Somerset House raises its Utopian flag

Earlier today, Somerset House in London launched its year-long Utopia season by hoisting a special flag created by artist Jeremy Deller and designer Fraser Muggeridge. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s 1516 text, the ‘smiley face’ design is part of a wider identity which includes a reworked version of More’s Utopian alphabet.

Billed as a ‘Year of Imagination and Possibility’ the series of exhibitions, talks, performances, screenings, commissions and workshops celebrate the provocative thinking behind More’s 1516 text.

It is, says the institution, a “year of artists, designers, provocateurs and thinkers experimenting with ways we might live, make, work and play”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: The 'UTOPIA 2016' flag designed by Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge studio is raised above Somerset House on January 25, 2016 in London, England. The flag heralds the launch of ‘UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility’ at Somerset House. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, Somerset House will be staging four seasons of events, exhibitions and new commissions exploring the idea of Utopia throughout 2016.(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: The 'UTOPIA 2016' flag designed by Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge studio is raised above Somerset House on January 25, 2016 in London, England. The flag heralds the launch of ëUTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibilityí at Somerset House. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moreís Utopia, Somerset House will be staging four seasons of events, exhibitions and new commissions exploring the idea of Utopia throughout 2016.(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)
The Utopia 2016 flag designed by Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge studio is raised above Somerset House on January 25 in London. (Photos by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)

The identity for the year-long series of events consists of a bright yellow ‘smiley face’ flag and an updated and expanded version of More’s Utopian alphabet from 1516 (with an added j, t, u, w and z. More’s original alphabet can be seen on the British Library site at bl.uk).

The new font, shown below, is available to download from the Somerset House Utopia site at utopia.somersethouse.org.uk (scroll right to the bottom of the page).

Deller and Muggeridge’s Studio have also produced a limited edition of Utopia “transliterated into Thomas More’s imagined Utopian language” and which is exclusively available from Somerset House and The Courtauld Gallery (shown below, copies of the book were given away this morning).

Utopia-font
Utopia-book
The Utopia typeface (above, top) is based on Thomas More’s Utopian alphabet

“Thomas More was the first to give a name and form to an idea that has captured the human imagination throughout history: that by imagining a better world is possible, we are empowered to create it,” runs the text about the season on the Utopia site.

“His playful vision, published in 1516, presents an ideal society living on a fictitious island, described in a traveller’s tale. More’s Utopia is deliberately ambiguous, the Greek words on which the name is based mean both ‘no place’ and ‘good place’.

“It is not a blueprint for the future; instead he places importance on the process of dreaming in the now.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Somerset Houseís resident community of cultural organisations pose in the courtyard with limited-edition Utopia books, designed by Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge studio on January 25, 2016 in London, England. Today marks the launch of ëUTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibilityí at Somerset House. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moreís Utopia, Somerset House will be staging four seasons of events, exhibitions and new commissions exploring the idea of Utopia throughout 2016. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: The 'UTOPIA 2016' flag designed by Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge studio is raised above Somerset House on January 25, 2016 in London, England. The flag heralds the launch of ëUTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibilityí at Somerset House. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moreís Utopia, Somerset House will be staging four seasons of events, exhibitions and new commissions exploring the idea of Utopia throughout 2016. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)
Photos by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)

Utopia 2016 is a collaboration between Somerset House, King’s College London and the Courtauld Institute, in partnership with the British Library, the AHRC, Guardian Live, London School of Economics and Political Science, Verso, the British Council and engages many of the 300 plus creative organisations, artists and makers resident at Somerset House. See utopia.somersethouse.org.uk

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