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Re-Imagining DEBT: An Intimate Encounter

We are happy to announce the framework for this years special Memefest workshop. A few more weeks to go and we will meet in Brisbane.
Bellow you can find information regarding the event. More will follow soon.

GOALS: The workshop/seminar aims to research DEBT and its hidden effects in current Brisbane. It seeks to create a process that will help us to develop knowledge necessary to understand possibilities for imaginative critical interventions. As reality resists knowledge, intervention is necessary.

Our goal is also to contribute to the development of a local scene engaged in critical theory and practice, reflecting public effects of communication/design, art and education, connecting the university with bold non-institutionalised counter cultures and initiatives.

The event is part of the first Memefest/ Queensland College of Art Award for Imaginative, Critical intervention and was initiated by the collaboration of Memefest- International Festival of Socially Responsive Communication and Art, the Design department and the postgraduate research office at QCA.

FORMAT: The attendance is by invitation. The ten-day event will be based in Brisbane at the Queensland College of Art and will happen between November 15th and November 25th. Mentors facilitate the workshop part; groups with 5-7 participants will be formed. The seminar, in the first two days, will frame the problem and research field. Daily sessions of collaborative group work will be held from 10h am-16h pm, with one hour break. Longer work is of course possible. Workshop will include a day trip around Brisbane and work on various locations related to DEBT. An online pre preparation will include individual preliminary research. During workshop QCA production facilities will be used. Workshop(S) will be documented. A publication, which will include workshop process and results, is planned in early 2013. Outcomes will also be published on www.memefest.org and www.designfutures.com.au after the workshop.

CONCEPT: Debt has become a major instrument of social control. Millions are enslaved through debt, and indebted life has become naturalised. Debt has become the primary mechanism that takes power from the people and gives it on to the hands of the rich and powerful. But debt is rarely questioned. Its moral obligation is culturally embedded. It is shaming and therefore unspeakable. Its power lies in its violent normalcy.

If public communication design and art are to play a relevant role in shaping a future worth having, we need to further redirect, reinvent and reimagine our own understanding and the way we think, theorise and practice them both. DEBT is not only an opportunity to do so, but also an urgent responsibility.

Through Memefest’s process DEBT was researched in and outside of the University environments in thirty-five countries. It was the first serious investigation on DEBT from a communication perspective.

The workshop/seminar will be the next step. The face-to-face gathering, the extradisciplinary dimension that brings marginal, critical, countercultural positions in relation with established institutions promises an intense process. This time we will focus on one place- the city of Brisbane. As Queensland’s capital and the third biggest city in Australia, Brisbane plays a major role in the region’s economy. While DEBT is a technique through which individual and collective subjectivities are governed and controlled, its image is officially related to freedom and progress. The workshop will explore these contradictions and ways to expose them in the public sphere.

While most interventions end up in aestheticized gesturalism, what we are interested in, is stepping out of the private self in which persons are formally enclosed and a split from the social order that imposed that particular type of position in the first place.

We believe that four main steps are necessary to achieve a change in the logic DEBT creates. First: knowledge that acquires agency. Second: interventions that create a rupture in the order of things with the goal to redefine our fields of experience and the relationship between being, doing and saying. Third: dialogue. Fourth: creating new emancipatory social institutions.

Let’s see how far we can get this time.

See you all soon!

Exhibition of Alana Hunt, Memefest co-curator and Ingrid Dernée

In case some of you are in Sydney I very warmly recommend this show!
Alana Hunt is one of Memefest's co-curators and her work is very impressive and inspirational. It shows that bringing change to unacceptable circumstances is deeply relational. Her work offers very gentle yet powerful insight that the core of who we are and what we can be is forming with listening , dialogue and taking time.

Here Alana exhibits together with Ingrid Dernée.

opening Wednesday September 26th 6-8pm

by Alana Hunt and Ingrid Dernée


168 Day St / Sydney / +61 2 9283 2903

opening night Wednesday 26th 6-8pm


closing Saturday 29th September

12-6pm daily

With tea at the gallery on Saturday afternoon - do come down for a yarn.


‘Alana Hunt’s work’, writes Ann Finnegan, ‘could be framed through a key question: How to be effectively political? She begins with conversation.’ Fleeting. Intimate. Deeply philosophical. Reflective. Challenging. And at times a little cheeky.

In recent years Alana’s multifaceted and highly collaborative practice has come about through long conversations – listening to and speaking with – the sounds and currents that emanate from Indian held Kashmir.

NEW WORK will see the first public exhibition of Cups of nun chai (2010-2012), a participatory memorial two years in the making, which emerged in response to the loss of life that took place in the valley of Kashmir during the Summer of 2010. Like an ever-growing memory, Cups of nun chai has unfolded over two years of tea and conversation into a gentle yet challenging refusal to let death of this sort be ‘normalised’. Upon a scaffolding of names, dates and places originating from Kashmir, the engagement engendered over Cups of nun chai takes place through personal stories that connect Kashmir to countless other places and peoples around the world. Here it is personal experience and memory, with all its nuance and complications, which gives voice to history. www.cupsofnunchai.com

This exhibition will also include Alana’s latest video …and on his iphone he played the Surah Yaseen (2012) along with the cheeky yet incisive Paper txt msgs from Kashmir (2009-2011), which developed from a thousand small pieces that were distributed throughout Kashmir in response to the ban on pre-paid mobile phone connections in late 2009. The disruption of communication continues in various ways in occupied Kashmir today, and over time this lo-fi intervention has grown into a multi-platform body of work involving video, installation and a publication that contains a collection of new writings from Kashmir.

Rafia Zakaria writes, ‘Paper txt msgs from Kashmir…tells the story of an old conflict in the thwarted missives of those enduring its latest indignity. The result is a poignant, inventive and heart-breaking look at the interruptions wrought by the ban on people caught between two countries, two militaries and hundreds of millions of nationalism-fed egos. The 150 messages takes us, well-meaning web voyeurs, into the inner rooms of the Kashmiri limbo….’

Haven’t I Seen You? (2010) is a series that marks Ingrid Dernée’s return to the use of painting and drawing as an investigation into whether the visual tools of mask and mirror can be used as a critique of dominant cultural stereotypes around gender. In these works Ingrid references Judith Butler’s key idea that gender, and more broadly the self, is a performative action continually constructed through interplays with other individuals, cultures, institutions and society at large.

