Pleasure Praxis Education & Research: The Memefest Melbourne Sessions



As part of the Memefest Festival of Socially Responsive Communication, Design and Art, the second International Memefest/Swinburne Extradisciplinary Symposium, Workshop/ Interventions event was held from November 21-28th at Swinburne University in Melbourne. This was the fourth Memefest event held in Australia, (check links to previous events at bottom of this post) and it continued to implement the unique Memefest approach to education, research and public engagement. 

The event focussed on Memefest’s 2016 theme - Pleasure, curated by Dr Oliver Vodeb and extended the global Memefest Festival Friendly competition on the same theme. The Memefest/Swinburne Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention was curated by Lisa Gye and Dr Oliver Vodeb. The aim of the event was to research current perspectives on pleasure and its role in design, media/ communications, everyday life and community. The findings of this research were applied through the Memefest workshop process on relevant projects through the application of innovative, collaborative and inter/extradisciplinary approaches that connect theory and practice, pedagogy and research.

The event applied Memefest’s established extradisciplinary methodology in order to further develop relations between the disciplines of design, media and communication and art which contributes to the ongoing process towards the decolonization of knowledge. Arguably no other methodology we know creates such intense levels of collaboraiton between disciplines and people of such diverse backgrounds.

Around sixty students, educators, researchers, activists and community members from Europe, Canada, USA and Australia collaborated on the three-day symposium and five day workshop developing new research, public interventions and international networks. 

Listen to Associate Professor Roderick Grant, Memefest curator, symposium speaker, workshop mentor and Graphic Design Department Chair at OCAD U Toronto reflecting on the event:



A number of high quality communication/design/media projects were developed and designed during the workshops. These included strategies, posters, web sites, videos, stickers, badges, tactical presentation/education tools, written materials as well as strenghtened networks, new friendships and most beautiful sparks of intellectual camaraderie.

Most of the groups working at the Memefest event continue to collaborate and are fine-tuning and expanding the projects developed at the workshops. A number of projects have already been implemented into the public space of Melbourne as well as various locations around Australia. This work will continue as projects are further expanded during 2017.

Listen here to Kevin Yen Kit Lo, creative director of Lokidesign, Lecturer at Concordia University, Montreal/ Memefest co-mentor, Aboriginal activist Kristy -Lee Horswood and anti celebrity chef, writer extraordinaire /Adjunct Professor Swinburne University, Dr Darren Tofts reflecting on Memefest as a process and methodology. More video interviews are at the bottom of this post.


Kevin Lo from SwinMedia on Vimeo.


Kristy Lee Horswood from SwinMedia on Vimeo.


Darren Tofts from SwinMedia on Vimeo.


Stop Racism Now!

We were highly inspired by the actions of Jafri Katagar, who protests each Friday against racism in front of Flinders Station, Melbourne. Together with Jafri we developed a visual identity consisting of protest signs, stickers, badges as well as a special web site, which has now become the hub for the Stop Racism Now network. We have also worked together on articulating Jafri’s thoughts in writing, connecting the philosophy of the interventions with decolonization and providing Jafri with tools for public presentation of the campaign as well as generating funding support.

Since the start of our collaboration Jafri has been featured on the highly succesful SBS documentary Is Australia Racist? and became appointed as the Multicultural electorate officer for La Trobe/Melbourne division and is helping a federal member of parliament to get young people off the streets. Jafri also enrolled into studying as he wants to become a human rights lawyer. 








Jafri Katagar from SwinMedia on Vimeo.




Autonomous Pleasure Spaces


While researching concepts of pleasure we looked at the city as a place for autonomy - or what is left of it. The right to the city as a concept started to connect to pleasure more and more. We thought of Jafri and how he has found a space in the middle of the crossroads in front of Flinders Street station that has granted him a certain autonomy that he needs to perform his actions. We also thought of Europe and its public spaces, its cafe culture and the history of the emergence of the public sphere. We realized that pleasure in various forms is in all these situations. It is  not only present but is also the driving force of political actions.

We also contemplated spaces where we felt really free and what role pleasure always played in these experiences. Autonomous Pleasure Spaces is a curatorial project which aims to research futher the connections between autonomy, pleasure and space and will feature curated artists, designers and writers reflecting on the concept through their works.

See the progress of it here: https://www.autonomouspleasurespaces.com/


Stephen Thorpe Jnr Videos and Web Materials

Stephen Thorpe is a Gunai Gunditjamara man from Gippsland, Victoria. His remarkable story has led him from challenging beginnings to becoming a proud chef focusing on Aboriginal food. In 2016, he undertook a placement at Noma, the then highest ranked restaurant in the world. He advised Noma’s Chef Rene Redzepi Indigenous food, while Noma opened in Sydney. . Stephen currently works as a chef at Charcoal Lane restaurant in Fitzroy, Melbourne, where he initially  began to forge his connection between native food, relationship to country and the assertion of his sovereignty as an Aboriginal man.

