The Utopian Failure of Constant's New Babylon

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Abstract

For a period of almost twenty years, artist and architect Constant Nieuwenhuys, who was known simply as 'Constant', held tight to a utopian vision he called 'New Babylon'. In a series of drawings, paintings, collages, lithographs, maps and maquettes, he gave shape to an endlessly moving city that stood above the earth, its citizens living without work and supported by machines. This essay argues that New Babylon configures both the hopes and failures of 1960s utopianism, the ways in which the expression of utopian ideas was both idiosyncratic and impossible. It contests the rhetoric around a new exhibition of Constant's works, arguing that New Babylon remains mired in the contradictions of the 1960s.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalIn Visible Culture: an electronic journal for visual culture
Volume27
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2017

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Utopian
New Babylon
1960s
Utopianism
Artist
Lithographs
Contests
Rhetoric

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title = "The Utopian Failure of Constant's New Babylon",
abstract = "For a period of almost twenty years, artist and architect Constant Nieuwenhuys, who was known simply as 'Constant', held tight to a utopian vision he called 'New Babylon'. In a series of drawings, paintings, collages, lithographs, maps and maquettes, he gave shape to an endlessly moving city that stood above the earth, its citizens living without work and supported by machines. This essay argues that New Babylon configures both the hopes and failures of 1960s utopianism, the ways in which the expression of utopian ideas was both idiosyncratic and impossible. It contests the rhetoric around a new exhibition of Constant's works, arguing that New Babylon remains mired in the contradictions of the 1960s.",
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