In a month's time I’ll be travelling to Melbourne, Australia to participate in Memefest 2016, at Swinburne University. My relationship with Memefest goes back over 10 years, and I'm very excited to participate in this edition as a symposium presenter, workshop facilitator and mentor.
In the world of graphic design, discussion of its social role has been in vogue (again) for the last few years, with the rise of catchphrases such as design thinking, social good/social innovation design, human-centred design, etc. However, much of this discussion and work fails to critically engage with the problematic infrastructures of design practice itself, question its strategic approaches and processes, or position itself in relation/opposition to neoliberal capitalism (imho, the most important design challenge of our time) and other systems of oppression and exploitation. More often than not, this social design framework simply implies using the same commercial design approaches applied to a non-profit clientele, holding a focus group and calling it participatory design, or using recycled paper and claiming to be building a sustainable future. A deep distance exists between designers and those on the ground actually working for social change.
Memefest, as a network and event, has always acted in opposition to this framework, engaging in deep interdisciplinary communications theory, and intensive productive collaborations with local and global struggles. It does not take commercial or institutional design as an a priori definition of the discipline.
At the last Memefest (2014), we worked in partnership with Aboriginal decolonial groups in Australia, creating support campaigns and strategies against the forced removals of children, a wide variety of anti-racist graphics and poster interventions, documentary video, facilitated a teach-in and fundraiser, amongst many other projects (download a report of our activities here). This year, under the tantalizing theme of Pleasure, we will continue this engagement while also working with the growing refugee community in Melbourne.
Memefest is a rare opportunity for me to meet with an international group of communications activists, to discuss, strategize and work together. Before the event itself, I'll be curating work submitted to the website, and providing feedback on selected projects.
I will also be taking what promises to an inspirational trip to Hong Kong (it's kinda on the way!) before heading to Australia. I'm certain it will have a great impact on my thinking and design practice. I'm very much looking forward to these experiences, and hope to highlight my activities in both Hong Kong and Melbourne on here. Hope you'll follow along!