Stephen is also a mentor for young Aboriginal men with the Dardi Munwurro “Strong Spirit” organisation, which was established in 2000 to provide leadership training programs and personalised coaching. Dardi Munwurro programs are designed to assist Indigenous men in identifying their emotions and personal strengths, and in doing so, discover their own leadership potential and develop a vision for their future.

The videos and website developed for Stephen during the workshop will be used to inspire the young Aboriginal men that he works with in his role as mentor for Dardi Munwurro. We are continuing to work with Stephen, documenting his learning journey through the creation of more short video works and stories about Indigenous food cultures.







A Thousand and One Disguises of Flesh

Tactical cooking with Oliver Vodeb, Manfred Huber & Darren Tofts: Food, Design, Art and the Poetry of Everyday Life


“Herodotus, Athanaeus and Plutarch have recorded that in order to stimulate the guests to enjoy earthly pleasures to the full, a coffin was sometimes brought in at the end of the meal with a skeleton in it so that they should appreciate more highly the good things in life.” – Larousse Gastronomique

Curriculum for the excitation of taste and the euphoria of the mind

After all is said and done, after the comestibles are complete, the dishes washed and the appetite sated, this will not, after Marcel Duchamp, have been a cooking class. Nor will it have been a seminar de cuisine, in the manner of the debauched tangle of Epicureanism, sex and death in Marco Ferreri’s 1973 film La Grande Bouffe. Rather it is a collective exploration of the possible, of what can be done with little, enjoyed and remembered with so much pleasure.

The bricolage of cooking, of trying out what ingredient goes with another, is about pushing the boundaries, mixing liquorice and pate, lark’s tongues and aspic. The excited piquancy of that first taste, the olfactory pleasure of consumption and the afterglow of feeling different than you did before, sated and joyous, is an experience to which you are invited.

Gourmands, gluttons, epicures, snackers and all manner of nibblers have been invited to participate in a one-day cooking event in which you they have prepared and consumed a bespoke dish invented by anti-celebrity Chefs Oliver Vodeb, Manfred Huber and Darren Tofts. But table manners and participants’ kerchiefs needed to be left at home. Instead we were thinking of washing spinach with the Sex Pistols, chowing down with the Ramones and cleaning up with Iggy Pop. More punk than perfection, this event was about the simple joys of trying it on, of seeing what happens and making something sublime out of very little. The ancient alchemists manufactured gold from base metals. We turned offal into an olfactory sensation, sardines into Dalmatian  pleasure, discussed Pirates and Temporary Autonomous Zones, James Joice’s Ulysses and Swiss cheese and the importance to change how society relates to food...and learned cooking- one of the most important skills we can learn.





Extending Pleasure

How difficult it is to do Memefest? Let’s say it is not easy. The institutional contexts in which we work are full of contradictions, the restraints of the disciplines quite radical and the shortsightedness of the professions blinding. But our ambitions are big and Memefest is a very complex project. Even for us it is sometimes not that easy to explain what we do. Extending Pleasure aimed at developing a set of tactical tools which would help to open doors, focus attention and foster dialogue in contexts not necessarily familiar with the critical avant- garde of practical intellectuals. In this way the benefits, and they are many, of collaborating with Memefest would be presented and the advantages for collaborating institutions realised. A sort of a helper for Universities and other institutions, so to speak. 

A plan was made to write up and mobilize the international networks for a manifesto for Memefest. Good stuff and timely for celebrating 15 years of Memefest! Congratulations!

Thank you:

We would like to thank in a heartfelt way the Swinburne University Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Advancement) and the Faculty of Health, Arts and Design at Swinburne University of Technology for their sponsorship and support. Without it, this event and its interntional reach would not be possible. We are aware that this is a special event and therefore your support counts even more. We would also like to thank our student Dalton Bruyns as well as the amazing Katie Bush for designing the very beautiful visual identity and the posters of the event, we would like to thank Norwood printers for your generous sponsorship and RMIT Mastere of Communication Design for printing the beautiful Memefest Risograph posters.

We would also like to thank all of the symposium speakers and workshop participants and anyone who helped us and collaborated with us in any way: students, colleagues, friends, members of the community and especially members of the International Memefest network for such terrific engagement and collaboration. It is this, which makes it all happen, makes it all special and worthwile.

Till next time,
Dr Oliver Vodeb and Lisa Gye, curators and organisers of the event.

Check out more photos of the event and videos of Swinburne Design masters Student Eleanor Downie, Memefest/ Swinburne Award recipient and design educator at Willem de Koonig Academy in Roterdam, Janneke de Rooij, and Dr Sam Burch, University of Queensland educator and active campaigner in support for the First Nations people:


Eleanor Downie from SwinMedia on Vimeo.


Janneke de Rooij from SwinMedia on Vimeo.


Sam Burch from SwinMedia on Vimeo.


















Check out the links to some of the previous Memefest events:

Radical Intimacies: Dialogue in our Times: http://memefest.org/en/memeblog/2015/08/radical-intimacies-many-different-fruits-our-dialogue/

Food Democracy:





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