On the cusp of it’s tenth year, the seven-day trans-disciplinary Aspen Ideas Festival occurs every summer—a winning partnership between The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue, and The Atlantic, the acclaimed news platform esteemed for its literary and cultural commentary on everything from business and politics to art and technology. United by their commitment to dialogue, exchange and bringing ideas to the public at large, they don’t shy away from exploring difficult topics in discussions, presentations, plenary sessions and, of course, one-on-one conversations. One such idea explored in the latest edition was Divisibility, an intriguing starting point for understanding common ground, the complex puzzle of economics and a myriad of global challenges. Altogether unique among large-scale gatherings, the Festival is equal parts cerebral and celebratory—marrying the intellectual experience of a conference with the social and artistic stimulation of a festival—all within the breathtaking setting of the Aspen Institute’s magnificent alpine campus.
Resonate is a successful mix between a trade conference, workshop, hackday and a fair. It’s a new media and technology festival that serves as a platform for networking, knowledge sharing and education, bringing together world-class artists to drive a forward-looking debate on the position of technology in art and culture. Held each year in Belgrade, Serbia, the festival lasts for three days in March and gives attendees from around the world the latest evolutions in music, visual arts and digital culture. Guest artists, lecturers and other participants are chosen to represent the cutting edge of the contemporary creative industry in Europe. Those selected to speak sit at the intersection of art and technology, driven by sheer inquisitiveness to play in the folds and crevices of the overlap. “Whereas Internet has given us power to communicate to many, we need more events like Resonate where these ideas can flourish and ‘resonate.’”
The Manchester-based FutureEverything Summit of Ideas and Digital Invention, annually held for two days in late March for the past 18 years, has been hailed by The Guardian as one of the top ten ideas festivals in the world. A mecca for creatives, media professionals and tech-geeks, it has ballooned from its modest origins into an internationally-acclaimed festival and idea lab. Far from obscure, the headliners of the last (sold out) conference included Dan Hill and Anthony Townsend, as well as sessions by _Google, Vimeo, BBC _and Kickstarter and the likes of Scott Smith, Justin Pickard and Nicolas Nova, as they collectively explored the themes of Future Cities, Creative Code and The Data Society. In addition to the festival, FutureEverything is self-described as an “R&D hub for digital culture,” a year-round digital innovation platform for a family of labs working on continuous projects and collaborations rooted in art, music and technology that “showcase a digital future.”
Held at the end of February by America’s largest university, Arizona State, Emerge seeks to break down the barriers between those making the future and those thinking about what it means. One of the 200 events that make up the annual Arizona SciTech Festival, this three-day campus-wide public event “unites engineers, artists, scientists, humanists, designers and makers to build, draw, write and rethink the future of the human species and the environments that we share” through a series of performances, exhibits and interactive workshops. Emerge 2013 explored “our complex entanglements with truth, reason and meaning,” probing the limits of knowledge in a time of abundant information. Daytime headliners ranging in expertise and fame unpacked ideas of ‘complexity,’ ‘beauty’ and ‘failure,’ while others led workshops on ‘The Future of Play,’ ‘The Future of Making’ and ‘Making Up the Future of Truth.’ With it’s celebratory vibe, it highlights human ingenuity and provides pleasures for all the senses, activating imaginations and instilling awe. Of course, no celebration is complete until bread is broken. To balance out the nourishment of the mind, a slew of food trucks offering gourmet grub provide the attendees with everything from tacos to creole gumbo, biscuits to BBQ, so even the hungriest minds go home full and happy.
Boasting 11 years, 36 events, 9 cities, 5 countries, 40 exhibitions, 36 after parties for over 300 speakers and 250 000 attendees followed by 16 event books, _Semi-Permanent _is more than a conference for creatives. Based in Australia, where they present a handful of events in October in its major cities (including Wellington, Melbourne and Brisbane) they have expanded to host Semi-Permanent events in places like New York, Hong-Kong, London, Portland and Stockholm. With signature Aussie style, it is cool, laid-back and fun, focusing on tangible skills and knowledge-sharing rather than elite higher-thinking of abstract ideas. The week-long celebration “of all things design” has featured the likes of Banksy and Obey Giant street art exhibitions, speakers like artist Gary Baseman and the Adobe evangelist Terry White, and saucy collections of work by the most exciting female artists around the world. With opening parties, VIP parties and after-parties galore, Semi-Permanent is growing in appeal as an inclusive platform for creative networking—a design conference for designers who don’t like conferences.
