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Penthouse 4C: Artist’s Impression

Manifesto for a moving utopia

A collective of art utopians at the Hack The Barbican festival explains themselves

Public Assembly is where speculative sculptor, installation artist, musician and founder of the Public Asembly collective Lawrence Lek explores collective place in the age of hyperspace. Here. he explains his group's month long residency at the Barbican in London – hosting a series of art happenings in an exact replica of the Barbican's 40th floor penthouse.  

Utopia is a recurring dream. It emerges in every society whenever people feel that their capacity for self-expression is compromised. While the ideological struggles of the 20th century have given way to media-driven neo-liberal states in the West, we remain skeptical of any controls imposed upon us from above. Today everybody wants to be free, yet everybody wants stability. These two desires create a conflict between the individual and their relationship to the group.

The failure of political process around the world means that Utopia - our collective dream - has been relegated to an aesthetic fantasy, an ideal city that will never come.  In Thomas More's 1516 original, Utopia is an island. What if it is a floating vessel instead? It could go from place to place, a mobile city dedicated to distributing new modes of education and new forms of group production.

Public Assembly is a nomadic platform for collective works of art. In our interpretation, Utopia is a collection of moments and lived experiences rather than a political machine. Together with friends and supporters from all backgrounds, we champion events, experiments and environments driven by interdisciplinary participation. Our approach enables us to challenge existing power structures in contemporary culture, creating social situations where critical forms of knowledge and artistic practice can emerge.

So far we have held a collaborative video exhibition with nineteen different artists, published Pyramid Schemes - a fictional city made out of short stories from forty-eight writers, and held a one-day free school in protest of the commercialization of higher education around the world.

Our current project is Penthouse 4C, a half-size replica of the most exclusive apartment of the Barbican Housing Estate in London. Completed in 1978, the estate is an example of the Socialist idea that architecture is a built form of Utopia.  Since then, the Barbican has become luxury property in the City of London. Our pirated Penthouse 4C uses the architectural plans of the largest of the two thousand apartments to construct a collective living room. 

During the Hack the Barbican festival in August, Public Assembly is in residence at Penthouse 4C, where we are hosting a series of events about art, architecture, music, writing and education. Please join us in the main foyer for interactive installations, classes, screenings, musical performances, hangouts, meditation sessions, art critiques, and domestic bliss. 

Running from the 5-31st of August, the Barbican's cavenous foyer spaces are being dominated by artists techies and entrepreneurs in the Hack the Barbican project.

PENTHOUSE 4C  |  Full Schedule:

Barbican Centre Foyer | 5-31 August 2013

Tuesday 20th August, 6.30 - 9pm

State/s of Publishing: A roundtable discussion – Hosted by AOTCS Press & TREMORS Magazine

Friday 23rd August, 7-10pm

Sonic Architecture: Two collaborations between sound & video artists – Featuring Patchfinder + Daniel Swan & Lawrence Lek + Chris King

Sunday 25th August, 12-6pm

Napathon - Bring a Pillow: An immersive sleeping environment – Hosted by Andi Schmied & Ricardo Davila-Otoya

Wednesday 28th August, 6-10pm

Piracy Today: An Exhibition About Copying – Curated by Hardcore Software

Wednesday 28th August, 7-10pm

Surround Sound: An Acoustic & Visual World – An environment by Lawrence Lek, Suren Seneviratne, Viktor Timofeev