Author: Ty Holtzman

γῆ

*~~GAY~~*

Our Utopia seeks to overturn a number of oppressive structures that currently jeopardize human posterity and earth’s well-being. We aim to upend the historically entrenched divide between nature and culture and the heterosexual matrix. Queerness is a living expression of anti-normativity. Our utopia aims to embody this and through doing so, refigure structures which rely on dominant heterosexual culture and capitalism to reproduce themselves. By subverting these toxic norms through our utopia’s architecture and social arrangements, we aim to do the following:

  1. Create a space that embodies queerness through its organic and unpredictable evolution and the queer people living within it.
  2. Break down the indoor/outdoor dichotomy by utilizing outdoor space for traditionally indoor activities, such as education.
  3. Challenging the dualism between living/nonliving entities and human/nonhuman forms of life.
  4. Supplanting the educational superstructure by finding new modes of creative and intellectual engagement through craftsmanship, art, meaningful consumption, and self-production.
  5. Depart from exploitative practices veiled in capitalist constructions of green activism and sustainability through materializing ecofeminist ideals, beliefs, and way of existence.
  6. Restructure the ways in which a society produces and interacts with food in order to emphasize sustenance as communal rather than individual.
  7. (Long-term) Goal: Taking down Asheville after we appropriate its resources and get our feet off the ground.

 

As queer people concerned about the earth and its human and nonhuman inhabitants, we envision creating a space where people feel comfortable, secure, and free in expressing themselves; where each person is able to thoughtfully engage and live sustainably with the environment. We thought it was important to rethink several structures that propagate within us and all other members of the planet that can be attributed to capitalism and the culture of heterosexuality. Therefore, we came up with a vision that prioritizes queerness as a generative horizon, responsible use of resources and reorientation towards the natural world and our human counterparts. We want to curate a space where the constant evolution and range of possible expressions beyond the normative confines of present reality. We believe queer expression is a way in which we can endeavor to achieve that. Some of the modes through which our utopia could become actualized is through a system of exchange based on kinship. Food and water and other necessities will be owned and accessed freely and communally. We also envision an architectural layout based in and around the landscape. This will enable intimate human engagement with it. Additionally, we plan to reinvent spatial notion of the home and family which Our utopian vision seeks to overturn a number of oppressive structures that currently stifle humanity hinder the historically entrenched divide between nature and culture escaping the heterosexual matrix.

 

γη lands

Socioeconomic Breakdown:

One of our possible Utopian communities will reside in Black Mountain, a region in western North Carolina near Appalachia. It is 14 miles distance via highway to Asheville, which will provide a safety net in terms of medical or other external aid. The Black Mountain area has an average household income of about $41,000 dollars, less than the national average. The population is aging and racially homogenous – 87% of the population is white and the median age is 52.3. Being a part of Appalachia, the region we plan to settle in is systemically abandoned by the United States government in regards to not only economic affairs but also social issues such as the opioid epidemic. We thought it would be important to settle in a place forgotten or loathed by most of the country not only to demonstrate the adaptability of our utopia but also to test the ability for our utopia’s economic activity to benefit the community surrounding it, which comprises about 8,000 inhabitants. Our group sees bartering, partnerships with local sustainable businesses and an active relationship with local residents as pivotal to this utopian iteration. We chose a place where the utopia could be beneficial to the larger economy without either being absorbed into the community or the community becoming dependent on the economic impact of the utopia. The small size and tight knit nature of Black Mountain prevents too much intermingling, thus allowing the commune to remain independent and differentiated.

Timeline:

-People have occupied the land for around twelve thousand years

-The Woodland culture in what is now Western North carolina around 2000 B.C.E; use of bows and arrows, ceramics, and an agricultural economy began. People began settling around stream valleys.

-By the time of contact with Europeans, the Cherokee people were living on the land.

-Cherokee people fought alongside the French in the French-Indian War from 1754-1761, when they were defeated by English settlers.

-Despite an agreement that there would be no white settlement beyond the Appalachian mountains, white settlers continued settling the region.

-The Cherokee fought alongside the British during the American revolution.

-In 1792, white settlers created a boundary between themselves and the Cherokee.

