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In a world plagued by fake news and other deceptions, what role does creativity play in shaping and influencing our reality?

Summit graphic

The second annual Creative State Summit – 14 and 15 June at Melbourne Museum – explored the theme of creativity in a post-truth world.

Tickets for the Creative State Summit sold out, but the main stage was live streamed and can be viewed below.

In addition, the summit was live tweeted from the @CreativeXch Twitter account and the broader twitter discussion was captured on the  #CreativeState hashtag.

Here we've collected our updates from the Summit, with highlights from guest speakers across the fields of design, games, technology, arts and culture, and entertainment.

Read on for our Creative State Summit day 2 recap or skip ahead to:


Day Two: morning

After Day 1’s smorgasbord of simultaneous content, Day 2 of the summit shifted into rapid fire mode. All the action was on the main stage this morning, with six presenters lined up before lunch. Each had a time budget of precisely 18 minutes, and somehow the program stayed more or less on schedule. It’s a conference miracle!

First up was a powerful and moving address by multimedia artist and researcher Vicki Couzens. A Gunditjmara woman, Vicki initially spoke, at some length, in her Indigenous language – Keerray Wooroong – before switching to English.

“You don’t understand a word I’m saying, do you?” she began as she repeated her speech once again. “Why don’t you recognise my language or my tribe? How is it that you don’t know these things?”

As the title of her address promised Vicki spoke from the heart, about everyday discrimination and what Aboriginal culture can teach us about community and connection.

“It’s time for you to take up the burden of responsibility to learn about the truth of this country,” she said.

Next up, actress Kiruna Stamell had everyone in stitches with her hilarious (but also damning) take on inclusivity in the arts and call for representation of ‘honest bodies’.

“It doesn’t mean anything to be small, to be a wheelchair user, to be blind or Deaf or have an intellectual impairment or a mental illness. Our bodies don’t inherently mean anything. They just are,” she said. “We all want the same thing. To belong.”

Kiruna reminded us that the best thing to call a person with a disability is their name, by getting everyone in the audience to shout hers out while pumping our fists in the air. A definite crowd favourite, plenty of delegates filed out to meet her at her Q&A session.

Kiruna was a tough act to follow, but Dr Jason Fox, author of How to Lead a Quest,was more than up to the task. Talking at a mile a minute, Jason encouraged us to examine how we spend our time and ask, are we making meaningful progress in our lives?

“Is this meaningful progress, or are we indulging in a rich delusion of progress?” He asked – “getting your unread emails down from 98 to 14 might seem productive, but is it really?”

He also gave us an important reminder that curiosity is critical, but often doesn’t resemble progress. “Curiosity looks like going to events, having conversations with people you haven’t met, reading magazines, going for long walks. It doesn’t look productive. It looks like wasting time.”

Following Jason’s high-octane presentation was Mikaela Jade with a much gentler but equally exciting talk. Mikaela is the CEO and founder of Indigital, a company using augmented reality to bring Indigenous knowledge to life.

She spoke about running a digital company in a remote area with no internet, working with community and a developer in the UK, and the importance of getting details right. She also talked about the difficulty in finding funding for ambitious projects.

Mikaela’s app brings together Indigenous language, song, dance, body paint and ceremony, and is well worth checking out. Hearing about Senior Traditional Artist and Custodian Neville Namarnyilk using the app to teach his daughter cultural law was wonderful.

Former ABC News director and now State Library of Victoria CEO Kate Torney was up next to present her argument that libraries are places that encourage dangerous ideas. The SLV is one of the top four most-visited libraries in the world – no big deal! – and Kate says that sticking to core principles has helped libraries survive in the digital age.

She also reinforced the idea that libraries are for everyone in a community and do not discriminate, showing us a video of two world famous skateboarders tearing it up outside on the forecourt. Both showed off SLV-inspired tattoos – despite never having been inside the building. They love the place so much they got it inked!

The final speech for the morning came from Dr Rebecca Huntley, author of Still Lucky: Why You Should Feel Optimistic About Australia and Its People. She spoke about research into perceptions of Australian content in film and television, and the findings that it is highly valued by the public including those who don’t typically engage with the arts.

One of the things she talked about was the difficulty in producing Indigenous content for an audience that lacks understanding of the culture – adding yet another reminder that education around Indigenous culture is sorely lacking and needs improvement, a theme throughout the summit right from the opening smoking ceremony.

What an invigorating morning packed with incredible ideas and insights. Not sure if there will be room in our brains for more in the afternoon, but let’s find out!

What goes on in the post-truth booth?

If you’re at the summit or wandering around Melbourne Museum today, you may have noticed the horse float stationed outside the entrance. It’s called the Post-Truth Booth and it’s some actual art at a conference where we’re talking all about art.

The question everybody’s been asking, though, is what goes on in there?

Created by Castlemaine artist collective Wide Open Road Art, the Post-Truth Booth is a multimedia project in which members of the public are invited to respond to the conference discussions happening inside the Museum.

Passers by are invited to step inside and watch the live stream of the main stage speakers on an iPad, then do an interview with one of the artists and talk about the themes and ideas being raised.

The interviews are recorded on mobile phone video and broadcast to the big screen overhanging the ticket counter inside the Museum, so everyone visiting the space can get a tiny window into the summit.

