Do You Want To Know About The Future?

08/06/2010 at 3:58 pm Leave a comment

at the MCA, Sydney June 5-13

Some very interesting conversations are taking place out at the Museum of Contemporary Art this week; where Creative Sydney is taking an opportunity to bring together the notoriously cliquey elements of the arts scene. Normally you find the fashionista mixing only with fashionista folk, filmies with other filmies, and freelance publishers frantically fixing their copy for pre-press facsimile. Forever the twain shall stay in their separate corners of the earth, because Sydney is far too inwardly focused to make time to look at the sheer diversity of creative culture at every turn. Right?

At least that’s been my experience, you really have to go out of your way to find cross-medium conversations about art; whether it’s advertising, marketing, film production or theatre the various creative communities tend to talk amongst themselves. Not here. Here you get a dabble in every possible arena for the arts; with a forward looking bunch ready to take on traditional models and turn them upside down. Take last night’s set of speakers: there was an ad-man attempting to convince us how the multinational corporate world can step up through positive action to create a better world (bit of a long bow to my mind but you have to give him credit for putting it out there). Apparently NESTLE actually give a shit about orangutans their image, after all! He only had mention BP to get the room temperature to drop about ten degrees; which really demonstrates how consumers are wising up to corporate greenwash; and starting to make demands on companies to take real actions on issues of the environment and human rights.

And well they should; but what’s interesting is that these are concrete, action based strategies now being talked about in corporate circles. I don’t think many of them will be taken up anytime soon, not while profits take precedence in the shareholder’s view; there’s no way a company like Shell is going to warrant a campaign to sell less oil at higher prices, not in this economy. It’s good to know that a conversation is beginning, though. Even if the guy having it seems to say ‘incentivise‘ far more often than is healthy; you can see his heart is in the right place.

Meanwhile; along the way there were some truly inspiring business models being presented by the likes of Dinosaur Designs, who have put together some grassroots awareness campaigns on climate change; and McSweeney’s Publishing whereby profits beyond a certain point are translated directly into literacy programs for kids in the USA and as far away as the Sudan. It’s refreshingly antithetic to the dogma of ‘growth’ we hear parroted in political and commercial circles. I can only applaud any business; creative or otherwise who is willing to step up and give what profits they make to those less fortunate. It’s the way forward.

While there’s a distinct emphasis on the business and marketing side of the arts world; what interests me is where we see innovation as the driving force in both the creative and the business worlds. For example there was a lightning presentation made about the production process for the independent feature film L.B.F.; which seems to break traditional film narrative process and incorporate live music, installations, fashion photography and performance into a collaborative format. Other presentations in the Pecha Kucha mode (20 slides with 20 seconds each) spoke about all kinds of arts business models; like Crowdfunding, or the commission based interactive ‘Posse‘ social media promotional strategy. Another winner was the totally awesome Tails for Whales photo campaign where people can register dissent against commercial whaling with an image of themselves making the whale tail (not the g-string poking out the back of your jeans but something else). It started simply enough and the concept easily moved into the public domain, and thus carries into the wider public consciousness.

The lesson here, whatever your cause; be it mainstrrrm, fringe, political or apathetic – let people get involved; let it be something people can engage in rather than just watch. After all, just about everything we take for granted these days was originally thought up by some maverick. Whether it’s one of the examples above or the UNICEF Tap Project; the one thing they have in common is a sense of purpose and the willingness to treat their audience as equal partners in a conversation.

It’s not news to anyone following the world of social media and recent shifts in consumer culture toward a self-awareness of our role in world affairs. Because the personal is political, as someone pointed out that buying a shirt has political ramifications worldwide. As such we need to put the word out as consumers, making a choice; we want a fair, sustainable world. At the moment there is very little available to people buying fashions to fill this need. Even artists are willing to admit we’re behind the times. Ralph Myers spoke openly about how creating is an “inherently wasteful process” – also implying that if we don’t see the value in the end result of such an unwieldy experience; then perhaps that piece of art should not be made. Not that such a thing should stop us either, of course; but it’s certainly something to be aware of, to strike a balance between artistic value and offsetting the environmental costs of creative expression, whether it’s musicians flying to London in jet aircrafts for the Live Earth concert, or a designer creating a film or theatre set that gets used once and then chucked on the rubbish heap. If we are to move forward, we need to let the scale sit evenly, and lead by example. The only way we know how.

CREATIVE SYDNEY runs until June 13, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Entry filed under: Festivals, Marketing. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .


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