Through these portraits, Ingrid starts with the framework of the self - constructed and performative - as a means of investigating how cultural stereotypes and myths around gender can be playfully subverted through the use of mask and mirror. Mask can be a costume, guise or an object blocking the face, whereas mirror is both a literal reflection of the body as a projected self as well as metaphorically mirroring the way myth is constructed.

Ingrid’s series of watercolours are broken into two parts. The earlier Haven’t I seen you? are a stylised mirror of the artist. A kind of self-portrait in which the artist plays with gender subversion, trying on different types of body language and gazes, combined with the “mask” of facial hair. The physicality of the works in their large scale and lurid colours aim to saturate the viewer and overwhelm. The portraits are challenging in their penetrating gaze and the hint of sadness they embody.

In the most recent series I thought it would be braver (2012), Ingrid begins to playfully engage with the troublesome terrain of representing others. Sea urchins and anemones now become the mask. The subject, rendered mute, can now no longer be read. Unfolding through a process of subconscious and intuitive expression, making sense of these works becomes an exercise in description. The obscured portraits are equally about the joyful expression of the medium, as they are about what lies latent, though captured, within the visual form. The loose, bold brush strokes and almost gaudy colours of each face are juxtaposed with the mechanised, controlled and highly detailed pointillist pen work of the sea creatures. Claiming not to understand the motivation for these works, an unnerving sexual ambiguity is ever present.

Ambiguity is key. A story half told.


Several seas away, some words were recently written about Alana Hunt and her bare feet slapping across the mud as she collected other peoples’ damaged paintings in a washed away town somewhere in remote Australia. Wandering home, past the light of a soft fire, unable to disturb an old septuagenarian couple making love, damp beds smelling sour, a seemingly unmindful Alana searches for salt to put in the cups of nun chai from Kashmir that she holds tenderly in her hands.

Alana’s practice defies singular definition. Characterised by a gentle though challenging approach to participatory and conceptual artistic traditions her work is best understood as a catalyst of culturally charged encounters that materialise through the local environments and relationships she inhabits. It is in this sense that her work is less about producing an artwork and more about putting-art-to-work.

Her work takes shape through sustained collaborative and interdisciplinary processes that make use of books, video, language, flavour and imagery, across both on and offline environments.

The politics of nation making, the contemporary legacies of colonialism and the deeply ambivalent nature of modernity have come to provide a certain contour to the underlying currents of her practice in quiet yet consistent ways.

Alana divides her time between South Asia, Sydney and the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia, where she works for the artists of Warmun Art Centre. In 2012 she was co-curator of Memefest: International Festival of Socially Responsive Communication and Art and in 2011 Alana was awarded the Fauvette Laureiro Memorial Artists Travel Scholarship from Sydney College of the Arts. This scholarship will support her professional development over the next two years by enabling her to return to South Asia for extensive periods, while also undertaking creative research in The Balkans and meeting with Walid Raad of The Atlas Group in 2013.

Ingrid Dernée is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with concepts, materials and process.

Ingrid is interested in how the visual tools of mask and mirror can be used to subvert and question cultural norms and stereotypes around gender. Performance and its relationship to the formal qualities of drawing is another area Ingrid explores in practice. Working from a process based perspective Ingrid’s work comes from a place of subconscious expression. Though sometimes unnerving, the works are an attempt not to censor this expression, but to actualise it, through drawing, painting and performance.

Ingrid previously completed a Master of Fine Arts at Sydney College of the Arts and has exhibited extensively throughout Sydney, as well as nationally and internationally most recently in Brisbane at the artist run space Level. In 2011 Ingrid was awarded the People’s choice award at the Marrickville Contemporary Art Prize. With a strong belief in the joy creative expression provides people with, Ingrid currently works at Mission Australia’s Creative Youth Initiative program as an Artworks! Tutor.

Ingrid and Alana are long time friends who chat across the seas and moons about love, politics, art, desire and often John Berger. They are excited to be sharing an artistic space together.

InDebted to Intervene- See you in Brisbane!

We are very excited to announce the first Memefest/ Queensland College of Art- Griffith University Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention.

The award for Imaginative Critical Intervention is given to support critical thinking, as the ability to see situations as they are and imagine them differently in a way that can emancipate and lead to transformation through intervention. Such interventions can be many things. They create a rupture in the order of things with the goal to redefine our relationships between being, doing and saying and our fields of experience. Such interventions conditioned by critical thinking are tightly connected to the principle of response-ability, which is an active position of engagement and the quality to transformatively act in situations, insisting that what matters are the human implications and not only the market implications of situations.

Curated by George Petelin, Tony Fry an Oliver Vodeb, the receivers of the award that will be invited to Brisbane- Australia to take part in our theorist/designer/artist in residence program are:

Søren Rosenbak (Denmark) for his work Surplus Debt in which he turns the perspective and departs from Debt’s opposite- surplus arguing that cultures emerging from peer to peer and other new collaborative practices, bring a new dynamic to the gift economies obligatory bond of indebtedness. The author argues that “… it's important to stress that surplus debt doesn't have an agenda to balance out credit debt; instead it aims to change the game altogether. More than anything it's an invitation for action and further research. For design practice it offers a critical starting point for actively enabling quirks, hacking, customization, malpractice, misuse, errors, mutation etc. across working fields.” Søren also invites product designers to design a new kind of an ATM machine and concludes in the best imaginative practice: “With the dawning understanding of exactly how much potential gatherings like the Occupy movement have, one can only dream of the global consequences of a planet inhabited by 7 billion surplus indebted human beings. “


Vladimir Turner (Spain/ Check Republic) for the work Wonderland series (Wonderland, Urbania Jones, Save it for a rainy day, Spring-cleaning) in which he and his collaborator Sergi Palau lightly, precisely and poetically walk between pleasure, humor and irony, question and critique addressing issues of lack of the public space, environment, contemporary city and its social situations, and the petrol industry. Vladimir thinks of his work outside of disciplinary boundaries: “each of my work is an act of free-minded creativity. I don't care if we call it art, activism, or destruction. The important thing is its objective. Trying to think in wider context and living life according to the awareness that each act we do affects the whole society should be obligation of all of us. Doesn't matter at which scale. Even small actions can change things. Critical thinking and its result- open society is exactly, what contemporary politics DON'T want.” In this sense this work addresses the invisible politics of DEBT- politics with extreme consequences, as a combination of intervention and commentary and creates a series work that makes us seriously laugh.