-In 1838, the U.S. military removed many Cherokee people from their lands by force, sending them on the Trail of Tears.

-Some Cherokee people managed to stay on their land, and are there to this day.

-A road was built in the region in 1850, and a railroad in 1879.

-The town of Black Mountain was incorporated in 1893.

-Today, the town has a population of around 8,000, and is part of the greater Asheville region.

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Colored pencil and pen, Bones Gilmore 2018

Social Issue:

The primary issue that our utopia addresses is the disconnect between humans and nature. This disconnect, which has roots in Genesis and man’s dominion over the Earth, has led to various other issues. The idea of private land ownership, along with ideas about dominating, taming, and curating land, has led to the imperialist appropriation of lands. European, especially English, ideas about the “improvement” of land by its human occupants being fundamental to the occupation of that land played a significant role in this. These ideas have also lead to the exploitation and destruction of that land. Furthermore, this attitude toward land dictates to a considerable degree how beings living in close proximity to each other interact, both human and non-human. The idea of owning land removes humans from the fabric of the environment and promotes a negative view of other beings existing on that land. Our utopia addresses these issues through the absence of any land ownership whatsoever. Instead, people live responsibly on the land along with the other beings that live in the environment. Through creating a space that is naturally shared by both humans and non-humans, these issues created by private land ownership are avoided.

Description:

Our utopia aims to address societal trauma caused by the human severance from nature by placing utmost emphasis on nature as a means of sustenance, community, and empowerment. We believe that land and human relationship to the environment plays an integral role in how people interact on both interpersonal and larger political scales. In order to combat environmental racism and social injustices caused by capitalism, this community will prioritize self-sufficiency, artistic craft, queer inclusivity, and a system of commerce/exchange based on communal sharing and gift-giving rather than money. To establish self-sufficiency, the community plans to implement permacultural methods in order to produce food and other resources. Permaculture is a style of cultivation that caters to the natural ecosystem, allowing it to flourish, sustain, and regenerate without extensive human manipulation. This form of agriculture also helps to restore the human relationship to nature because it maintains the agency and holistic capacity of the given environment instead of treating it as simply a means to an end. In the same vein, the community will structure their own habitation around nature, rather than attempting to rewrite the earth by clearing trees and to creating a conventional colonial settlement. They will build their homes in and around the trees and preexisting geography. This may result in buildings that vary in size and purpose. Since architectural set ups won’t necessarily conform to those that try to encompass a set number of functions or occupants, this will draw away from traditional senses of familial containment and isolation, and thus only enhance the interconnectedness and mobility of members of the community. Furthermore, the diy construction of houses and buildings will undermine the barrier between the inside and outside by featuring one-sided windows that blend with the landscape from the outside and provide an ample view to the outdoors from the inside.

Another way that this community will foster a human reconnection to nature is in their utilization of outdoor space. A range of activities, such as education, social congregation/gathering, and work won’t be confined to the indoors, as nature will become a default site in which the community does. Everyone will therefore cultivate a deep knowledge of the local flora and fauna, and be able to navigate the area and effectively derive ingredients for food or medicine. This is another sustainable method in line with one of their central tenets, minimizing waste and reducing/reusing/recycling. Lastly, a large component of their life and culture will be quilt-making and textile arts, as it’s emblematic of their functionality, creativity, practicality, and familial bonds.

Rhythm of Life:

As someone living in this community you could wake up slowly, with the sun. Everyone makes their breakfast and the daily bread – bread that each person makes and shares half of with others. The noise stirs the whole community until eventually everyone is out of their homes, engaging in one of the required activities that drive the community such as farming, cooking, preserving food, or tending to children. Or focusing on their own artistic and academic projects. At night there is a communal dinner gathering where people can discuss, drink, give gifts, or give performances. They go to bed slowly, reading, and surrounded by loved ones.

