Exhibition review: The Spirit Of Utopia, London

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THE failure of 20th-century utopias has been a pet theme for artists in recent years. This show tries something different, bringing together artists who, often with humour and whimsy, suggest novel alternatives to ecology, the economy, psychology – and to art itself.

The Spirit Of Utopia - Whitechapel Gallery, London

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The work of the five artists and five collectives shown here are rooted in everyday life, in rethinking our resources.

The Danish collective Superflex’s film The Financial Crisis (2009) attempts to hypnotise us out of our reliance on capitalism, while Time/Bank, a Russian-American duo’s video, focuses on time as a precious commodity and an alternative currency. They have also set up an initiative where people can pool and trade time and skills.

A similar pragmatic idealism underpins the Mexican artist Pedro Reyes’ brilliant Sanitorium, a cluster of rooms in which “therapists” are trained by Reyes to guide you through a series of novel treatments he has designed.

American artist Claire Pentecost’s absorbing installation reinvigorates an old-fashioned apothecary, in which healthy soil is prescribed as a medicine for human ills.

London artists Wayward Plants have made futuristic pods that relate to a project working with local children to grow plants. But they’re also science fiction: chambers used by farmers on the moon.

Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s video using archival film with a personal memoir is wonderful, yet feels out of place.

But on the whole, this is a timely and refreshing show.