Urban Utopia: Art and Culture as a Tool for Exploring and Researching a City

“May abandoned spaces, deserted urban landscapes and the wastelands of our society stimulate and transcend our behavior and imagination?”

To embrace the diversity of cities and question the urban development of our society, the two day’s symposium will take the form of an open and interactive communication between audience, participating artists and lecturers. 11 lecturers representing philosophy, arts, social designing, architecture, planning, art history and urban activism, will share their experiences and knowledge to illustrate how society can benefit from urban utopia.

The symposium of the contemporary art festival aims to question possible changes of urban society. Since the great failure of recent modern utopia we have seen the emergence of alternative and creative activities. Urban utopia needs unoccupied interspaces and niche. These spaces often remain unknown, hosting minor ideas or ideologies, are judged insignificant and are seldom seriously taken in consideration. But utopia promotes creativity, fostering societies’ change management:

“In which way can an artistic and independent institution manage to resist in critical situations such as dictatorship or revolution?”

“Is it possible that heterotopia plays a significant role in contemporary urban societies?”

“Can heterotopia be a tool to revive public spaces?”

The symposium seeks to elaborate these examples and unfold those stories allowing us on the one hand to question theories of modern utopia and on the other hand sketching realistic scenarios for our cities.

Symposium's participants and thesis



Wagner Hall, Vāgnera iela 4

12:00-12:30 introduction by curators Solvita Krese and Jonas Büchel

12:30-13:15 Joseph Imorde (art historian, Germany) “Art for the Dead. The Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles as a "heterotopic" landscape”

13:15-14:00 Charles Bušmanis (social designer, Latvia) “Sociotopia”

14:00-14:45 Catalina Niculescu (artist, Romania) “Three Modern Utopias”

14:45-15:45 Lunch break


15:45-16:00 FREERIGA

16:00-16:45 Airi Triisberg (writer, curator, Estonia) “A Politics of Possibilities: Imagining Home as a Location for Utopian Practices.”

16:45-17:30 Ania Szremski (curator, Egypt) “The work of art institutions in the age of manifestly unstable collective trauma”

17:30-18:30 Film program “Riga Utopias” (in collaboration with Rīgas Kino muzejs and Rīgas Kinostudija)



10:00-12:00 Urban Diving with Jonas from Wagner Hall

Former Textile factory "Boļševička", Ganību dambis 30

12:00-13:00 Brunch

13:00-13:45 Karolina Keyzer (Stockholm city architect, Sweden) “Sustainable urban development through a dialogue with local cultural forces”

13:45-14:30 Iliana Veinberga (art historian, Latvia) “The specter that hounted Riga. Metro”

14:30-15:15 Lunch break


15:15-16:00 J. Otto Habeck (social anthropologist, Germany) “Make Love, Fake War: Playgrounds for Adults in Post-Soviet space”

16:00-16:45 The Strelka Institute (Russia) “Utopian Education”

16:45-17:30 Bert Theis (artist, Italy) “Utopia just left the building”

17:30-18:15 Jekaterina Lavrinec (urban researcher, Lithuania) “Developing Places for Sharing / Spaces for Imagination: Street Komoda case”


18:30 Kaspars Goba „Islands of Riga” - opening of the exhibition.



Excursion to the Lucavsala (12:30) and Doles sala (15:00)


The event is free of charge. Working language: English.

The symposium is curated by Solvita Krese, Latvian Center of Contemporary Art (LCCA), co-curated and moderated by Jonas Büchel, Urban Institute (UI) and coordinated by Santa Mičule (LCCA) and Kevin Josse (UI).

Supported by: Rīgas dome, nodibinājums Rīga 2014, Latvijas Republikas Kultūras ministrija, Tūrisma attīstības valsts aģentūra, Eiropas komisija, FärgfabrikenEuropean Cultural Foundation, „Lattelecom”, Kolonna Hotels Group”,  Abavas vīna darītava.

Radio Naba, IR, Rīgas Laiks, Studija, Veto Magazine, Arterritory, Satori, Delfi, Easyget, Riga This Week, Echo Gone Wrong, EuroAWK.