Festival Statement

Our current social ecosystem is spiraling in loops of dark and
ominous events, making it challenging to remain optimistic. Climate
emergency, global migration, resurgent nationalism, public health
crises, deepening wealth disparities, white supremacy and patriarchy,
university funding scandals and moral bankruptcies fueled by big tech –
incessant bad news and predictions of looming catastrophic futures
remind us of our collective failure as humankind. In these complex and
complicated times, it is difficult to feel that we have any agency to
nurture positive change and design anything good.

Such skepticism is further reinforced by the many failures of
‘innovative’ design projects and agendas: from techno-utopian narratives
of better futures exhausted by techno-solutionism to the commercial
appropriation of critical and speculative design mindsets. Many pages
have been spent critiquing such efforts and picking up the naivety,
biases, and dangers of designing to make the world a better place.
Design is often seen as intrinsically a part or even a cause of our
societal problems, intensifying inequalities and accumulating power in
the hands of the privileged few. Designerly speculations about desirable
futures are dismissed for sitting outside of actual structural
problematics, predestined to end up filling corporate flipcharts.

While acknowledging such critiques, we can’t afford to accept that
‘designing for better worlds’ is futile and impossible. In the times of
looping crises, we can’t fall into the trap of passive skepticism and
lethargy. Deeply aware of the privileges and biases hindering our
perspectives of what such worlds could and should be, we are calling out
the Uroboros: the ancient serpent eating its own tail that aptly
captures our current global conditions as well as our attempts at
finding productive responses. Rather than aiming to untangle the serpent
and solve any of the problems it encircles, we wish to explore and
challenge the social, political, technological, and epistemological
circumstances scaffolding its pathways. Summoning the Uroboros
collectively and carefully, we hope to better understand its dark
loopings and engage in productive speculations on how things could
actually – not just in principle – be different.

The Uroboros design-art festival calls for works that engage
critically, experimentally, and materially with our troubling global
conditions to actuate a positive change. Instead of finished exhibitable
projects, we are interested in proposals for collaborative doings open
to interventions and renegotiations by other festival participants. We
seek participatory projects engaging various lay and expert publics,
supporting inclusive multi-disciplinary and multi-species conversations,
provoking productive arguments and speculations, and nurturing
real-world actions rather than collective spectatorship and salon
critique.

The curatorial collective is enabled to accommodate a variety of
formats; including workshops, walk-shops, and field explorations;
performative enactments, interventions, and discussion circles; and any
relevant formats or hybrid gestures that might not exist yet. Our aim
with Uroboros is to create an open, experiential ecosystem for authors
to cross-fertilize their work through a lively exchange of thoughts and
practices. We are committed to supporting a long-term duration of
initiated collaborations and extending them beyond the temporality of
the festival.

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