Utopia Factory Abraxas

Stéphane Degoutin, Gwenola Wagon

Texte et tirage photographique


Abraxas is the name of a gnostic god created by Basilides, an heretic religious teacher of the second century. The Basilidians did not believe in a magnanimous god, but rather in a demiurge, dual divinity. According to Carl Jung, Abraxas is "life and death in the same time. It engenders truth and lie, good and bad, light and darkness in the same word and in the same action".

Photo : Stéphane Degoutin

Thomas More first used the word Abraxas to name the island later known as "Utopia". Presumably was he inspired by Erasmus' Praise of Folly, in which Abraxas designates the city of the mad men. Only in the definitive version of his text did Thomas More coin the term "utopia".

"Les Espaces d'Abraxas" is also the name of a large social housing complex buit by Ricardo Bofill at Noisy-le-Grand, a new town at the east of Paris. The building itself is undepictable: at the height of the delirious postmodern movement in architecture, made of oversized antique columns prefabricated in concrete, of dizzy perspectives and open atriums at the 17th floor, it has been used as a set for the movie Brazil.

It is rather peculiar to have chosen this name for a public housing complex. The area is often perceived negatively. Yet, it may change if one takes advantage of its oddity. Its ideal purpose was not to serve as a housing building. We propose to rehouse elsewhere the residents who wish so, let the others stay here, and t o use the vacant flats to install the offices of a Utopia Factory. The building would fit perfectly for this new use, since it already posesses the introversion appropriate for utopian places.

Utopia Factory is a research center where different utopias are experimented at full scale. Anyone can suggest a project. If it is accepted, a campaign is launched to find candidates for the experiment. The approach is empiric: the volunteers test the utopias for a period of a few months. In the event that it would not work as expected, they can experience another utopia, or come back to their previous lives.

We do not believe it is possible to build from scratch an ideal society, nor even that such a realization would bring happiness to mankind. But we do believe that the search for a better society can contribute to this goal. Therefore, Utopia Factory does not trynot to build an Eldorado, but the paths leading to it. Utopias tested here are perishable and not guaranteed. They do not aim for perfection, but rather to put the society into movement.

Utopia Factory Abraxas functions in a network of other Utopia Factories around the globe: Shanghai, Cape Town, Bronx, Tromso…


Utopia Factory, Zoo Research Lab (sérigraphies), La fabrique du hasard, Synesthésie, Saint-Denis, 2016

CPIF (Centre photographique d'Île-de-France, Pontault-Combault). 30 mars 2010

Utopia Factory, aux Passerelles-Centre culturel de Pontault-Combault. Exposition du 26 juin au 16 septembre 2010

Exposition, Île potentielle / Sex Park, Synesthésie, Saint-Denis, du 18 juin au 17 juillet 2010

Exposition Nogo Voyages, Galerie Ars Longa, Paris, 6 mai - 12 juin 2009

Attractions périphériques. Hospitalités 2009. Samedi 17 octobre 2009