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Collective Misunderstandings | ATBA two-part symposium on Utopia

17 January - 17 January 2015

Saturdays 17th & 24th January 2014

This two-part symposium accompanies Collective Misunderstandings, an exhibition at Mission Gallery by Copenhagen-based collective ATB and its aim is to critically examine the history of utopian thinking as a method of open process. The utopian topics chosen by the invited speakers and contributions from ATB will provide entry points for discussion around the various ways art, society, industry and nature intersect in daily life.

Bringing together colleagues and friends of the group for a unique and open process of investigation, poetic discourse, historical narrative and a process of collective dreaming and discussion, with key guest speakers as guides. Using Thomas Moore’s text as a wedge to explore greater and more contemporary journeys towards utopia we will discuss Ernst Bloch, the Rastafarian process of ‘grounding’ the communes and history of alternative living in California and beyond, and utopian childhoods from a historical and feminist perspective. Collective Misunderstandings will explore the idea of the gallery as a temporary safe house for expression, discussion and community.

A unique gathering of people and topics, please join us for this free event at Mission Gallery.  Guides or guest speakers include Anna Davin, Howard Slater and Iain Boal.


Spaces for each event are free but limited; please book your space via the Eventbrite pages below, full biographies of speakers below:

A lunchtime vegan/vegetarian soup will be provided [small donation suggested].

Collective Misunderstandings marks the eighth year of Art’s Birthday, Wales’ contributions to international, annual celebrations of Art’s Birthday on 17th January each year.

Collective Misunderstandings Symposium is presented in association with Forever Academy.

Supported by Arts Council Wales, the Danish Arts Foundation, The Idella Foundation, and the Ministry Of Culture Of The Republic Of Lithuania.



Saturday January 17th

Symposium Part I

Mission Gallery, Swansea

11am – 4pm


Keynote Speakers:

Anna Davin, Howard Slater and ATB


Book your place on Eventbrite now


Framed by a ‘grounding’ session by Howard Slater and ATB.

A ‘grounding’ is an open ended terms used by Rastafarians to describe impromptu and unscheduled meetings.


This is followed by the opening of the Collective Misunderstandings show and a celebration of Art’s Birthday, 6-8pm.




Saturday January 24th

Symposium Part II

Offsite event at 2 Humphrey Street, Mount Pleasant, Swansea, SA1 6BG

11am – 4pm


Keynote Speakers:

Iain Boal and ATB


Book your place on Eventbrite now



Anna Davin

Anna Davin is a founding member of the History Workshop Journal collective and over the decades has been researching and teaching women's history and the history of children. Her book Growing Up Poor: Home, School and Street in London 1870-1914 came out in1996.

Howard Slater

Howard Slater is a writer, researcher and co-founder of MayDay Rooms. His book Anomie/Bonhomie was published by Mute Books in 2011. His texts and poetry have been supported and published by: 10th Floor, Alien Underground, Audiolab Arteleku, Autonomedia, Autotoxicity, Break/Flow, Copenhagen Free University, Datacide, Difficult Fun, Fatuous Times, Five Leaves Left, Here & Now, Infopool, Infotainment, Mute, Night Class, Noise Gate, Obsessive Eye, Palantir, Papakura Post Office, Penniless Press, Rebel Ink, Resonance Magazine (LMC), School of Walls & Space, Smile, TechNET, Variant, Working Press. He was the editor of Break/Flow.

Iain Boal

Iain Boal is an Irish social historian of science and technics. He moved to the US in the early 80s and taught at Harvard, Stanford, the University of California, and the San Francisco Art Institute. He is affiliated with the Geography Department, UC Berkeley, and Birkbeck, University of London. He is associated with the Retort group, and is one of the co-authors of Retort's Afflicted Power: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (Verso). He co-edited with James Brook Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information (City Lights) and - with Janferie Stone, Michael Watts and Cal Winslow - West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California (PM Press), an anthology on the flowering of communalism in the Bay Area and Mendocino during the 60s and 70s. In 2005/6 he held a Guggenheim Fellowship in science and technology; The Green Machine (forthcoming) is a report on his researches into 'the bicycle in world culture'. He lives in Berkeley and London, where he is co-director of MayDay Rooms, a safe haven for 'archives from below' threatened with loss or erasure.



ATB is a multidisciplinary collective with members from Germany, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania, Chile and Wales. They share common interests in collectivity, urban space, performance, the politics of art and its emancipatory potential.



A ‘grounding’ is an open ended terms used by Rastafarians to describe impromptu and unscheduled meetings. It is a space of reflection, an informal space for discussion (‘reasoning’), for an exchange of ideas in a non-competitive, a non-didactic environment. A ‘grounding’, then, could be seen as an ‘educational’ form without an institution as such, a moveable form for learning with an ethos of inter-subjective exploration. It is also a rich term that I feel can be adapted to set an atmosphere. Rather than such terms as ‘meeting’, the poetic element of ‘grounding’ suggests that a participant brings their whole self rather than a professional set of behaviours. It could be suggested that it has an affinity with terms such as ‘being grounded’ – we can come closer to one another if we leave behind what’s been called ‘the presentational level of the self’ and subsist together as equal seekers. 

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