Wed 14 & Thu 15 Feb 2024
9am – 5.30pm
ACMI's second annual two-day symposium explores the future of arts, culture, and technology in Australia – and the mindsets, capabilities and skills we need to get there.
Presented with Creative Australia and proudly supported by Creative Victoria and Bloomberg, this year’s program is aimed at cultural leaders, policy makers, practitioners and those wanting to understand how we make the most of the possible future trajectories of technology in the arts. In 2024 we have core themes of AI/automation, climate, and changing audiences – and how the cultural sector will change over the next ten years as a result.
You will hear from artists and creators, senior cultural leaders, experienced creative technologists, academics and researchers from across the creative industries in a mix of presentation formats and panel discussions that explore the big issues in the field, and ways through the complexities of the next decade.
View the sessions and speaker list
In 2024, we are going deep on the implications of automation, artificial 'intelligence' and computational capacities in the creative sectors; and intertwined with this is the other big theme of climate and how cultural institutions and creators make sense of, and help our communities chart a course towards, a low carbon society and economy.
Hosted at ACMI, the FACT symposium grew out of the multi-art form CEO Digital Mentoring program which ran throughout 2021 and 2022, and has recently been exported to New Zealand in conjunction with the National Digital Forum.
Download the FACT2024 Symposium program and speaker information.
Looking at the Machine
Let’s begin with that inescapable cultural question of new computational practices and ‘artificial intelligence’. What are the actual affordances, complexities, and realities of artificial intelligence for the arts and cultural sectors? How do we ensure that creators are able to experiment and are not exploited? What does this mean for arts and cultural workers, who need to possess the technological and aesthetic understandings that ensure wise, forward thinking and make ethical choices?
Speakers: Eryk Salvaggio (Cybernetic Forests, USA), Associate Professor Katrina Sluis (ANU), moderated by Dr Joel Stern (RMIT University)
Zero carbon culture
This session explores how arts and cultural institutions are thinking about their role in a societal transition that results from a more erratic and extreme climate. Are arts and culture to be swept along in a societal shifts, or are there opportunities for culture to be a primary force to help our communities think, act and adjust?
From international festivals and touring musicians to cultural institutions that rely upon affordable global tourism, what are the challenges that will most acutely change how we make culture, and how are institutions practically answering these questions? What fundamental questions are being asked by cultural institutions about what they are, who they are for and how they operate? What might zero carbon arts, culture and its attendant institutions be like?
Speakers: Clare Reddington (Watershed, UK), Carmel Reyes (Powerhouse Museum), Associate Professor Fiona Cameron (Western Sydney University) moderated by Emily Sexton (ACMI)
“Games are a unique social technology. They are a method for inscribing forms of agency into artifactual vessels: for recording them, preserving them, and passing them around. And we possess a special ability; we can submerge ourselves in alternate agencies designed by another. In other words, we can use games to communicate forms of agency.” – C. Thi Nguyen, Games: Agency as Art, Oxford University Press 2020
Games and the technologies that are used to construct and play them are now used in the production of theatre, film, dance, and orchestras regularly perform game scores. The popularity of Gabrielle Zevin’s best-seller Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow has recently brought the behind the scenes ‘making of’ indie games into the book club mainstream, with a film adaptation in the works. As we collectively move through the mid 21st century, how are artists, designers, and makers using games to help us explore alternative ways of individual and collective being?
Speakers: Dr Johnson Witehira (Indigenous Design and Innovation Aotearoa), Professor Deb Polson (RMIT University), Vidya Rajan (writer, performer, artist) and Jarra Karalinar Steel (artist)
The Machines looking back at us
We’ve heard how artists and creators are making sense of, and testing the edges of artificial intelligence. In this session, we look at how different institutions are using the same technologies to augment access to the archives and activities. We will hear how experimentation with emerging technologies requires the ability to collaborate and be confident in the uncertainties that the experimentation brings. How do machines see and hear archival collections? What new possibilities emerge from the archive as a result?
Speakers: Dr Mia Ridge (British Library), Dr Keir Winesmith (NFSA), Simon Loffler (via Zoom) (ACMI), moderated by Jeff Williams (ACMI)
Presenting the new canon in 2050
It is the year 2050 and the new cultural forms that have emerged this century are mainstream – interactive, networked, experiential, ephemeral, performative, built on and with proprietary tools, and likely controlled through a complex thicket of IP rights and licensing agreements subsequently bought, sold and aggregated by third parties. Cultural institutions in 2050 wish to mount a retrospective of the first half of the century – remounting these so-called masterworks. What might they need to do? And what might we do – socially, legally, and technologically – in the 2020s to ensure a less dystopian cultural future?