Ivan Kozenitzky (Argentina) for the work Call Center Experience! in which he and his collaborators Anibal Perez and Thompson create an online call center intervention training platform through which people can freely learn how to humanise the dehumanised call center experience. An intervention that alienates the call center operator not from work but from his work experience and through that creates a shift in the routines guided by rules and protocols. This shift creates a human relation and a critical distance. An extremely relevant theme since call centres are one of the main areas of virtualised labour exploitation. Besides that, the communicative approach of using personal contact and the medium of our voices striving to create a sophisticated intimate dialogue in a highly structured and surveillanced social situations is not only very ambitious but more than important for further investigations of socially responsive communication and art.


Our warmest congratulations to all authors!!

Have a look at what exactly were the festival outlines here: http://tinyurl.com/9lh7byn

The in residence program is structured around a direct collaboration with QCA academics Dr George Petelin, Dr Tony Fry and Dr Oliver Vodeb in an intensive extradisciplinary workshop that will take place between November 15th and November 25th.

In addition to this, a second and broader workshop and research seminar will be organised at the same time. Besides Søren, Vladimir and Ivan the following Memefest participants will be invited:

I. Queensland College of Art students whose submitted works have been curated in this years Friendly competition:

Ashlea Gleeson, Darcy Mangan, Torunn Ovland, Belinda Li, Daniel Bell, Hanna Mathilde, Emma Bergman, Rosie Cameron, Charles Mayfield;

II. Members of local Brisbane community who have submitted works we liked a lot or are/have been involved in non institutionalised Memefest related activities:

Keith Armstrong, Luke Robertson; Gem Copeland; Aaron Gillett, Paul Kimbell, Nicola Paris, Robert Henderson, Brad Parker, Manfred Huber, Dr Zala Volcic, Dr Mark Andrejevic;

Both workshops will take place at the Queensland College of Art and other places in Brisbane. We will work on further extradisciplinary interrogation of this years festival theme -DEBT, with the aim to critically intervene in Brisbane’s public space. An online pre workshop preparation phase will take place here on memefest.org. The second workshop will be mentored by Tony Fry, George Petelin, Jason Grant and Oliver Vodeb.

Also: we will slowly start working on a special edition of Zoontechnica, the peer reviewed journal of redirective practice published by QCA/ Design. We will get in touch with authors of best texts + we will invite also additional authors from around the globe to collaborate and contribute to our investigation of Debt also in this medium. Besides that we will also help produce- print one work submitted to the festival in order for it to be distributed as widely as possible. We also plan to publish a selection of works with additional commentary in a publication similar to the one we published for the last festival: http://vimeo.com/27175363

The main reason for Memefest’s collaboration with QCA are its progressive forces and the launch of the ambitious Design Futures program (www.designfutures.com.au), which in many ways shares common philosophical frameworks in theory and practice with Memefest. Design Futures is the first program that attempts to implement a radical and therefore productive critique of the design profession within a whole university department. It's pedagogy and research aim to be tightly connected with the strong traditions of critical thought. Usually (if at all) such critical attempts are being made on a much smaller scale. In any case they are extremely rare. Memefest has from its start- ten years ago- collaborated with universities from around the world and has contributed to inner institutional change. To contribute to developments, which have been so far developed mainly outside institutional contexts is really exciting as they are a historic opportunity.

This international meeting of the people, minds, friends, collaborators, researchers, artists, designers, theorists, educators, activists and people outside any classifications in Brisbane will be a big opportunity too. Two extradisciplinary workshops- highly experimental, hopefully pushing the limits and frameworks of professions, with the aim to change and further develop our understandings of what critical thinking and intervention in the context of communication, art, research and education is.

There are many fantastic people from around the globe involved in Memefest Festival. Besides the core work from members of the Memefest Kolektiv: Dejan, Rok, Nikola, Vida, Ana, Jasa and myself, big work is done by all our co-curators and co-editors: Alana Hunt, Katie Bush, Kevin Yuen Kit Lo, Roderick Grant, Nikola Janovic, Nikolai Jeffs, Shoaib Nabi, Tony Credland, Daniel Marcus, Jason Grant, Alain Bieber, Scott Townsend, Gal Kirn, Aaron Gach, Steve Keen, and Aleksander Macasev;

Have a look at the almost 300 submissions from 35 countries and strong curatorial and editorial comments they have received here: http://www.memefest.org/en/gallery/works2012/

Anyone who has submitted works to the festival or posted projects in our gallery can also request comments from any member in our social network- at the moment more than a thousand members strong- at any member’s profile page top right you will find a “request comment” function.

Thanks to everyone, this is really great and beautiful and important and means a lot. See you soon, Oliver & Memefest Kolektiv

Great projects demand a bit more time on our side

We are almost there, but we will have to wait one more week for the definitive decision on the Memefest/Griffith University Queensland College of Art Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention.

George Petelin, Tony Fry and I have been discussing and reviewing your wonderful and strong works submitted to this years festival and the more we discussed the more it became clear that this will be a unique opportunity and that the original workshop concept needs to be expanded in order to maximise our intervention's impact.

Few new things regarding our new theorist/designer/artist in residence program and the interventionist workshop. The first thing is that there will be actually two workshops. One bigger and one smaller. The second thing is that we will have ten days to work together and to have fun. The dates right now reserved for this are November 15th - November 25th 2012. The third thing is that besides bringing one person from each Friendly competition category to Brisbane, we will invite also members of the local Brisbane community. People who showed substantial engagement in to matters that are relevant for Memefest and QCA. And fourth: we will continue to work on the theme DEBT also in the workshops.

We need a bit more time to make the curatorial decisions. We ask you for some more patience. Definitive results will be published next Friday August 17th. We are very excited about this and the possibilities that we see. Soon...

