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Alt-Age: Designing Belief – CCA Graduate Event at the Design Museum

Seven of this year’s graduating Curating Contemporary Art (CCA) students have organised a one-day festival of ideas at the Design Museum on Saturday 19 May. Alt-Age: Designing Belief will feature talks, live performances and installations from a range of practitioners including artists, academics, curators and writers, to explore how contemporary conspiracies and belief systems are born, broadcast and believed.

‘The multifaceted nature of the event has allowed us to reach out to a variety of professionals who have been creating dialogue around these areas for quite a while,’ explained one of the CCA students Thomas Ellmer. ‘We wanted to include voices that haven't been heard as much, and that we think are really valuable and important to listen to. This miscellaneous approach to programming events allows for a diversity of esoteric interests to emerge as a cohesive conversation. I think a cross-disciplinary programme manifesting in a one-day festival causes a rich set of ideas to be communicated in a cogent language.’                                        

Discussing the event Sumitra Upham, Curator of Public Programmes at the Design Museum, commented: ‘Investigating topics including data corruption, internet anonymity, fake news and trolling, this timely interdisciplinary programme of events will address some of the most urgent issues facing contemporary society today.’

On 19 May the Design Museum’s atrium will be transformed by a series of newly commissioned live performances and installations. These include a sound performance from the Demystification Committee, an art and research group that investigates the covert, extended systems of power that shape society, alongside a work by artist Bora Akinciturk, who has collaborated with coder Mehmet Duran to build a new piece of software that mimics a hacker’s activity.

A variety of film works are also being screened, including The Internet Warriors (2017) by visual journalist Kyrre Lien and two films by RCA alumnus, artist and filmmaker John Smith: Who Are We? (2016) which is a re-working of material from a BBC television debate aired in the build-up to the British vote to leave the European Union, and Steve Hates Fish (2015) filmed from the screen of a smartphone using a language translator app that was deliberately confused by being told to translate the English signage in a busy London shopping street from French into English.

In the Bakala Auditorium a new series of moving image works by artist Joey Holder will be screened alongside talks and panel discussions by leading thinkers and practitioners from visual art, design and technology. These speakers include: Natalie Kane, Curator of Digital Design at the Victoria and Albert Museum; artist Daniel Keller, whose work engages with issues at the intersection of economics, technology and culture; writer, curator and researcher Taylor Le Melle who is concerned with the manifestation of blackness through technology; science writer, broadcaster and comedian Timandra Harkness who has written Big Data: Does size matter?; Factmata, a company assisting journalists, fact checkers and the public to detect, verify and fact check media information in close to real time; and Michael Dieter, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick.

The discussion will cover a broad range of topics, from the inherent racism of algorithms to the future of cryptocurrencies, data harvesting, the behavioural design of ideologies and echo chambers, and how these are shaping our futures.

Alt-Age has been organised to compliment the Design Museum’s exhibition Hope to Nope: Graphics & Politics 2008-18, which explores how public engagement with politics has changed dramatically since 2008 and looks at the role graphic design and technology have played in dictating and reacting to major political moments. Alt-Age will interrogate the power of the internet in concealing the truth, and constructing communities and alternative systems of authority. The day will confront how the design of online platforms can be co-opted by different groups, and how that might affect the ways we communicate today.

Reflecting on organising the event, Thomas commented: ‘I come from a contemporary art background, so establishing relationships with practitioners from different fields has been really fruitful. I think the future of curating lies at the intersections of creative discourse. The project is curated with six other curators from the CCA programme: Marlies Augustijn, Helen Barr, Natalia Benitez, Phoebe Cripps, Raoul Klooker and Helen Neven – working alongside this group has been incredibly beneficial to me as our conversations have made me question my own pre-meditated thoughts on curating, but most importantly I've learnt something from each and every one of them.’

19 May 2018, 11am–8pm
The Design Museum, 224–238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG

Full details and booking information can be found here.

Alt-Age is curated by Marlies Augustijn, Helen Barr, Natalia Benitez, Phoebe Cripps, Thomas Ellmer, Raoul Klooker and Helen Neven as part of the MA Curating Contemporary Art Programme Graduate Projects 2018, Royal College of Art.