In a world plagued by fake news and other deceptions, what role does creativity play in shaping and influencing our reality? The second annual Creative State Summit will explore this question, drawing on perspectives from creative practitioners and organisations across the fields of design, games, technology arts and culture and entertainment.
Creative Victoria has brought together some big brains from across the state, the country and the globe to tease out some of the ways creativity can help us navigate these uncertain times. Here are five of the great minds you’ll meet at the Creative State Summit.
Chief Storyteller, City of Detroit
Aaron Foley’s list of journalism bylines is almost as long as the list of more than 200 neighbourhoods that make up his hometown of Detroit. He is the author of the book How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass and editor of the literary anthology The Detroit Neighbourhood Guidebook, which drew upon the diverse voices in the city.
Now he has a new role as Chief Storyteller for the City of Detroit, reporting to the mayor’s office. As Chief Storyteller Aaron oversees a small team who produce daily content for a website, The Neighbourhoods, as well as a cable TV channel. These outlets aim to present a more nuanced take on Detroit that moves away from the ‘ruin porn’ of boarded up buildings, but also casts a critical eye over the burgeoning business development that’s taking place. “We're always looking for the unsung stories of Detroit: the hair braiders, the home cooks, the everyday people that make Detroit special,” he says.
At the Summit, Aaron will be talking about how narrative and storytelling can shape a city. “Detroit for so long has had such a narrative of strife: its bankruptcy, its white flight, its doom and devastation,” he says. “While all of these things are true, the power of storytelling comes from the thousands of residents who have stayed in Detroit and stuck it out. They are the ones who have never given up, and now is the time for their stories to be told – primarily because they deserve to be heard just as much as the ‘new’ voices of Detroit, such as the people who are moving to Detroit now because it's the trendy thing to do.”
Founder, Museum Hack
Nick Gray had the idea for his company Museum Hack while on a date.
“A woman brought me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The tour she gave me unlocked my curiosity about art and history,” he says. “A year or two later I started giving my own renegade museum tours for my friends as a hobby. They became famous and sort of went viral. I asked my friends to help me lead the tours and the rest is history.”
Watch Nick’s video ‘How to visit a museum’ and you’ll get a sense of the high energy, fast paced experience you can expect on a Museum Hack tour – the antithesis of the slow, contemplative,\ tours you may expect to undertake at a museum. With Museum Hack, visitors can tour an art gallery with a drag queen, visit the un-highlights of a collection or go on a scavenger hunt.
Nick’s Summit keynote will focus on why museums matter at a time when audiences are distracted by Netflix, mobile phones and social media.
Creative Director, Google Creative Lab
Deeply creative and curious with a habit of following rabbit holes wherever they lead, TL ‘Tea’ Uglow seems like the only person who could have led the establishment of Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney. Google Creative Labs (there are labs in New York City and London as well as Sydney) are interdisciplinary think tanks which bring together designers, writers, business leaders, filmmakers, animators, producers, creative technologists and more to work on a range of strange and wonderful projects.
A talk Tea gave at the Sydney Writers Festival was published as A Curiosity of Doubts, and uncertainty is one of the ideas she explores in her work.
“Think about how much technology you use on a daily basis, how much you interact with it, and whether you’re happy or not. It doesn’t make many people happy. And humans, wonderfully, are not very good at settling for things that don’t make them happy. They tend to continue to create and innovate until things work perfectly,” Tea has commented.
Tea will be talking about what can happen in the space where technology and art intersect.
National Theatre (UK), Life’s Too Short
Truth has been a lynchpin of Kiruna Stamell’s acting career. Born with a rare form of dwarfism and faced with the attitude that there are no roles for an actor of her stature, Kiruna has defied the naysayers and built a career on roles that avoid the stereotypes.
“As a ‘disabled creative’ being underestimated by other people is my biggest challenge,” she says. “Pushing beyond the expectations and limitations of other people's imaginations and what they think people ‘like me’ should make, do or say. To be true myself and not regurgitate false tropes.”
Kiruna’s big break came in 1999 with Moulin Rouge, after Baz Luhrmann recognised her dancing skills. She is now based in the UK where she has landed roles on Life’s Too Short, EastEnders and several productions at London’s National Theatre. Last year she returned to Australia for a role in Belvoir Theatre’s The Rover.
At the Summit, Kiruna will be talking about “the importance of authenticity and integrity within a creative process, so that artistic work gives audiences access to truth.”
“This will be in particular reference to disability and the disabled experience,” she says.
“Also the importance of including and integrating disabled artists in the mainstream, reflecting the real world in a more honest way. I believe this will have a positive impact on the health of our society both for disabled people and the wider community.”
The Memory Palace, Radiotopia
A decade is a long time in podcast land. That’s how long it’s been since Nate DiMeo launched his history podcast, The Memory Palace. Using a literary, storytelling approach, Nate evokes vivid scenes from the past and transports the audiences to forgotten places using narrative and music. Despite its popularity, Nate treats the show as an art project, releasing new episodes on his own schedule (at 125 episodes he has averaged one a month) and opting not to reveal much in the episode descriptions, encouraging listeners to just dive in.
In 2016 he was the Artist in Residence at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he produced a series of audio stories based on the collection. Nate’s Summit presentation will look at the nature of memory and its relationship to truth.
“The past is an imaginary territory,” he says. “An historical figure, known through writings or court documents or second hand accounts or photographs, is no more real to us than an as-yet-un-identified Russian bot. Through a discussion of my work and how it deploys the past to explore the present, I’m going to try and talk about our destabilised moment of bots and catfishing and “fake news” and social media friendship in a post-truth world, and ask an odd but essential question: why bother remembering at all?”
The 2018 Creative State Summit – Creativity in a Post-Truth World will take place from 14-15 June at Melbourne Museum. It is presented by Creative Victoria and produced by Remix.