In the mean time, have a look again at the submissions to this years festival here: http://tinyurl.com/8d4r6fw


This is good. The first serious investigation of Debt in the field of communication. It is hard to overstate the importance of such a collective project. Debt is the primary instrument our capitalist world is organised around, the most powerful instrument of colonisation, slavery and economic warfare. But the debtor / creditor relation is also a fundamental social relation, deeply internalised through our everyday practice.

If the fields of communication, design and art want to be relevant they have to understand what Debt is and what it does and how it is related to communication.

There is a momentum, a flow and a movement happening right now -globally- an idea whose time has come. The idea whose time has come is mainly about three things. First: interventions that create a rupture in the order of things with the goal to redefine our fields of experience and the relationship between being, doing and saying. Second: dialogue. Third: creating new emancipatory social institutions.

There is a wealth of communication design works, visual, conceptual and good theoretical reflections on debt submitted to Memefest. We received works form thirty-five countries, very diverse environments. This is a lot and encouraging because our process not only works as an educational intervention, it creates quality criteria on what is good communication and it is also a research mechanism that enables us to understand the relations between communication/design/media/art/theory/practice and the current (indebted) world.

It is impossible to provide a deeper reflection on the submissions now that goes beyond particular single works. We need more time for that. And as always our analyses will follow.

There are few things to say now though. Reflections on Debt were not easy. We are in the middle of this gigantic tsunami that is highly abstracted, deeply internalised and naturalised. Although the effects of Debt are widely visible, it seems picturing what is the essence of debt is very difficult.

As always we received works from artists, professionals, students and activists.
Memefest collaborates with several universities and our outlines are part of official curriculum's. (I was in a double role- working with my students in class on this) A very valuable comment comes from curator Roderick Grant. As he stated in one of our email conversations: “I've noted in some cases this year that the festival has a real split in submissions...students are entering work that very much feels like a submission to meet certain objectives in a studio or course, rather than a deeply felt set of convictions that they are answering to as designers and citizens. For me, this served as a reminder that studios do not function in a vacuum, and while we might put such learning outcomes in a 'critical design studio' or a 'social justice information design project', its not the formal outcomes we should be after, its the change in affect, in attitude and behaviour that should guide our actions as educators.” I very much agree and this, I think, is on spot and says a lot about our university programs, which arguably are less and less capable of educating students to become intellectuals in the field of communication. Still there are quite some good projects that have been submitted by students and traditionally good stuff comes from outside of the university.

If Debt was the theme for visual communication practice and critical writing, Beyond…, our third category is about participatory art and communication. Our ambition here is extremely high. As you can read in the Beyond… outlines, ideally –although not mandatory- we are aiming towards extradisciplinary investigation. It is in the Beyond...category where art meets communication, design and speculation where usually highly interesting, surprising and relevant works get created.

Clearly this years outlines were inspired by Occupy. Characterised by a new culture of participation, Occupy developed new and incredibly strong publics and it’s exactly here, were Occupy’s potential for the future lies. #Occupy has found a new momentum and is working hard to articulate new visions of “the public” in the: “new hybridised logic of public space that is local, translocal, situated, embodied, and mediated and networked at the same time, … (where they create) a continuous nomadic movement that links up a bewildering variety of places, contexts, movements and non-movements, individuals, groups, cultures, collectives and singularities.”1 Here we wanted to push the limits further in Beyond… however as with Debt and communication, this is new in the moment and maybe in some ways a bit before time?

Curating and editing this year’s submission was a tough job and a big warm thank you goes to everyone who has contributed in this process!! Feedback given on works is very strong and plays a essential role in nurturing a culture of communication that goes beyond the ideology of the market. The dialogic nature of our evaluation process is designed to create the potential of going beyond the image and towards communication. Here our curatorial and editorial board: http://www.memefest.org/en/competition/curators/

Results for traditional categories are here. Our special Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention given in collaboration with the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane will be announced August 10th. We will invite and fly in one author from each category to Brisbane, Australia, to participate in an extradisciplinary workshop for a critical intervention in to the public space in Brisbane.

Congratulations to everyone who participated, and especially the ones who ranked among the best!

Now it’s time to open the forum to the public. Have a look at the best works here: http://www.memefest.org/en/gallery/works2012/

Read Memefest’s official feedback on them and let us know about your perspective.

This is a great and important Festival year. We are investigating crucial things. A lot has been done and it is inspiring to see how many people from around the world are now already involved in the process of developing Socially responsive communication and art. We are now ten years young, and this is only the beginning.

With love, conflict and imagination, Oliver- Memefest Kolektiv


1 Erik Kluitenberg, (2011) Legacies of Tactical Media, 51

Creating a new University

No less, than creating a new university is our goal. Writing from Paris, here the third day of conference/workshop is getting hot. Bellow an update on what is happening with a short intro on the concept of the Urmadic University project. Memefest is collaborating with and supporting this project. Also I am leading (together with Anne-Marie Willis) a radical communication workshop in support to the project of the Urmadic University.

The University is in crisis. Can we create something that is a new form of a University and helps at the same time the current Universities to appropriate knowledge, ideas, networks that will help them to redirect their institutional politics? Have a read, get back to us if you are interested and drop by if you are in Paris now.


Institutional Change & Design Leadership
Breaking Into, Up and Out
Paris Hothouse July 10 – 13th 2011, American University Paris

Welcome to the HotHouse. We are more than pleased you have come and are excited by the prospect of the next few days. The event we have set out to create is not simply a gathering of kindred spirits for a few days but rather an ongoing and unstoppable process of affirmative change. Can this gathering create this momentum? Absolutely. We can be a collective entity, a network, a community, a force and an attractor if this is what we make ourselves. For this to happen everyone has to actively produce the activities that we have organized – all we have done is put a structure in place. What is built on it depends on the collective effort of ‘the company of producers’.

We have a very specific ambition. This is to build on the experience of the first HotHouse in Brisbane last year and thereby consolidate a change community that can move towards the forms of action we are about to explore. The global situation, in so many ways, has deteriorated over the last year. We are truly in an age of unsettlement. Any attempt to think and act in the present has to take this condition, as it spans the social, environmental, economic and psychological, into account. This imperative frames our time together.

