a real level in the process of imagining, pursuing, and practicing utopia.
The historic southern water town of Wuzhen has built a unique experience between the cultural and the industrial that has been successfully chosen and explored within the context of the town’s traditional background and real circumstances. This experience makes it a representative of the successful revitalization of a historic town with a strong utopian element.
The Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition links the globalization of contemporary art and Wuzhen’s cultural landscape. The town has built a new creative model in contemporary art, related to new exhibition methods and discourses.
The exhibition venue is comprised of the West Scenic District and the North Silk Factory. The North Silk Factory is the primary exhibition site that was created after the renovation of an abandoned 1970s factory. Even as the exterior form of the factory remained unchanged, a functional transformation was realized through internal renovations, which is an important way to create contemporary art spaces or creative cultural spaces; the North Silk Factory is an example of Wuzhen’s industrial past and creative present. The material culture of these unique spaces represents the distinctive changes and intersections of reality and illusion within the post-industrial third-world social landscape. The combination of the utopian West Scenic District and the North Silk Factory blends history and reality, powerful wills and capitalist desires, which gives these two sites and their combination a clear contemporary meaning. In this other space derived from spatial dislocation, the re-definitions and re-interpretations produced after existing understandings have been subverted will generate completely new boundaries.
Reflecting on and participating in contemporary art from the perspective of Wuzhen is meant to positively lead contemporary culture to develop in a direction that runs counter to urbanization, which will showcase a new tendency in the changing relationship between globalism and localism, and in the global art world itself. However, it is up to the artists themselves, with their contemplativeness, judgement, and intelligence, to determine, perceive, and extend these “boundaries of problems” and render foreseeable and unforeseeable new resources into visually effective transformations. The investigation of these circumstances and the proposal of these issues are the direct source of the theme “Utopias/Heterotopia.”