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Memefest Saigon 2022

We celebrated 20 years of Memefest in Saigon in December! 90 students from Australia and Vietnam, three universities, mentors, friends and comrades from Canada, USA, Slovenia, Vietnam, and Australia, and local communities collaborated for more then three weeks. Extradisciplinary workshops, non extractive relationalities, an exhibition and lots of small plastic chairs and tables in the endless river of street food spaces and a little brutalist graphic design poster. 

We looked into what we call the Relational City and the construction of space through food. We learned so much about this amazing area and also so much about pedagogy, research and social engagement. We met amazing and beautiful local people, who welcomed us and worked with us formally and informally. We fell in love with Saigon, its people, its food and culture and we created relationalities that have not existed before.

Here are a few photos from our adventure, but we will publish much more in the future.

Design (Research) as Radical Social Practice Lecture

This Thursday hosted by @Counter-Framing Design @Loughborough University. You can register via link bellow.

Design (Research) as Radical Social Practice

Dr Oliver Vodeb

Thursday 25th November at 10am GMT

Register for the online seminar here:



The realization of the importance to connect theory, research and philosophy with social movements has manifested in the streets of Paris in the 1960’ with the slogan “Mao, Marx, Marcuse” and it was clear that Situationist theory would not make much sense without its communization. But how to communize knowledge and design practice today? How can we think about what we can call “radical design” if a) design is predominantly professionalized knowledge production, if b) the academization of design faces a constant threat of the destruction of the “academic” within the neoliberal university and c) if the community, the communal seems to have the potential to generate a radical intimacy, as a particular non–extractive relationality between people AND at the same time a special quality of closeness/proximity to the subject of designing and investigating (researching), crucial for facing key existential problems today. These potentials will be explored through the lens of Memefest’s extradisciplinary methodology. The lecture is based on a chapter from the book Radical Intimacies, edited, written, and curated by Oliver Vodeb, forthcoming with Intellect Books and Memefest in 2022.

Read more about the whole seminar series on the Counter Framing Design website here:


Visualising Inter/Species

Memefest has been invited to design the poster for Festival de la Imagen in Manizales Colombia. It is the 20th anniversary of the festival with which Memefest has a long standing and close relation. The topic of the festival is Inter/Species and the poster depicts managerial, bureaucratic, rationalist design language as manifested in everyday forms (charts, Xls sheets etc). This language is brought into relation with non spectacular photographic scenes from Australian nature, including sugar cane plantations (with their colonial history), one of the oldest and most toxic rain forest (Daintree forest) and the sea at the Melbourne metropolis.

Memefest's Kevin Lo (also lokidesign.net) and Oliver Vodeb have been honored to work on the poster for our Colombian friends and perhaps the largest and most important Design festival in Latino America.

We would also like to express our solidarity with the people of Colombia and the social movements currently protesting against the violent government austerity measures.

Oliver Vodeb and Arturo Escobar in Dialogue

We are excited to announce a special dialogue between Oliver Vodeb and Arturo Escobar at the Festival de la Imagen, Manizales, Colombia. The dialogue will happen online via Zoom infront of the festival audience @ 2.30 pm Tuesday, June 16th, Manizales time.

The Onto-epistemic Politics of Participatory Design: A Dialogue Between Oliver Vodeb and Arturo Escobar

Oliver Vodeb and Arturo Escobar will in this special dialogue look into the radical potential of participation and design, especially in relation to knowledge. Taking a close look at the relations between the academy, practitioners and social movements, the dialogue will focus on the politics of the possible, namely, a reality open for cohabitation of different worlds by design. The conversation will examine the potential for epistemic pluralism and participatory epistemologies to foster radical intimacy with each other and the earth. Looking at the growing field of critical design, Vodeb and Escobar will discuss capitalism’s predatory strategies and design's role in it, while suggesting that another design, and another possible, are possible.

