Everyone says SF isn’t what it was. Everyone says the past five years have changed the city tremendously. Saito sees the city floating above the earth— above the attacks in Paris, above the refugee crisis in Europe, yet also somehow acutely responsive (evasive?). Nonetheless, the city cannot escape its own internal crisis: housing crisis (identity crisis?). Middle income families can’t afford it. Long-term residents are leaving. The homeless are being pushed onto Market St., onto the doorstep of some of the world’s largest tech companies, who are content to surveil and monitor, but not intervene.
Throughout its diverse manifestations, the utopian entails two related but contradictory elements: the aspiration to a better world, and the acknowledgment that its form may only ever live in our imaginations. Furthermore, we are as haunted by the failures of utopian enterprise as we are inspired by the desire to repair the failed and build the new. Contemporary art reflects this general ambivalence. The utopian impulse informs politically activist and relational art, practices that fuse elements of art, design, and architecture, and collaborative projects aspiring to progressive social or political change. Two other tendencies have emerged in recent art: a looking backward to investigate the utopian elements of previous eras, and the imaginative modeling of alternative worlds as intimations of possibility.