These can be stated simply, but engagement in them is another matter:

• the remaking of education
• the remaking of design as a praxis beyond its professions and their restrictions of it as practice
• the mobilization of design remade against the nihilism that negates our future and life itself
• the building of a global change community of focused thinkers, activists and leaders
• confronting the price of taking action

Grounding the Conversation Framings via the Group Topics
The group topics have been selected to enable the larger conversation to be grounded in specific practices that can be questioned, explored and then relationally connected.

• Information and Radical Communication asks: what can ‘now’ be deemed radical and, thereafter, whether informational content itself can actually be made radical.
• Political Action invites the very nature of politics and action to be named and examined prior to the designation and undertaking of a ‘political act’.
• Transformative Education Content asks questions of what is to be transformed: how is education to be understood, and does content imply institutional context.
• New Practices asks of design: do such practices assume a failure of the old, what are they, how are they created, what do they aim to do?
• Change Communities, here discussion goes to what actually is community, what is to change and how can a community be constituted on the basis of acting toward change.

Making relational connection requires forming, ordering, examining and then reordering a question such as: how can a change community create and adopt new radical practices of communication that are able to transform educational content and context in line with a clear and progressive political intent understood through a rigorous situated analysis.

Last year, a long and over-ambitious elaboration of the ‘state of the world’ was presented. This year we will do the reverse, we will be brief. Whatever the problems named – environmental and ecological destruction, growing economic inequity within and between nations, increasing social dysfunction, the technological colonization of everyday life, a spreading political lacuna, or proliferating violence and injustice – all of them are relationally linked, they constitute a problem without a name, and they are subordinate to a causal vector. We, as the ‘most violent of animals’, are that causal vector from our very coming into being. Our violence is unbounded and touches everything.

In our unfolding age of unsettlement, there is a line running from Nietzsche to Heidegger, Fanon, Mignolo and beyond. It inscribes one clear message: ‘we’ in our difference have to change. Here then is the meta-design task to which one can argue that all designing must lead – the being that is not one, the animal that is human must be ‘redesigned’, recreated. Obviously this is no mere instrumental task but rather a massive ontological exercise.

Whatever we are, ‘we’ live in the space of what we were (and cannot continue to be) and what we need to become (and currently do not know how to create). Part of what we will be doing is trying to look into and beyond this space of in-betweeness.

It is the voice of one and the imminent conversation, qualifications and contributions of others. The utterances are openings.

The opening evening: getting a sense of the Urmadic University as a project

Opening sessions Day 1 and 2: presentations that place design education in the context of radical change, the idea of Sustainment and the experiments of breaking into, breaking up and breaking out; these to ‘feed’ group discussion.

Second morning session Day 1: getting to know your group and the issues it will deal with.
Afternoon session Day 1: group workshop on the group theme and its relational connections to other themes. To assist in both sessions see notes on the urmadic below.

Second morning session Day 2: Looking at an existing project and Q&A
Afternoon session Day 2: group workshop on institutional change – reformist and radical

First morning session Day 3: presentation by Oliver Feltham and Q&A
Second morning session Day 3: a design exercise
Afternoon session Day 3: group presentations and plans for 2013.

The intent of all this activity is to gain the means to move on. HotHouse number 3 will be a new project based format that builds on the attainments of this one.
This will be posted on the project website (www.theodessey.org). It will include a project pool –to be discussed.

These brief notes are very much about the orientation of conversation via the prompting of questions. They are clearly not a developed exposition of the complexity that each of the topics listed embodies.

1. On ‘ur’
As it has strayed over geography, time and language the word and prefix ‘ur’ appears to be firmly located in the uncanny.

Etymologically, the prefix ‘ur’ brings enormous paleo-historical, philosophical and linguistic complexity into play. Getting to the heart of this story would be a substantial research task in its own right. So what you are about to hear is a brief and limited account to expose why we have given its use so much weight.

First there is a geological narrative. ‘Ur’ was the name given to the primordial single continental landmass of a cooling planet Earth 3 billion years ago (the claimed actual age of the planet varies from 3.5 to 4.6 billion years).

Narrative number two starts at the world’s oldest city, Uruk, situated 250 kilometres south of Baghdad, on an ancient branch of the Euphrates in Iraq. It was the first major city of Sumer and was built around 7,000 B.P. As we move on the story gets richer. The use of the proper name and the prefix ‘ur’ starts to slide into the domain of the uncanny.

We can note that the first extant manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek have been designated Urtexts. The most significant of these is claimed to be Ezekiel 36-39. There are three versions of this manuscript with a number of theological positions contesting which was actually the true copy of the original. In this context we should also register the significance of the city of Ur in the Jewish faith. Named in Genesis (11:28-31: 12:1-4) as the birthplace of Abraham some four thousand years ago, who it is said (because of his Covenant with God) established the origins of what was to become the Torah and thereby the foundation of all Abrahamic monotheist faiths.

Perhaps the next linguistic appearance of ‘ur’ was the Roman Empire’s naming of the city ‘urbis’ and its inhabitants ‘urbs’. Yet there is no known link between ‘ur’ in the Indo-Iranian language’s names of the first cities of Southern Mesopotamia, and Rome, with its language in the Indo-European language group. But knowing how an ecology of mind transports ideas, this does not mean that no connection existed.

Next we find ‘ur’ used as a prefix in German for all that is ancient; for example, ‘urmensch’ (ancient/primitive people), ‘ursprung’ (origin), and ‘ursprache’ (primitive or ancient language).

Narrative number three of the ur prefix weaves through a variety of discourses and moments.
It starts with the notion of Urforms designated by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe through his contemplation of ‘abstract gardening’, and his ‘discovered’ ‘ur-plant’ – an ideal form that fused the qualities of all plants past and future. His way of seeing the ‘ur-plant’ centred on seeing it simultaneously in time and space. He named this ‘urphänomen’, an archetype, which he sourced in a ‘pagan view of nature’ and posited in ‘history.’ He believed he had revealed a convergence in time between the knower and the known.