For more information and if you would like to propose a question for Arturo and Oliver to engage with, go to: https://www.t.me/memefestnetwork

Check the Festival's web site here: http://festivaldelaimagen.com/en/

Check Arturo Escobars groundbreaking book Designs For The Pluriverse here: https://www.dukeupress.edu/designs-for-the-pluriverse/

More on Arturo Escobar here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arturo_Escobar_(anthropologist)

More on Oliver Vodeb here: http://memefest.org/en/about/who_we_are_oliver_vodeb/

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS to new Memefest book RADICAL INTIMACIES: Extradisciplinary Investigations in Making Things Public

We are very excited to announce that we are working on our next book in the Memefest "Interventions" book series in partnership between Memefest and Intellect Books UK, Publishers of Original Thinking! http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS to the book RADICAL INTIMACIES: Extradisciplinary Investigations in Making Things Public

We are inviting you to submit essays/papers/ visual texts, which will be published as book chapters for our upcoming book RADICAL INTIMACIES: Extradisciplinary Investigations in Making Things Public.

Contributions should be submitted in two stages:

1. Please submit an abstract not shorter than 400 words and add some information about yourself by June 20, 2020. If you are submitting a visual text send us a few samples and a rationale.

Selected authors will be informed by June 25, 2020 and invited to submit full text.

2. Invited authors will need to submit full text by November 25, 2020.

Send all materials to radicalintimacies@memefest.org

Format: The format is very open. We welcome academic texts as well as essays. We also welcome visual essays or more experimental forms of writing/ storytelling. Our main interest lies in originality, the strength of the argument in relation to the conceptual outlines of the book, and contribution to knowledge of Radical Design and Communication.

Length: max of 5500 words not including references and abstract. If you are submitting a visual text, keep it to max of 10 pages.

This book will continue Memefest’s tradition of critical independent thought and practice, and of connecting different cultures of knowledge production - especially those of academics, practitioners and activists. The profile of people close to our ideas might be described as theorist punks, activists, curious researchers, radical educators and practical intellectuals.

The book will mainly draw work from Memefest’s international network of engaged thinkers and practitioners, but is open to other contributors. The book will put special emphasis on the relations between theoretical practice and the making of design and communication. Curated selections from Memefest’s Festival Friendly Competition will be included.

Disciplinary boundaries will be pushed, critique and imagination explored, foundations rethought, ideologies debunked and an alternative scene further developed. The culture we want to nurture is highly collaborative through joint thinking, making and discussing.

Oliver Vodeb is the principal editor and curator of the Memefest book series.

Conceptual outlines of the book: RADICAL INTIMACIES: Extradisciplinary Investigations in Making Things Public

Dialogue and Intimacy

Dialogue is tirelessly presented as ‘the’ solution to the problems of our times – in art, war, love, democracy and even in the workplace. In fact, dialogue has been central to the ethos of Memefest since its inception back in 2002. But what if dialogue is not working?

Dialogue is understood as the most intensive form of communication. Its intimacy is profound. It demands most of our attention and while our individual participation in dialogue is crucial for a democratic society, what really matters is what happens in the commons as this is the true result of dialogue. But most of the commons are dispersed and atomized. Many of the manifestations of dialogue are short term due to the nature of the digital platforms generating large parts of our daily interactions. Communicative capitalism wants to constantly increase the quantity and speed by which our interactions are happening. Quality and meaning do not really matter. It is rare and difficult to be able to establish a relation of intimacy, a relationship with another person, a group, or a subject built on trust, understanding, affection, familiarity, deep knowledge, commitment, care and collaboration - even more so if this relationship is meant to exist in opposition to the dictates of capitalism and managerialism. A radical intimacy.

For Habermas, a critical publicness depends on the development and expansion of semiformal institutions, dialogic places like the café or the salon as well as circulating print media; the notion of the democratic public sphere thus made collective intimacy a public and social ideal, one of fundamental political interest. Without it the public’s role as critic could not be established (Berlant). While the semiformal institutions facilitating intimacy (with various degrees) still exist and commercial entertainment still clashes with the critical demands of the democratic culture, the desire for entertainment taken for pleasure is many times enforced through what can be described as weaponized design - a process that allows or even facilitates harm of users within the limits of a designed system. Such environments are designed to be anti-dialogic. They simulate experiences of intimacy in order to capitalize on them.

