Design Fringe 2023

Speculation: Eight Billion Little Utopias

Throughout history we have looked to designers to solve problems. In more recent times this has been enmeshed with industrial and capitalist structures, resulting in design becoming a gateway to the consumption of products. However, there remains space for a new approach to design, one where imagination and provocation become of central concern, not to solve problems or make products, but to start conversations and prompt us to think about imaginary futures. Design as speculative design.

In their text Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby encourage the use of design to not only to create things but also ideas, to imagine possible futures. Speculative design, they suggest, “thrives on the imagination and aims to open up new perspectives on what are sometimes called wicked problems, to create spaces for discussion and debate about alternate ways of being, and to inspire and encourage people’s imaginations to flow freely.” It is, for them, a way “to momentarily forget how things are now, and wonder how things could be.” 

Our Design Fringe provocation in 2023, Speculation: Eight Billion Little Utopias, invites Australian designers to reimagine our societies, communities, politics and ideals to be catalysts for conversations on alternative visions through the breadth of design practice. We are looking for work that is speculative in its fullest interpretation: through materials, methodologies, approaches and an understanding of what constitutes design and how it can be a source of vision. We are seeking designers whose work is poetic, critical and progressive, engages with the big issues of our time, critiques and encourages conversations and has the capacity to imagine new utopias.

Speculation: Eight Billion Little Utopias doesn’t ask for answers but rather questions. It doesn’t seek singularity but instead multiplicity. It is not only about the viable but rather the unimaginable possible. It doesn’t define the future, it helps imagine alternatives. It is as Dunne and Raby articulate, not a solution, not a “better way”, just another way, a catalyst for social dreaming.

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This exhibition is presented in partnership with Melbourne Fringe.

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