The_ RE.WORK Technology Summit, _held mid-September in Shoreditch, London, brings together R&D, technology and urban development in a hands-on conference focused on turning ideas into action. Combining entrepreneurship, science and technology to ‘re-work’ the future and tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges, the event strays from normal ‘sit and listen’ formats by following each tech presentation with cluster discussions to implement the breakthrough tools in the attendees respective communities. Citing that “by 2050 there will be around 9 billion people on the planet, so understanding, knowledge and collaboration is vital to help steer the way to a better world” RE.WORK is focused on generating innovative ideas and encouraging collaboration to solve big, global problems in areas such as increased urbanization levels, efficient healthcare and sustainable energy solutions for smarter living. In December, RE.WORK hones in on urbanization, since more than half of the world’s population already lives in cities. RE.WORK Cities will explore how we use technology to make our cities more efficient, safer, cleaner and sustainable with the use of emerging technologies such as sensors, big data, internet of things, synthetic biology and nanotechnology. More than just ideas, the conference checks in on attendees a few weeks after the event to ensure plans have not been forgotten.
Chances are, if you have the sensitivity of a creative person, the city has gotten to you at some point or another, making you dream of running off to a cabin in the woods where the only tweets are ones from the birds in the trees, the only buzz is from the bees and the only suits are of the swim-variety. Combining the camaraderie of summer camp and the focus and isolation of an artist’s retreat is Cabin-Time, a roaming creative residency that twice annually brings “artists, designers, photographers, writers, musicians, craftspeople, scientists, cartographers, bird-watchers, wood-workers planners, organizers, schemers and dreamers to join in cooperative intentional isolation, to make site-specific work based on location and theme.” Conscientious environmental stewardship is a core principle of Cabin-Time, both through creating work and maintaining camp—where, in such a remote non-urban surrounding, environmental implications are difficult to ignore. Only $200 (USD), to cover costs (excluding transportation, which is the responsibility of the resident), this woodsy retreat is a lust-worthy break from the asphalt jungle. Following each week-long residency, a trip-specific Field Guide is published, compiling and archiving the work made during each expedition. In addition, balancing the physical disconnect of the experience is an open and shared documentation of each residency online through videos, photography and an active blog.
Museomix is a three-day invasion of some of the world’s most esteemed museums to make them more open, interactive and in-touch with their communities. Revisioning the quiet and elite air of the traditional museum to be a ‘living-lab’ for dynamic and experimental collaboration and sharing, Museomix brings in creative applicants from a range of fields and mediums to improve upon the static and sterile status quo with inventions, ideas and projects that will facilitate an enhanced experience of the exhibits. The first half-day establishes teams, coaches and themes in partnership with the museum representatives. From there, teams creatively tackle the challenges and shortcomings of the museum experience—prototyping solutions, trying out ideas, helping each other, fine tuning their inventions and rejoicing over successes like kids on a playground. Throughout this period, the museums permanent exhibitions remain open to the public, as curious sounds and the occasional heads and feet pop out from behind tarps, taped-off rooms and corridors. On the final day, they open the special exhibits to the public, revealing remixed, networked and open versions that are revitalized and accessible.
C2-MTL, a 3-day conference in Montréal focused on commerce and creativity. Practicing what they preach, the event sparkles with a myriad of creative touches, from a _Cirque du Soleil _presenter (shown above) to yoga breaks, to infuse a traditionally bland function with colour, charm and life that will inspire even the best-pressed suits. c2mtl.com
“The future is coming—don’t be late,” warns Futurefest, a conference about the shaping of the future, held in September over the course of a weekend in Shoreditch, the creative hub of East London. With speakers like designer Anab Jain_ (this issue p.xxx)_, bionic man Bertolt Meyer, novelist and commentator Nick Harkaway, systems thinker Vinay Gupta, sustainability innovator Rachel Armstrong, influential corporate thinker Charles Leadbeater (this issue p.xxx), food futurist Adoni Aduriz and more, the conference has their work cut out for them, curating a collage of the coming decades. Tackling the future implications and possibilities related to the ageing population, the future of altruism, global governance, ‘techno-emotional cuisine’ and beyond, speakers cover a lot of ground without getting too one-sided on the jetpacks vs. armageddon predictions, maintaining focus on fostering wisdom, balance and creativity.
Fall ( September)