Intimacy and addiction

Intimacy and addiction are commonly related in situations of personal hardship and systemic colonization. Who are the most vulnerable people in times of Covid-19? The poor, people of color and indigenous people. What is the level of dialogue between them and the dominant culture? What is their relation to capitalism? And why are their social situations of intimacy in everyday life largely determined with the presence of addictive food (think of family meals and Domino Pizza + Coca Cola), illegal or legal drugs (think of social situations in which illegal drugs are being consumed or legal drugs enable people to go through the stress of the daily performance at jobs) and mobile technologies (just think of how often is a mobile phone taken into bed)?

9/11 gave rise to surveillance capitalism. Will Covid-19 and its global mental health effects open a new era of the pharmakon?

The installation of fluorescent green and red lights on the pavements in front of street crossings in Melbourne, Australia, which aim to alert people glued to their mobile phone screens that there is a red light and one should not cross the street, is a significant manifestation of regulation of addiction through design. Not long ago we would look at this as an art project, today it is part of our officially designed infrastructure.

Intimacy and communication

To care for something or someone means we have to give our attention to this ‘something’ or ‘someone’. Advertising seeks to consume our attention, even when we have none left. What is the relation between advertising and care? What happens to our ability to care, if our
attention is more and more dispersed, and our attention spans shorter and shorter?

Is the ‘social’ that radical politics imagine different from the ‘social’ social media refers to? It seems our communication media are designing the ‘social’ primarily as a space for representing and being represented. “Social media makes the shift from representation to participation very clear: people participate in the launch and life span of images, and indeed their life span, spread and potential is defined by participation.” (Steyerl) Representing and being represented are fundamental to dialogue. But what is actually left of dialogue in everyday life when the potentials for intimacy through participation are inscribed in algorithmic governance of automated media?

The current erosion of institutions of trust go hand in hand with the growing cultures of eroding criteria of quality when it comes to knowledge. Fake news and the discreditation of views not in line with a particular position as fake news are not that far from the rise of one idea merchants, hashtag fiddlers and small bureaucrats of the type “never says anything but acts as s/he knows everything.

Intimacy, capitalism, Coronavirus

Not unlike a media virus, the Coronvirus exposes hidden things when spreading. Each society creates its own vulnerabilities. Pandemics don’t happen as a coincidence without warning signs. A corrupt political class, dismantled bureaucracy, heartless economy and a society overpowered by disconnected managerialism are now being exposed for what they are. The commons like public education and health systems are in a bad state. Perhaps now more than at any other time in our lives we need to think about intimacy in relation to the private and the public. Dialogue can be a powerful tool to do this.

Do we need to think about capitalism after coronavirus and not just capitalism? How will capitalism use this situation to further compromise intimacy? Is it possible to have intimacy with social distancing? Are new forms of intimacy developing and how can we use feminist knowledge right now? What forms of pseudo intimacy are being generated? And isn’t social distancing actually already capitalism’s key strategy for a long time?

Extradisciplinary Investigations by design

Understanding is at the core of intimacy, be it with a person, community or subject. The intimacy with radical knowledge could be established in institutions, even as universities are burdened with managerialism in the service of destruction of knowledge. But universities still have a lot to offer. Like a web of pirate islands here and there, critical academics are scattered around, and urgent knowledge is produced. And the pirate web goes further, outside of academia and its disciplines. Radical practitioners, practical intellectuals in design and communication and other fields have shown for decades that it is possible to operate in the cultural public sphere without just serving the status quo. Social movements emerging from critical, marginal positions, the parts of our society which are the core of pushing for social change, keep on fighting and are inspiring us all. Here we see a critical connection. The extradisciplinary methodology nurtured by Memefest is connecting universities, practitioners and social movements in a reflexive and circular manner, returning back to the initial discipline with the aim to change it. In this way institutional critique is developed, meaningful practice enabled, direct action nurtured and critical knowledge produced. Everyone learns from everyone and can potentially be changed in the process. In this process radical intimacies and dialogue are directly connected with friendship, collaboration and pleasure.

We are excited to receive your contributions and are looking forward to collaborate with you!

