“In every city’s story there are stages defined by movement, motion, momentum. And it feels right now that the Gold Coast is a city with momentum. It’s not something you can think. It’s not something you can see. It’s something you feel,” says David Pledger, Curator 2970°.
More Gold Coast takes a look at the ideas explored during 2970°. In a bold first for the City, 2970 ° was a cross-sector think tank combining a diverse group of artists, activists, scientists, futurists, social change agents, cultural workers and academics into a heady mix of imagination, invention and interrogation.
Curator David Pledger says it was a significant step towards further cementing the Gold Coast’s unique culture. “The focus of discussions was firmly on the future and in particular the influence and interlacing of the arts in other disciplines such as science, sports, activism, technology and architecture,” says Pledger.
“Everyone who attended the three day event played a pivotal role in shaping what could come next for the cultural ecology of the Gold Coast.”
But he’s reluctant to pin down what that could be just yet. That’s the thing about ideas; they need time and space to grow.
Five keynote speakers all leaders in their respective fields and selected for their cross-disciplinary approach kicked off the proceedings with a presentation to provoke. Local creatives were selected to respond and delegates had an opportunity to discuss the ideas of the speakers and the respondents.
Here’s some of the key ideas and how they could be interpreted in a local context.
Liam Young trained as an architect just up the road in Brisbane but rather than working on physical structures he imagines and creates an alternative future, a possible future based in the real world, using visual renderings of future cities to explain what that future might look like. He labels himself a speculative architect. But as a true polymath Liam Young isn’t easily categorised. He took the audience on a futuristic journey into a world where a fictional hybrid Kimye (think Kim Kardashian and Kanye West) imagines a future that is here and as Liam says “a future no one wanted.”
Our senses were piqued as he wove a tale of virtual icebergs interrupting shipping lanes, he describes a future where there is a “lithium rush”, a core ingredient in your smart phone battery. In the future lithium is the new gold, or is it already? Young demonstrated the human impact of our consumer choices.
“The future is not something that just washes over us like water; it is something we can all play a part in actively shaping and defining,” – Liam Young.
Reaffirming the City’s reasons for hosting 2970 °, that creativity has an intrinsic value, the things we create matter and have a lasting impact on our cultural identity. The speakers interrogated the ways creativity can, and does, inform the future. Alex Kelly’s work uses creativity to create a new narrative and vehicle for social change. Liam Young creates and imagines new spaces to inform and invent a new future based on the realities of the present. Stelarc’s creative process joins technology, medicine and art to imagine and inform a future where the human body is obsolete. Dr Glaser talked about handing over control to generate more creativity a core principle he explores through his work. It’s the sum total of these ideas across disciplines that were interrogated, imagined and invented at 2970°. The idea that creativity can inform the future; that the future is here was the nexus of the event.
Dr Daniel Glaser is a neuroscientist who has worked to promote public engagement with science.
“Temples to art require a certain kind of behaviour. It’s not the only model to follow for science or art,” said Dr Glaser as he described the work he’ll concentrate on at the Science Gallery London where he is the inaugural Director.
Dr Glaser told of one example, where they handed total control to young people; if you want a video about issues affecting young people give it to them to deliver. He suggested we shouldn’t be afraid to hand over control.
Glaser stressed the importance of creating spaces that allowed non-experts to have their say and drive collaborations in which multiple voices can be heard.
“The tension between knowledge and ignorance is at the heart of collaboration. Create spaces for this to occur,” – Dr Daniel Glaser
For all those who attended, sharing ideas, starting conversations and connecting with people across different disciplines and practices was invaluable. “A lot of local connections were newly made and others were made more concrete,” says, David Pledger. “Some very valuable national and international match-making occurred amongst artists and thinkers.”
Alex Kelly had a different take on the future, an optimistic view, one that we can shape and control. Based in Alice Springs, Kelly is a filmmaker, producer and activist, currently working as an impact producer on Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’s project on climate change, This Changes Everything.
“We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.” – Grace Lee Boggs
Alex quoted activist Grace Lee Boggs in the conclusion of her talk and it’s a simple but powerful statement that inspired attendees to take part in the transformation of our hometown. As Kelly pointed out, art has a way of communicating more profoundly than any policy paper. “To change everything, we need everyone. People working collectively in social movements is what changes the world.”
Alex Monteith is a former competitive surfer, now an artist whose work examines political movements, contemporary sports, culture and social activities. Often her artwork attempts to move viewers towards better caretaking of their local coastal environment.
“Art can be used as a controversial conversation trigger and to explore relations in play.” – Alex Monteith
We need to use the arts and arts practices to explore issues that affect us and that we have trouble approaching in other more conventional ways. Art and culture give us space to think differently, to think beyond the structures of the status quo and what we’re told about what is possible and what the limits are. Artists can be leaders in change.
Famous for having an ear surgically constructed on his arm, Stelarc is considered one of Australia’s greatest living artists and his talk explored the space where art, anatomy and technology meet, and how they can be engaged to extend the capabilities of the human body.
With a laugh that warmed and engaged the audience, Stelarc also shocked and repelled as he described his life’s work. Images of shared bodily fluids in hermetically sealed jars, his naked body hanging on hooks, Stelarc isn’t one to flinch but the audience certainly was. One twitter follower posting a pic of a naked Stelarc suspended by hooks and the word “ouchie”.
“There’s no reason that a place like the Gold Coast can’t be a cultural centre in the future if we dream it now.” – Stelarc
We might not see it now but 2970° will be a catalyst for change on the Gold Coast. With our local creatives considering how they can positively affect the evolution of our culture and our community, and being supported to do so, this is the seed that will begin a transformation.
As event curator, David Pledger reflects that change is already beginning. “A lot of people were surprised such an event was happening on the Gold Coast,” he says. “In terms of identity, those responses change the way a place sees itself as much as it does the way others see it. Word of mouth is the best way to achieve a shift in perception because it’s gradual and based on genuine curiosity and respect.”
The momentum created within our local arts sector by this innovative event will push our city into new and original territory. As we develop, evolve and grow, individually and collectively, the repercussions of 2970° will help us break new ground as we build a sustainable culture and community that Gold Coasters can proudly call their own.
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