Speakers: Professor Melanie Swalwell (Swinburne University of Technology), Professor Kimberlee Weatherall (Sydney University), Stuart Buchanan (Sydney Opera House), moderated by Matt Millikan (ACMI)
Marshmallow Laser Feast: Works of Nature - Curator introduction and special exhibition access
Marshmallow Laser Feast: Works of Nature is mesmerising, experiential and awe-inspiring. Featuring five large-scale digital artworks, this hypnotic, immersive experience takes visitors through guided meditation and interactive experiences, as they evolve from droplets of water to plants, cells and stars, becoming part of the cycle of life and the cosmos. Join curator Chelsea O'Brien for an introduction to the exhibition, followed by complimentary access to Marshmallow Laser Feast: Works of Nature for all symposium attendees.
FACT2024 Symposium networking drinks @ ACMI's Cameo event space
Join Future of Arts, Culture & Technology Symposium attendees for networking drinks following the final panel of Day One at ACMI's Cameo event space.
Producing the immersive
‘Immersive’ has become the descriptor-de-jour in the presentation of cultural experiences. Yet what it is applied to can range enormously: from a single linear large video screen to a live action role play experience, a theatre production, or VR headset experience, or just good storytelling that sees an audience lose track of time. In this session we get into the nuts and bolts of how storytelling, world-building and new technologies combine to create new opportunities - and a host of new challenges – for creators and makers.
Speakers: Keri Elmsly (ACMI), Matthew Lutton (Malthouse Theatre), Trent Clews de Castella (PHORIA)
Not another lab – embedding innovation in organisations
The popular history of the ‘corporate innovation lab’ is mostly one of failure of innovations generated in labs being rarely integrated into, or seriously transforming a company’s ‘core business’. The low-interest rate era of the 2010s led to a growth of ‘labs’ in the creative industries allowing many innovative but ultimately short-lived ‘projects’. With funding increasingly scarce in the 2020s, is there still a value to the ‘lab’? How are large cultural organisations evolving their practices away from labs, to results-oriented internally-led transformation?
Speakers: Paula Bray (State Library of Victoria), Claire Pillsbury (California Academy of Sciences), Lucie Paterson (ACMI), moderated by Jess Lehmann (ACMI)
Over the past decade the audiences of cultural institutions have been changing – sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once. Yet there is some inertia to contend with when keeping pace with both the demographic and behavioural changes in our communities. The pandemic-pause and cost of living pressures have made the imperative to change ever more urgent. What are the implications for the types of creative and artistic programs that organisations choose to present with, and celebrate from, their communities? What needs to change to present these works in new, more accessible and approachable ways? What structural changes are coming? And what are the practical learnings that can be implemented now?
Speakers: Dr Anne Kershaw (Deakin University), Jade Lillie (Relationship Is The Project), Fiona Tuomy (The Other Film Festival), Subhadra Mistry (City of Casey), moderated by Dr Britt Romstad (ACMI)
How might we fund the future?
Arts and cultural funding is being stretched by the debts incurred through the pandemic, challenging economic conditions, and also the unpredictable effects of climate extremes. At the same time, technology in the cultural sector is not just expensive, but the salaries required to attract technically skilled workers to produce, operate and maintain these technologies are growing beyond the reach of even the bigger players. This is creating an inability for institutions to present or preserve contemporary works conceived by artist and creators working with the new mediums of this century. The long held thinking is that private philanthropy and corporate partnerships have been seen as a way to mitigate this growing gap, along with new models of direct to consumer funding, but what is actually going to be practical in the Australian context?
Speakers: Malia Simonds (Bloomberg Philanthropies) , Dr Georgie McClean (Creative Australia), John Wylie (Tanarra Capital), moderated by Sarah Slade (ACMI)
How might we work together/better?
The future of arts, culture and technology is full of forking paths that we don’t know enough about, and we don’t quite know how we will afford. The obvious thing would be to work together, collaborate, and do things better and differently – finally letting go of the competition mentality that has dominated Australia’s past. Let’s imagine a different reality that maps out a path that’s practical. What is collaboration across the funded and unfunded, experimental and for-profit, big and small parts of the cultural sector? What more can public institutions do to maintain their social license? What is unique about what we can do here that other parts of the world might learn from?
Speakers: Professor Ross Parry (University of Leicester), Katie Russell (Australian Museums & Galleries Association), Kate Fielding (A New Approach), moderated by Sarah Slade (ACMI)
Wrapping up and onwards
Speakers: Seb Chan (ACMI), Dr Indigo Holcombe-James (ACMI)
Associate Director of Exhibit Content Development, Exhibit Studio, California Academy of Sciences, USA
Principal Research Fellow, Contemporary Museologies, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, NSW
Artist, Designer and Co-founder of the Indigenous Design and Innovation Aotearoa, johnsonwitehira.studio, NZ
Head of Photography & Media Arts, School of Art & Design, Australian National University, ACT
Corporate Philanthropy for the Americas (US, Canada and Latin America), Bloomberg Philanthropies, USA
Acting Deputy Director, Centre for Transformative Media Technologies, Swinburne University of Technology, VIC