Our point of departure is design as a central domain of thought and action concerned with the meaning and production of sociocultural life. We are interested in design that aims to operate outside the existing social orders and paradigms and is about imagining and building new worlds and social relations. Media and communication studies and critical sociology are for us in connection to design on the same plane. But by absolutely any means we are inviting other disciplines to contribute to this mix. Philosophy, art, education, photography, economics, law, biology, culinary arts, computer science, pirate research and more. And remember: we are seeking contributions from academics, practitioners and activists. Whatever your background is, your work should relate to the ideas of Radical Design and Communication and the extradisciplinary investigation.

If you have any questions send us an email to: radicalintimacies@memefest.org

For a greater sense of our work and book series, please check out our previous books in the Intervention series: InDEBTed to Intervene: http://www.memefest.org/en/indebtedtointervene/ and
Food Democracy: http://www.memefest.org/en/fooddemocracy/

Kimberley Coronavirus Animation

Watch this beautiful animation raising awareness about the dangers of Coronavirus spreading among the Aboriginal population in the Kimberley region in Australia. Aboriginal people are among the most vulnerable due to effects of ongoing colonization in Australia. They are in great danger if the virus spreads among them.

Together with her partner and our friend Chris Griffiths and others, our Memefest friend, comrade and collaborator Alana Hunt has been working on this wonderful animation, which is now spreading like a little virus round the globe.

It is a strong and beautiful piece of art. Watch it, share it and discuss it.
It is crucial we maintain existing and establish new relations for dialogue. This virus is not just a public health issue!


Produced, directed and edited by Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman in collaboration with Nirrumbuk Environmental Health & Services (Pty Ltd) Chris Griffiths and Alana Hunt and Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services

Funded jointly by Nirrumbuk Environmental Health and Services and Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services

Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman
Lindsay Cox
Ushan Bailey Boyd
Mark Cochrane

Maya Sollier
Michael Camilleri
Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman

Music composition and narration
Mark Coles Smith

Sound effects and mastering
Wawili Sound Solutions

Chris Griffiths and Alana Hunt

Lynley Nargoodah

Wyatt Nargoodah

Thanks to Sarah Morris, Ben Houston and Brooke Small

Why Did We Delete the "Coronavirus COVID-19 is an act of war?" Openblog Post?

Few days ago a member of our Memefest social network has on our web site published an Openblog post titled "Coronavirus COVID-19 is an act of war?"

While we trust the good intentions of the author of the post, after discussing it in the Memefest collective, as well as after receiving feedback from our broader network members- we decided to delete the post.

The post did not meet our community standards as described in our user guidelines here: http://www.memefest.org/media/Memefest_Web_User_Guidelines.docx

What alerted us is the fact that the post dealt with highly sensitive material in a highly sensitive time when the whole world is struggling to find a solution for the devastating effects of COVID-19 and the tragedies related to it. The problem with the post was that because of the sensitive content is was not based on research and journalistic standards of presenting balanced diverse views on the topic. It was also problematic as it has used opinions of a medium known to have direct connections with far right social groups and was promoting a "documentary film" by this media outlet.

As much as we strongly advocate for open dialogue, such propaganda has no space on memefest.org. And while we encourage our members to publish diverse opinions and are definitely not expecting all posts to match standards of academic research or journalistic investigation, we do want to make sure that this remains a respectful space fostering dialogic culture.

While we do think everyone needs to be responsible for the actions we take, we would like to be explicit that we do not want to blame directly and personaly the author of the post! Far right propaganda is well designed to manipulate and is many times not easy to decipher. It uses our short attention spans and our imposed need to post and share things based on specific affects and emotional states. Such propaganda also uses the fact that the dominant social media culture is not dialogic, that people do not spend time to really deeply consider contents which are being circulated and the fact that likes and shares present the main currency of what should be read and seen. Such viral propaganda memes are designed to provoke quick, short, ill informed reactions.

We have deep trust in our community and it has to be said that since the launch of this website and the possibility for people to freely post Openblogs, this is the very first time that we are intervening and deleting a post.

This space remains an open space. We continue to trust our community but we will also react in the future if needed as we will make sure the community standards as described in our User Guidelines are being respected. This is a civilized place for public discussion. We would like to encourage everyone to continue to join the discussion and contribute to our dialogue on radical design + communication, including the author of the initial post.

Stay cool, stay safe and healthy. In solidarity, Memefest.





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