Walter Benjamin, in what has been called his anthropological materialism, was influenced by what now might be called Goethe’s speculative realist ideas and by something far older. He linked Goethe’s notion of ur-forms back to those urtexts embedded in the birth of the Jewish faith. He then projected this forward to the confluence of photography, cinema, technology and history in a composite moment of appearance.
What was actually present to be seen for Benjamin was never just the image of one represented moment, but a gathering in one moment of past, present and potential. This is most easily grasped through cinema wherein image, movement, time and technology all converge and flow. Yet rather than trying to contain this understanding to any particular medium, Benjamin generalised it as a way of seeing everyday life, history, technology and change. In doing this he attached the ‘ur’ prefix to history (ur-history) to characterise how origin, history and phenomenal forms could all be viewed.

Echoing Goethe on archetype and Plato on seeing, Benjamin recognised that the transformation of a form of thought was also a transformation of sight. However, seeing was not taken to be neutral but subject to determinate forces – historical, economic and political. Here his thinking was inflected by his engagement with Marxism (especially his understanding of the relation between a mode of production and superstructural cultural forms, but without abandoning his mystical disposition as it was grounded in Hebrew ur-texts).

This strange mixture of thought shaped Benjamin’s work and his sensibility. This state of mind became most evident in his Arcades Project where what he saw was never simply of their moment of construction or encounter but the time of everything from the ancient onward that brought them into being. Now of course to bring something into being is equally to create what is concealed. This can be confirmed in various ways. Most directly, all things designed hide as well as reveal – this is a fundamental quality of design aesthetics. More generally all appearances travel with what they conceal. As for instance, as Martin Heidegger observed a number of times, reading a text is always an encounter with the said and the unsaid.

The very nature of the flow of narrative hides the unsaid. The implication of bringing together a thinking of presence and absence, time and space, past, present and future, in Benjamin’s hand produced a revelatory mode of making the world of everyday objects appear strange and mythic. Benjamin’s mode of relationality brought everything associated with origins and futuring to the present moment of ur-historical interrogation: not however, as transparent figures but as clues to be found, deciphered and read. His thinking exposed that the materially present of a particular moment of history is a gathering buried in human (designed) artefacts or events. The revelation, or as Benjamin called it ‘rescue’, of these objects or events he named as Jetztzeit – the act of exposing the ‘everlasting now’. This has been likened to the Nunc Stans of Aquinas and obviously the ‘Urphanomen’ of Goethe, but it equally resonates with the Nietzschean notion of eternal return.

2. On the ‘urmadic’
The urmadic names the fusion of the urban and the nomadic. It is based on the proposition that the foundational condition of our being is nomadic; we Homo sapiens have only been settled for about one sixteenth of our Earthly habitation. That we survived at all was predicated upon our ability to move when the environment became inhospitable. This puts into question the viability of cities as we current know them.

A trace of nomadism still remains and is being recreated in contemporary forms. It may again become the key to our species survival. But nomadism needs to be recreated in the context of existing and imminent circumstances, especially how we settle and live ‘in place’ in a growing condition of vulnerability. Three often inter-related factors are increasing the risks of many urban populations.

• Cities have often been built in inappropriate places (on flood-plains or geological fault lines, exposed to cyclonic weather, and so on) for what seemed sound pragmatic reasons: good fishing, excellent agricultural soil, the immediate availability of material resources like stone and timber.

• There has been a massive expansion of the land area, population size and density of many cities (at the extreme are mega cities of twenty and thirty million people, with the prospect of regional cities of over one-hundred million people). A great deal of this growth is ‘informal’, i.e., unplanned, lacking in services and infrastructure and functioning without the fabric of civil society.

• As their land area and populations expand, cities are at increasingly greater risk from ‘natural’ disasters and climate change related extreme weather events.

The mid and long term implication is that some major cities are likely to be destroyed and abandoned; others will be abandoned before they are impacted, some will be badly damaged, and some will, in whole or part, be moved. Effectively, the age of human settlement can no longer be taken as assured, with unsettlement becoming a widespread human condition (this is already the case in many Pacific Islands, Bangladesh and parts of sub-Saharan Africa).

3. Why talk of an urmadic university?
This conversation moves in two directions.

First, the Urmadic University is politically positioned as a response to the endgame of the modern university which has become ever more instrumental and bonded to service provision for hegemonic capitalism. It has become the post-Enlightenment institution without a project other than its pragmatic function. The endgame is likely to be a long and in this game there is a huge void – an acknowledgement of the attainments and the horrors of the Enlightenment. Yet it is out of this ‘university in ruins’ that the building of the new has to come. For this to happen there has to be an appropriation of energy and a transformative project from outside it. To say this is simply to draw on the lesson of how the modern university was created in the first place; it grew out of the first European juristic-theological university as this university appropriated reason as an emergent discourse.

Second, the actual form of the Urmadic University is based upon it being an institution ‘to travel with’ (rather than attend as a fixed place of learning) – this is to say it is an institution without a place. As such, a collective (‘this collective’) would be brought to situated problems so that the understanding to deal with them could be learnt. The intent being a nomadic accumulation of transformative engagement and understanding informed by critical enquiry of the problem in its immediate, relational and historically situated form. To this end the university becomes the catalyst in the building of a new culture of learning that is ‘futural’ – effectively a neu bildung based on taking action that makes time in the face of the negation(of time) by extant ‘defuturing’ anthropocentric action. Here then is not only a truly political university but one through which a new political imagination could be crafted.

4. What would be the ‘spirit and form’ of the urmadic university?
The spirit would be a mixture of fear and excitement, challenge and adventure, determination and rigour - all in the face of massive and deepening dangers. The form would be fluid and smooth. It would not be fixed, spatially contained and thus striated. Both the institution and its educational model would be nomadic. It can be pictured in cycles of arrival, work, and departure that produce a condition of continual learning.

5. How can the Urmadic University be positioned within a contemporary global context?
It would stand over and against ‘the crisis without a name’ (the un-named convergence of environmental, social and economic problems that constitute the force of the destruction of time). It would be positioned to challenge what is taken to be an inevitable growing condition of global inequity, while creating a space of imagination in the face of the unimaginable. Rather than protest, it would strive to establish a praxis that leads, inspires and attracts via ‘change action’ and its results. In this respect it can be viewed as a mobile ‘change platform’. Rather than bringing people together to establish consensus, it would work on the basis of ‘commonality in difference’. That which is common is agreement on the making of time (the process of sustainment) as the absolute priority directive of all actions. By implication, all who come to this university would subscribe to this as its operational ethos. It follows that single-issue modes of politics are seen to be non-relational and thus without efficacy even when they attain their objective.

