Urban Camp III

Homo prospectus. Seeing into the Future [1]

But let’s not speak of facts. Facts matter to no one anymore. They are mere points of departure for invention and reasoning.
Jorge Luis Borges: ‘Utopia of a Tired Man’ (1975) [2]

The Space of Opportunity presents its third Urban Camp, a series of art workshops in the summer. The first series concentrated on the here and now, on the empirical experience of the urban environment through our senses, while in the second edition we invited the participants to descend into the deep layers of history. It seems logical that after the present and the past, our focus should be on the future: we will continue to use the urban environment as our ‘playground,’ as participants can discover or create unbeaten paths.

Unknown and elusive, the future has been a preoccupation of humanity since the beginning of time: notions of it are both deeply rooted in the various layers of society, and determine the development of the latter. Prophecies and visions have started or ended wars, contributed to the creation of cities, and certain notions of the future influenced the appearance of the built environment. What we see in the future is usually some extreme outcome, with relatively few shades between a paradisiacal state and the complete enslavement or extinction of humanity.

An (overly) positive vision of an ideal future we desire or wish to attain is called a utopia. Coined by Sir Thomas Moore from the Greek ou (‘not’) and topos (‘place’), the word literally means ‘no place’ or ‘nowhere-land.’ It denotes a vision of the future that cannot be realized, a fantasy divorced from rational and objective reality, never to be reached. As a literary genre, utopia often describes a possible future in the form of a travelogue; the first book of this kind was Moore’s Latin Utopia of 1516, whose complete title—somewhat long-winded, though in keeping with the fashion of its time—in fact translates as A truly golden little book, not less beneficial than enjoyable, about how things should be in a state and about the new island Utopia. [3] The form of the travelogue allows the reader to discover the vision of the future in question as if it were a real continent or city.

The other pole consists of dystopias, also called anti-utopias or cacotopias: though they often reflect on the problems of the present, they are pessimistic visions of a future that holds a negative outcome for humanity. They describe societies dominated by the worst qualities of humanity or a reality rendered unrecognizable by the human ‘factor,’ a global catastrophe, or mankind’s complete destruction: these are bleak, often terrifying visions.

Thinking about the future is not just a privilege or a literary fantasy, it is also a driving force of humanity and a key to its survival. It is a characteristic that is at work in us all the time, consciously or unconsciously, both in the short and long term. [4] If it is impossible not to look into the future, what are our options between the two poles? Since utopias are unattainable and dystopias, undesirable, what is the field that exists between these two spheres? How can we move within this framework, away from both apocalyptic visions and paradisiacal states, starting from the realities but using our imagination? In this year’s edition of the Urban Camp, we look for answers to questions like these and more.

Concept: Judit Árva

07.03. Common Jam (Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Anna Bíró, Ágnes Szabó Eszter) visual artists
07.04. Francsics Györgyi urban planner
07.05. Hajnal Gyeviki ceramist, founder of the Soil Sciart Society
07.06. Janka Csernák social designer researcher

Realization: Györgyi Francsics, Dóra Hegyi, Dóra Szabó, Zsófia Puszt

[1] Martin E. P. Seligman et al., Homo Prospectus (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). For an accessible summary, see Martin E. P. Seligman, John Tierney: ‘We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment,’ New York Times, 19 May 2017, (last accessed 20 March 2024). Another source I used was this essay: Máté Makai, ‘A jövőbe látó ember,’ 1749, 24 May 2021, (last accessed 20 March 2024).
[2] In: Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Sand, trans. Norman Thomas de Giovanni (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977), 91.
[3] Zsolt Czigányik, ‘Utópia álom és rémálom között,’ Vigilia 87, no. 4 (2022): 288.
[4] See Martin E. P. Seligman and John Tierney’s article.