Sunday, March 20, 2016

ACMI: Future Manifestos

My decade at university pursuing an arts education grounded me in the significance of manifestos. But I haven't really thought too much about them since the early noughties. You know, too busy earning a crust and keeping myself and my brood clean and fed to be pouring over declarative sentences with a call to action (though domestic routine does take me to a rage-full place and in alignment with a midlife crisis a couple of years back things got pretty close to revolutionary). But I got invited to the ACMI /RN talks Sunday 13 March on the topic and I thought 'What the heck!' There must still be room for Ideas in life, right?

Outside ACMI it was one great thrill ride. Moomba, people throwing themselves off bridges, ferris wheels, overstuffed soft toys and jam donuts. Inside studio 1 it was a more serious affair. I enjoyed the intro into manifestos by a proper academic - it was scholarly, engaging, detailed - before Paul Barclay (Big Ideas, RN) took to the stage with broadcaster and author Jeff Sparrow and early career researcher Max Halupka talking Political Activism. How much do we hear and how much do we see? I saw a very warm, smart and competent compere. Jeff Sparrow looked hungover, a tiny bit hostile and not impressed with his sparring parter: Max Halupka. It was like watching a wolf and a peacock. Sparrow was taking things back to the Enlightenment. Halupka was excited by politics in the age of Twitter.

Next up was Professor Anne Marsh and Clementine Ford for a 30 minute bout on Feminism. This session was tricky for Barclay: the ghost of himself as a young man navigating second wave feminism, at a guess. Marsh was very sure of herself and clearly persuaded by the importance of universities in being the epicentre of good ideas (apparently gender politics is really influenced by Deluze's ideas on sexuality right now - though pretty sure he wrote about them forty years ago). I'll probably read about it in a watered down first person confessional story that is so popular in The Age sometime next year. Ford was less certain of herself. She may have been intimidated by the context and who can blame her. I read her writing regularly and I got a better sense of her project and method: call it like it is and then throw a spotlight on the misogynistic men that troll her.

Last up Amanda McKenzie (Climate Council, CEO) and Guy Abrahams (CLIMEART) took to the stage to discuss Environment and Sustainability. Away from the mucky bizness of men versus women, I felt like the room brighten. Sure, the planet and it's demise was at stake but Abrahams brought a very expressive pair of hands to explain how art could make a difference. McKenzie brought a sense of purpose. They steered the conversation to Paris and the Climate Talks. Both had been present for them. It was in their session and this moment that the Future Manifesto's event found momentum. Trading anecdotes of the Paris Metro, billboards and delegates from far-flung places sitting down to discuss the future of carbon emissions and targets they built something - a story that held hope for the future - together.

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