1After320 Projects Space / LAYOUT 09 : POINT OF VIEW

The word utopia is a muse to some while its redundant to others. The word has been brought up several times in literary extracts or fiery speeches but has often ended up being the face of propaganda. It has become a myth that terminates to exist because of the orchestrated disparity between the production and distribution of market dynamics.

The play “Beyond the land of Hattamalla” is a suitable satire on the issue. Conceived by the legendary Indian playwright Badal Sircar, the play mocks the East India Company’s monopolist control over Indian trade, handicraft, mode of production and distribution that destroyed Indian economic system completely.

Staged in 1977, the play narrates the story of two thieves, Kenaram and Becharam who while escaping after a theft fall into a river and reached to a land where there is no buying and selling of commodities, people do not know what the money is? No one to guard shops and houses, and food is offered for free. Kena and Becha are dumbfounded with disbelief of something that is too ideal to even believe in.

The two thieves wondered about the many new things like the no-money concept in the immensely idealistic and dreamlike land .They enjoy sweet tender coconut water, ingenious desserts at the end of a full meal and even some perfectly ripe bananas, all for free! Even when they make a hole through the wall of the eatery where they had their free meal, the villagers wonder why they couldn’t have just used the front gate to enter and take whatever they wanted to. After many hilarious misadventures, the wise doctor from the village enlightens the two utterly confused thieves by telling them that nothing comes for free and that the entire village works hard to get what they want.

As Guy Debord states from “Society of the Spectacle”, “The alienation of the spectator to the profit of the contemplated object (which is the result of his own unconscious activity) is expressed in the following way: the more he contemplates the less he lives; the more he accepts recognizing himself in the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires. The externality of the spectacle in relation to the active man appears in the fact that his own gestures are no longer his but those of another who represents them to him. This is why the spectator feels at home nowhere, because the spectacle is everywhere”.

We, through our actions, will traverse through some moral, some aesthetic and some philosophical shades of land, food and identity in the context of which utopia is conceived.

We exist in a world where the nations are becoming weak perennially for being pawns to the might of privatisation, globalisation and supranational politics akin to the European Union. Countries are being fragmented into mere building blocks for huge global entities. Architecture and Urbanism have long been mouthpiece of the nation. A strong government and huge public investments have become imperative for the emergence of housing projects and public buildings or plausible designs of newer utopias. Architecture and planning are starting to lose their traditional role and authority to represent the nation.

But does all these lead us to a fallacious future? Has it become impossible to thrive in a world without the design of a nation? Does architecture and planning lose their distinction without public authority? Is there no possibility of a community purely based on the merits of design? Cause time is now a witness to the deformation of twentieth century structures, ‘cause time is now an observer of ideas and notions arising from the small, yet autonomous or sometimes anarchistic identities. And perhaps in here, in the ruins of the prevalent welfare states, we conjure up our imagination of new societies.

Layout Collective
Sayantan Maitra Boka, Susanta Mandal, M. Pravat and Navid Tschopp.