Lead artists Helen Mathwin and Susie Elliott find participants by approaching strangers on the concourse and talking them into joining them inside the booth. (It seems that not many delegates are making it outside – everyone’s schedule is packed with presentations and workshops!) But they did well on day one, clocking 19 interviews. All of the resulting videos are available on Wide Open Road Art YouTube channel.

With hundreds of members of Victoria’s creative community inside the Museum and discussing big, lofty ideas, the Post-Truth Booth provides a valuable insight into how the everyday public perceive those ideas. Check out the videos for more, and if you’re in the area check out the booth!

Day Two wrap up

After the morning’s lightning round speeches, the afternoon got a bit more complicated with more rapid-fire talks on the main stage as well as toolbox sessions and new stream on creative entrepreneurship. Each of us had to make some tough decisions about where to spend our time!

My first stop was Canaries and Coal Mines – Women in Games and the Birth of the Alt-Right with writer, game developer and researcher Leena van Deventer. Leena’s incendiary speech was a call to arms for a return to the values of respect and caregiving, arguing that Gamergate paved the way for the new wave of post-truth politics we are currently mired in. (Tip from Leena: don’t use the Gamergate hashtag because it will make you want to throw your phone in the toilet.)

For those not in the know, Gamergate was a protracted period of harassment directed at female gamers like developer Zoe Quinn, critic Anita Sarkeesian, and any other women who dared speak about their love of games (and their often problematic content). Threats of rape and violence and doxxing – publishing identifying information such as home addresses – are just some of the things female gamers have faced in recent years. Leena called for grassroots action to fix the problem.

“A post-truth world is just like the old world, but people have given themselves permission to forget about their values,” she said.

Meanwhile, the creative entrepreneurship stream was in full swing. I arrived at the panel Building Startups in the Creative Industries halfway through to find a packed room.

Scaling was a big topic under discussion, with Bonnie Shaw from the City of Melbourne’s Smart City Office pointing out that not every venture is suited to capital investment. Small businesses and startups should think about why they want to scale before attempting to do it.

Following the panel, we heard from Mosster Studio co-founder and ACMI Xcel program participant Mei Lim on what it has been like to scale an art practice. Mosster create site-specific immersive experiences that blend art with augmented reality. Mei reiterated the point that scaling is not always the way to go: “Uniqueness and scale do not always gel,” she said. “It’s okay to not scale at 100%.”

Back at the main stage, youth theatre veterans Sarah Austin and Alex Walker had brought some scene-stealing co-presenters with them – four 11- and 12-year-olds who addressed the audience directly on the topics of what it means to be a child and the nature of play.

“If you want to be original, don’t Google things,” they said. “Come up with the answers yourself, even if they’re not the right ones.”

The kids gave great answers at their Follow the Speaker session after the talk, leaving a big impression on Leena van Deventer and Museum Hack founder Nick Gray (museumhack.com and nickgray.net):

Afterwards they clamoured for macarons, which apparently had gone missing:

After hearing kids’ perspective on play, it made sense to head up to the Lego Serious Play masterclass with Dr Stephen Dann. Dressed in a scarlet satin waistcoat, Stephen was quite the showman as he introduced the idea of using Lego to spark creativity in business and told us the story of making a room full of MBAs cry. Apparently, Lego can be very confronting!

It's all about building a hand–mind connection by creating things and telling stories about them. “Lego likes to have stories told with and about it,” said Stephen. “But only the maker holds the meaning.” Fascinating stuff!

Distracted by tiny plastic bricks, I missed most of Melis Senova’s presentation on the Dark Side of Design, but walking into the theatre partway through I was struck by a feeling of quiet awe in the crowd. Melis spoke about having seemingly innocent technology she’d created being used in ways she hadn’t intended while working for the Department of Defence and how design can have consequences we might not anticipate.

“To have insight you have to understand your own beliefs and biases,” she said, echoing another common theme from throughout the conference. For more, check out her design leadership book, This Human.

Our final speaker for the conference was a real treasure – Aaron Foley, Chief Storyteller for the City of Detroit. Formerly a journalist, Aaron now deploys his reporting skills to runThe Neighbourhoods, a website and news channel dedicated to promoting positive, everyday stories about life in Detroit. Coverage of the city in the US and international media tends to focus on the negatives stories – foreclosure, the collapse of the auto industry, crime – but that is only one side of Detroit. The Neighborhoodsshows the vibrancy of the diverse communities living there.

After identifying and discussing a range of challenges within the creative and cultural industries over the two days of the summit, it was great to end on an uplifting note. Aaron’s work shows how a city can creatively champion community.

And that’s it for the 2018 Creative State Summit! The post-truth theme generated a lot of question marks – what is truth? Whose truth are we talking about? – which led to a lot of robust discussion and challenging ideas to continue thinking about. Representation and inclusivity were magnified as being big issues that must be addressed, and soon. There was also a lot of optimism, with new possibilities for the future of the arts brought into the light.

What comes after a post-truth world? Maybe we’ll find out at next year’s summit!

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Image Gallery - 2018 Creative State Summit, day 2

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Live Stream - 2018 Creative State Summit

View all of the Keynotes from Creative State Summit in the playlist below, alternately you can view the Creative State Summit 2018 album on vimeo to browse all of the videos.

We are in the process of captioning these videos, please check back later for captions.

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Top tweets - 2018 Creative State Summit, day 2

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