6. What is the difference between the Urmadic University and other actions and institutions striving for change?

It’s mandate would be underpinned by redirection: recognition that no past political ideologies (including the plural forms of currently existing democracy) have the conceptual ability to take us to the future; that the creation of a new political imagination is a pressing imperative; that, as thinkers as diverse as Heidegger and Fanon realized, humanism has to be displaced by a ‘new human’; that ways have to be found to replace the ‘restrictive’ mode of exchange (exemplified by capitalism) with the ‘general’ economy (the condition of exchange of that which makes the very nature of Being possible).

Urmadic politics is the other of political gesturalism, which it deems as striated (and thus always contained – to occupy is thus is to be held in containment). In contrast, a dispersed politics of action in flow claims appropriateness in the face of the determinate power and agency of the problem without the name.

So framed the Urmadic University is a leading out (the essence of education), a gathering event beyond place (the essence of its spirit), situated action (the essence of learning that learns otherwise), and is nomadic (the essence of its contingency and availability to be appropriated).

The program for Hothouse Two has been structured to ensure that as much as possible is achieved over the course of the event. The Paris Hothouse is as much about creating a strong change community as it is about establishing new projects, design practices, educational content and political strategies; all this with the aim of changing institutional education.
HotHouse 2 will begin with the examination of three projects that are already underway, facilitated by the Urmadic University. This will provide an example of the kind of project the Urmadic University facilitates as well as give participants the opportunity to become involved in the projects. The three projects and their group leaders are - Kerala Ethnocidal Action: Anti-globalization counter cultural creation – with Tony Fry, Transformation City: The Detroit roadshow - going nowhere/going somewhere – with Chrisstina Hamilton & Kiersten Nash, Port Hedland: Launching the urmadic overplan – with Eleni Kalantidou & Bec Barnett. Following this introduction, groups will be formed to work over the entire event on a rigorous examination of educational institutional transformation via thinking, talking, reflecting, planning and acting. This examination will be structured around five strategic and convergent points of entry.
The three days of the Hothouse will be challenging but we also hope that you find them enjoyable. The agenda below is only part of the picture but we hope that it can initiate continuous conversations and ongoing action.

Tuesday 10th July: Opening Evening
17.00 – 18.00 Registration
18.00 – 18.10 Greeting
18.10 – 19.10 Three Ongoing Urmadic University Projects –

Port Hedland with Eleni Kalantidou &Bec Barnett:
Launching the urmadic over plan: Port Hedland, Australia, is set to become one of the world’s biggest ports. In this project the city becomes a case study of one of the major cultural issues that Australia, and other parts of the world, will face in this century: rapid urban growth against the backdrop of an unsustainable culture, in this case one based around mining. This project will present, via situational analysis and design fictions, a process of city re-creation based on new modes of habitation and the idea of the ‘urmadic city’.

Kerala Ethnocidal Action with Tony Fry:
The aim is to create an anti-globalisation counter cultural force in response to what is rapidly being destroyed as the high-speed modernising economy and culture arrives. We know this culture cannot be saved as is. We arrive to forge cultural partnerships able to initiate a process of translating existing, and generating new, cultural forms – these based on the identification and communication of what is significant in ‘the old’ to ‘the new’.
Detroit, Transformation City with Chrisstina Hamilton & Kiersten Nash:
A city going nowhere/going somewhere.
Detroit has become a symbolic focus of the life, death and possible rebirth of a city of modernity. Its lessons are global. As a place that has been made redundant, what is the story to take on the road? The presentation of this project will explore this issue in the context of the Urmadic University in terms of a situational analysis to pressing ‘futuring’ needs.

19.10-19:25 Briefing by Oliver Feltham
19:25-20:00 Group briefing led by group leaders

Wednesday 11th July: Day 1
8.30 arrival for 9.00 start
9:00 – 10:00 Opening presentation by Tristan Schultz, Zoe Yakimoff and Tony Fry
9:00 – 10:00 Opening presentation
10.00 - 12:30 In groups: knowledge audit, knowledge need, knowledge gap
12.30 - 13.30 Lunch
13:30 - 18:00 Workshop: theme + project + context (Afternoon Tea 16.00 – 16.15 to refresh your wits.)

Thursday 12th July: Day 2
9:00-10:00 Opening presentation by Tristan Schultz, Zoe Yakimoff and Tony Fry
10:00-12:30 Panel discussion and Q&A on change drivers: existing platforms and practices for institutional change.
Panel: Duncan Fairfax, Oliver Feltham, Liam Hinshelwood and Tom White.

12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-18:00 Group workshops: Breaking into, breaking up and breaking out (Afternoon Tea 16:00 – 16:15)

Friday 13th July: Day 3
9:00-10:00 Opening presentation by Oliver Feltham and Q&A
10:00-12:30 Group designing session

Brief: Having considered how your new forms of learning might be implemented at the end of yesterday formulate how these now might be specifically ‘instituted’ within the wider curriculum of the Urmadic University. What events or projects could be organised?

12:30-1:30 Lunch
1:30-14:30 Prepare a presentation of one future project for the other groups.
14:30-16:00 Project presentation and selection.
16:00-17:30 Next event announcement

Meetings at breakfast, dinner, midnight and dawn are up to you!


