Bring Your Own Utopia

Familiar streets, slightly unfamiliar neighbourhoods, occasionally a surprising hidden corner, and then again all the well-known landmarks and sights, places to be and places to pass through – undoubtedly every resident of Tartu perceives “their” Tartu slightly differently from others, but still, we have a relationship with Tartu as an environment shaped by years, experiences, adaptation to changes, as well as the layers of everyday life and habits. But what if someone who is not familiar with these environments, places, and landmarks that are part of our daily life looks at our city? Someone for whom Tartu and Estonia and its culture are largely unknown and waiting to be discovered? Someone for whom encountering this physical and mental environment and exploring it could also provide a creative impulse? For example, a writer who comes from elsewhere. For example, from another UNESCO City of Literature. A writer who brings along their dreams and fears, their utopias and dystopias, draws experiences from Tartu and weaves what they have experienced into their creative process. And what if they were joined by a local creator – a performance artist, sound artist, visual artist, or another writer? It is quite likely that in such a case, something completely new, unexpected, and perhaps even strange could emerge in Tartu, whether it becomes a more or less temporary environment, a unique experience, or a more permanent work.

To further explore the creative potential of these possibilities, utopias, and dystopias, and the possible results of such an experiment, the Prima Vista Literature Festival 2024, with the theme “Futures Better and Worse,” and the UNESCO City of Literature Tartu have invited five writers from other cities of literature to join forces with us. They will each spend a month in residency in Tartu before the festival, collaborating with a local artist to create five new works that connect verbal art, other artistic fields, and the urban environment by May 2024. The first of these projects is already being prepared, a collaboration between writer David Hartley from Manchester and interdisciplinary Estonian artist Henri Hütt. The next writer to arrive in Tartu will be Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir, a poet, visual artist, and musician from Reykjavík, who is considered one of the most innovative contemporary artists in Iceland. Her creative partner here will be artist and Maajaam director Timo Toots. The third partner city is Norwich, represented by poet Penny Boxall, who has already had a chance to discover Tartu a bit. Information about the next participants and further developments can be found on the Prima Vista website and social media. The project is a part of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 main programme.

Project Managers: Marja Unt, Krista Ojasaar

Consultant: Jaak Tomberg

Financial Manager: Svea Kaseorg

Project Concept: Marja Unt