Ideal Societies and Utopian Visions
“The only thing that can redeem mankind now is co-operation.” Bertrand Russell.
Rory Macbeths work can be seen to relate to utopian ideas in their broadest sense, rather than to literal representations of utopia. One body of work seen in ‘Co-operative Society’, based around the process of ‘customising’ found objects-specifically a series of burnt-out cars and bikes – illustrates such ideas most readily.
Macbeths interests converge in the relationship between ideals and the reality that they try, or claim to represent, and the divergences between ideals and their realization. Macbeths diverse work establishes a gap between the purity and clarity of ideas and intentions, and the messy contingencies, contradictions, and conflicts of the social realm.
By actively engaging with the real as well as the ideal in the same work, Macbeth reveals their ongoing incompatability, the constant fight between the ideal and the real, between the mind and the body, between language and stuff. He exploits the comedy and tragedy that ensues when ideals are applied to help a problem rooted in reality, or when reality shatters the illusion of the ideal, by trivializing the lofty, and making the joke a tragedy.
Our process of interpretation is “a constantly frustrated loop which can never attain a point of conclusion”. Such a phrase might well describe each aspect of his diverse, unpredictable body of work.