Look no further than the current political landscape of the United States to witness that one person’s utopia is another’s dystopia. But what does utopia even mean?
Since Sir Thomas More coined the term in his 1516 book Utopia, this Western vision of an ideal city has more often than not been shadowed by its impossibility. The US that began as a “New World” for religious freedom eradicated the indigenous life in its way, and more extreme attempts at harmonious communal living like Jonestown in Guyana culminated in a grisly 1978 mass suicide. The exhibition 500 Years of Utopia, curated byTyson Gaskill, Geoff Manaugh, and Anne-Marie Maxwell at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Doheny Memory Library in Los Angeles, considers the legacy of utopia on the 500th anniversary of More’s book.