Group RED - Anne-Marie Willis and Oliver Vodeb
Zoe Yakimoff
Liam Hinshelwood
Scott Townsend
Barnaby Bennett
Ngaire Bissett
Sonia Matos
Marion Jicoulat
Blair Francey
Marion Lean
Svenja Bickert

Group GREEN - Oliver Feltham
Susan Stewart
Petra Perolini
Russell Hughes
Martin Avila
Steve Kierl
Tristan Schultz
Kate Catterall
Quoc Dang
Maja Grakalic
Carolin Jablonka

Group BLACK – Tony Fry
Matt Kiem
Tom White
Nikee Bannerman
Angelos Psilopoulos
Keith Owens
Ramia Mazé
Tega Brain
Gosia Rachocka
Edward Johansson

Group BLUE - Duncan Fairfax
Karl Logge
Eleni Kalantidou
Alok Nandi
Peter Hall
Anna Rzepcynski
Chris Edwards-Leis
Adam Charlton
Rebecca Steiner
Ka Man (Carmen) Shui

Group YELLOW - Bec Barnett
Tessa Zettal
Kierstan Nash
João Lutz
Håkan Edeholt
Giles Thomson
Catharine Rossi
Raju Rahman
Iva Serikova
Linda Kwon

Greece says "yes" to DEBT... and Memefest Friendly competition works evaluation goes in to final round!

Still, 26,9 % of the votes went to the "Siriza" party that opposes the debt driven politics enforced by EU and led by Germany. The pro debt politics oriented party "New Democracy" received 29,6 % of votes and is now building a coalition that will try to make sure the austerity measures will continue to enslave Greeks. But this is bad luck, because 55% of the voters actually voted for parties that are against the "bailout". If Greece would vote differently and could stand up against Berlin/Frankfurt/Brussels this would be a precedence for Europe and the world and other countries might follow. But, it is clear that the resentment against the ideology of debt is growing. We are at the beginnings of theoretical and artistic/communicative articulations that are putting debt on a map where it belongs, and that can provide ways of thinking and public interventions that will change the way we relate to debt and one another.

I have just finished curating the short list of festival submissions. Now its up to the friendly competition curators to do the rest. This years theme is different and I think that the submissions need to be analysed with extreme sensibility- especially the visual ones. Here a part of the email I wrote to the (visual communication practice) friendly competition curators:

"It seems that the tsunami of Debt is hard to grasp and critical, radical, social responsive approaches are hard to articulate. I believe it' s also not easy for us to evaluate the works- for the same reason.

Also, I think in the case of DEBT, which as we more and more learn, fundamentally shapes the way we relate to each other and designs the unreal to an extend that is very hard to comprehend: there is something valuable in a certain rawness, non perfection and maybe even a rather stammered address. Although this have not been main guiding principles for curating the short list. Maybe more than in previous years it is a value to see what is the understanding, and a certain cultural sentiment in relation to the theme. Even when sometimes "not so good" the work can have value which is rather in its praxis than final visual outcome. This being said the final - visual outcome of course plays an important role, but i would like to point out that (as always at Memefest) together with the works written contextualisation, this year additional dimensions need to be taken in to account if we want to get the best possible understanding on whats going on and what can we do in the future.

The level to which debt penetrates our every day lives is really fantastic! Looks like this ugly monster will be around for a while and we will have to fight it in the years to come. Besides our educational impact on the participants, I see this- what we are doing here, as a important scan of the present and good opportunity to learn about how to strategyse and develop communication in the future." Let's see what happens.

At the end I would also like to post three photos, my Greek colleague, (who will join us at the Design Futures program at Queensland College of Art in end of July), environmental psychologist Eleni Kalantidou sent me few days ago. She wrote:" (θλίψη means “sorrow”- όχι στην εκμετάλλευση των λαών από την πλουτοκρατία means “no to the exploitation of nations by plutocracy”. The x sign on the European union logo you can understand). They were all taken in Thessaloniki."





Oliver Vodeb






I am a member of Memefest communication/art/theory Kolektiv, and founder, curator and editor of Memefest Festival of Socially Responsive Communication and Art. Iam also facilitator of Memefest online social network.

I am an Academic at RMIT University, Melbourne. I teach and research mostly in the field of communication design. I approach design/communication from a critical inter/ extradisciplinary perspective and I investigate theoretical, strategic, conceptual and "hands on" practice.

I enjoy working in many different media including visual and text.

Books I have published :





This was my studio in Slovenia (2004-2012): www.poper.si

CV (sort of): http://www.memefest.org/en/about/who_we_are_oliver_vodeb/

You can read some of my texts here:

I have joined the Memfest community becasue i am interested in

I have been here from the very beginning of Memefest. I am interested in communication/design for social and environmental change.
I name such communication socially responsive communication.

Broadly speaking I am interested in visual communication, photography, sociological aspects of communication, design and media.

Iam interested in institutionalised forms of communication like for example communication done by design/communication studios and advertising agencies as well as non institutionalised forms of communication like tactical media or broader aspects of media activism.

In a slightly more academic language:

I am interested in how critical social theory can illuminate the complex processes of production, distribution and reception of public (visual) communication in order to generate public communication as a responsible social, political, economic and cultural practice.

I am particularly interested in relations between concepts of response-ability and communication effectiveness, and the social construction of design and other forms of pubic communication as profession, practice and praxis within academia, the market environments and non-institutionalised communities.


was studiing at Faculty for social sciences University of Ljubljana


PhD in sociology of communication and design

Working place

RMIT University, School of Design, Master of Communication Design

Music I like

Flamming Lips, Pixies, The Black Crowes, Demeter, Porno for Pyros, Ry Cooder, Junior Kimbrough, Townes van Zandt, T-model Ford, The Dirty Three, Bonnie Prince Billy, Primus, Faith no More, Bob Dylan, RHCP, Alice Donut, Faith no more, Mark Lanegan, Reigning Sound, Total Control;

Books I like

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Confederacy of Dunces, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, PanikHerz...;

Films I like

The man who wasn't there, No country for old man, Genova, Zidane a 21st century portrait, There will be blood, Il Postino, Festen, Straight Story, Wild at heart, White Ribbon, Dog tooth;

Communication projects I like

I like stuff we did at Poper studio. I like posters from Inkahoots. I like the zine project 23/56 from Kevin. I like many things that were submitted to Memefest, I like stuff from Cactusnetwork, I like the work of Image-shift.

Websites I like

poper.si, memefest.org, magnumphotos.com, mubi.com, ubu.com, http://twotheories.blogspot.com, brianholmes.wordpress.com, www.lensculture.com, www.burnmagazine.org, www.bagnewsnotes.com, www.cactusnetwork.org.uk, http://www.image-shift.net, www.inkahoots.com.au/

People I like

My dear family and my wonderful friends.