 

By: Bones Gilmore, Nia Mbaye, River PS, Ty Holtzman

Queer Commune

My ideal family is a group of queer and similarly aged people who live and do household/garden work together. The idea of a family consisting of a group of queer people is founded on the values of equality, shared experience, and queerness. There is, obviously, a shared experience in being queer, and this experience is important to most queer people I know. Furthermore, I’ve found that living in a shared space as a queer person is a lot easier when those with whom you are sharing the space are also queer. Regarding age, shared experience is also important. The ability to talk about what is happening in one’s life with others who are having similar experiences is important to me. Queerness also has evolved with time, and queer people who are similar in age tend to understand each other better than those of varying ages. I believe that queerness is, in a sense, utopian. My ideal family fulfills the utopian impulse of creating an equal and shared queer space. I also believe that members of the family should do equal shares of housework and gardening. This promotes mindfulness of the way in which the family functions, as well as how it sustains itself.

First Floor, Ty Holtzman 2018

Second Floor, Ty Holtzman 2018

House Map, Ty Holtzman 2018

 

When designing my house, I focused more on the values of equality and appreciation of energy sources than queerness. This is because I believe that a space can’t necessarily be imbued with queerness: the only thing that makes a space queer is the existence of queer people within it. I decided to center my home around the hearth, but twisted the hearth’s traditional image. I placed it at the center to encourage mindfulness of where energy is coming from. I surrounded it with a circular table though, a shape that enforces equality, to break down the idea of one person (a patriarch) providing for the home. Rather, everyone sits around the woodstove and tends to it. The wood stove as a source of energy also requires a lot of attention, and it therefore commands mindfulness. I also decided to put a panoramic window around the house. This window looks out over the gardens, orchards, and woods. This view also commands attention, and breaks down the conceptual barrier of indoors vs. outdoors. The sources of food for the household will always be visible and present within the household. I decided to let everyone live in their own rooms, as I think private space is necessary for minimized conflict. However, if people want to live in the same room, they can.

 

HOUSE APPLICATION

  • Are you queer? Y/N
  • Birthday (MM/DD/YY) __/__/__
  • Do you have any previous experience living in a cooperative household?

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  • Do you have any previous experience gardening/farming?

______________________________________________________________________________

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  • Why do you want to be a part of this household?

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OPEN THE DOORS

UTOPIAN COLLEGE MANIFESTO

 

The Utopian college is a space of EQUALITY and COMMUNITY which facilitates respect for every member of the community; the utopian college is for everyone. Often, a college is viewed as a space for students that is made functional by a working faculty and staff. However, we will change the way that a college is viewed and interacted with. We see a utopian college as oughting to be for everyone who contributes to the functioning of the college. Open the doors! Make this education accessible to everyone. The college is looking for students and staff that are committed to maintaining bard as a free and safe place to think. We will also encourage visibility of the members of this society in order to recognize all the different components and functions of our larger space. Staff will not be underappreciated; notoriously underpaid workers will have compensation that represents the hard work they do. The main values this manifesto puts forward are equality and community. These values will make Bard a better place by improving the experience of ALL members of the community.

 

OUR DEMANDS:

  • Tuition, room and board, health services, and proper food free for all students
  • Accessible education to everyone who is a part of our college community
    • Physical accessibility
  • Outreach to surrounding community
    • Free and advertised lectures, performances, and screenings
  • Higher wages for bard academic AND non-academic faculty
    • Allow workers to unionize without obstruction
  • Mandatory training on how to exist in the community/ how it functions during L&T
  • Bard students and workers on board of admission. Community members will help decide who will be future members of the community.

 

We decided to put up our broadside in Kline because it is the space on campus where students and staff have the most regular contact.

  • OPEN THE DOORS, 2018. Photograph by BONES. Team: Coco, Paloma, Jane, Ty.

    OPEN THE DOORS, 2018. Team: Coco, Paloma, Jane, Ty.

Tom’s Utopia (Physical and Cultural)

 

Tom’s Utopia, Pencil and Digital Collage, 2018. Team: Bones Gilmore, Mia Quinn, Ty Holtzman, Augusta Spiro Jaeger, Paloma P-M.

Our map of More’s Utopia is largely human-oriented. The center of the map serves as a basic description of the physical landscape of Utopia—cities, geography, landmarks. The outside of the map is most important, however, in that it portrays what life in Utopia is like. This focus on human experience suggests that the user of the map is likely an outsider, someone unfamiliar with Utopia and how those within it live. Through this map, one can gain a basic understanding of both the physical and cultural landscape of Utopia.