Mapping Utopias: From New Babylon to Black Rock City


  • Anna Novakov



Utopia, metropolis, nomadism, play, spectacle


New Utopian plans for liberated urban spaces emerged during the post-war era with the work of the Lettrist (LI), Situationist International (SI), and specifically Constant Nieuwenhuys, a Dutch painter turned architect and sculptor who understood urban planning as intimately linked to nomadism, play and creativity. Influenced by the bombed detritus of European capitals and the possibilities of new technology, Constant’s plans for a future society were post-revolutionary, with unseen automated factory production and spaces for innovation that were elevated on stilts. Constant’s conflicting ideas are referenced and emulated in Black Rock City – a short-term encampment erected every year for the Burning Man festival in the desert of Nevada. These multileveled zones would allow for the blurring of public and private space as well as zones of work and leisure.

Author Biography

Anna Novakov

Saint Mary’s College of California
United States

Art historian, curator and writer, the daughter of noted environmental physicist Tihomir Novakov, she was immersed in the Ecotopian dreams of air pollution control from an early age. She was raised in both the Socialist Utopia of post-war Yugoslavia and the free speech, counterculture movements of Berkeley, California. Both radical movements had profound influences on women’s rights, new technology and the built environment – areas of study that would form the basis of Novakov’s creative practice. In 1992, after completing her doctorate at New York University, she came to prominence in Manhattan as one of the first art critics to write about the interrelationship between art, technology and Utopian spaces. The author of dozens of books, exhibition catalogues, newspaper and magazine articles, Novakov lives on both coasts and is currently Professor of Art History and Director of the January Term Program at Saint Mary’s College of California.


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How to Cite

Novakov, A. (2017). Mapping Utopias: From New Babylon to Black Rock City. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (12), 9–16.