Don’t think outside the box; smash it to pieces

REMIX Sydney lifts the lid on the trends that are changing the face of culture, and invites you to be part of the think tank.
Don’t think outside the box; smash it to pieces

The Burning Man CEO headlines REMIX Sydney; Photo Credit, Scott London

In five short years, the REMIX Summit series has become a global institution, and Australia has been there right from the start. While this ideas fest has badged itself as the place where technology, culture and entrepreneurship intersect, that space has also changed radically during that time.

Co-founder Peter Tullin said of REMIX: ‘Five years ago when we started, the idea of cultural entrepreneurship was more radical, but now more and more cities, cultural practioners and policy makers believe it is essential.’


Tullin agreed that the key to innovation and entrepreneurship wasn’t about shaking up, or stepping outside, your box. Rather it was about kicking that box to buggery, and REMIX helps you find the goal posts.

‘REMIX stretches you while at the same time encourages you that it is possible – that idea of being able to make something out of nothing by using world class entrepreneurial strategies is very much at the core of REMIX,’ said Tullin.

For many, REMIX offers confirmation of all the things you think are happening, but then blows that into steroid proportions. And the exciting part is that it is not some stiff TV-doco or textbook schooling; these are real case studies in real time and largely, start with real budgets.

REMIX returns to Sydney over 7-8 December 2017. How to be part of REMIX Sydney 2017

The big trends to unpack in 2017

Signature to the REMIX Summits, co-founders Peter Tullin and Simon Cronshaw start with an overview of what it is that has defined the trends in the past year, and map how they are driving innovation forward into its next generation. It’s the stuff of crystal balls and open checkbooks, and it is throwing up opportunities for Australian creatives and cultural organisations.

Tullin reminded: ‘So many enterprises are done by one or two-person teams. You don’t have to wait for the check to arrive but can use best practice lessons from the world’s best entrepreneurs and dive in. Take those first steps and get your idea out into the market and build supporters, then grow it with funding.’

Cronshaw continued: ‘Money comes when scaling it; it is possible to get off the ground with very little or no resources. He used Parlour Gigs (home hosted concerts) and Underground Cinema (the secret film-screening experience held in undisclosed locations) as examples ‘of where a good track record and the quality of the idea made things happen, rather than the resources that go into it.’

Both founders, Tamasein Holyman and Matt Walters will present at REMIX Sydney in December.

‘Over time, like anything, you build a brand and get a sense of what you are about. REMIX is about breaking down artificial walls between industries. We need to look outside our walls … the tech trends, the consumer trends, to really shape our destiny,’ said Tullin.

REMIX Sydney 2017 will be presented at UTS from 7-8 December. Don’t miss out – Registration now open.

ArtsHub readers can access a special discount of 15% off ticket prices by using promo code artshub (lowercase) at checkout

REMIX Sydney 2016 Summit; supplied

We’ve entered a post-silicon way of thinking

Tullin said that the culture-slash-technology entrepreneurial space has moved into what is being called “post Silicon Valley thinking” and this provides a huge new opportunity for the cultural and creative industries.

‘In the past we have thought of innovation precincts in terms of replicating the tech model - Silicon Valley - the largest startup hub on the planet, but if we look forward to the next five to ten years it’s other models that are rising up. The fastest growing creative hubs of the future are places like Berlin, Brooklyn and East London where there is a more sophisticated creative ecology, where culture is a critical component,’ he said.

Partly it is the liveability factor that culture brings but this is nothing new. 'What is really exciting is that people are starting to understand how to join the dots between different kinds of creators, and that is leading to new ideas and new forms of innovation,' Tullin added.

Innovation precincts are increasingly incorporating models like ACMI X in Melbourne that co-locate innovators from different parts of the creative industries (in their case to explore the future of the moving image). This not only helps these emerging creative enterprises but also leads to new forms of co-creation with the cultural institution as the outputs make their way into the public spaces.

'REMIX have also been working with State Library Victoria who have just announced Start Space, a new innovation hub as part of the $88 million redevelopment project to support early stage entrepreneurs in in Australia’s busiest public library.’ explained Tullin.

‘While there are lots of co-working spaces, there are not a lot of early stage co-location hubs, only universities,’ he added. 'A library is a democratic egalitarian institution – it is perfect to help people engage with the ideas economy,’ added Tullin. ‘We are starting to see an acceleration of these things, low cost working spaces that are impacting local, city, and national policy and tech trends.’

The giants are in the room

Any conference or summit is judged by the caliber of talent it offers. There are few that can say they are presenting the “brains trust” of NASA, the CEO’s of Burning Man, Animal Logic (lego Movie, Harry Potter and The Great Gatsby), and Disney, Country Manager of Airbnb, and the Head of Creative Programming of London’s Historic Royal Palaces and the Digital Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

It is this veritable mosh pit of innovative thinkers, and doers, and the list is long.

Cronshaw said: ‘One of the big transferable ideas NASA Visual Strategist Dan Goods will present is how do you begin to make all the data NASA meaningful. Dan’s job to take all that data and turn into a language anyone can understand and he uses a team of creatives including visual artists to achieve this. This is a challenge that most organisations face.’

Tullin said he was looking forward to hearing how Marian Goodell is taking the phenomenon of Burning Man and making it global. ‘Their case is interesting as it come from an unstructured gathering and has grown in a $US30 million dollar event with 70+ employees and 70,000 attendees.

‘Burners’ range from Technorati like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk (who famously declared that ‘Burning Man is Silicon Valley’) to celebrities like Katy Perry. Burning Man is rapidly evolving and this has included the recent acquisition of a stretch of desert to explore a year round proposition. They are looking at models for how to take it into other territories, and given that Australia thinks of itself as a festival nation, Marian has some good lessons to share,’ he said.

Both Tullin and Cronshaw felt that Deborah Shore had a lot to offer Australian audiences also. She is changing the way we tell and experience stories. As the Head of Creative Programming at Historic Royal Palaces (inc. Tower of London, Kew Palace, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace), Shore has used artistic interventions, performances and new forms of creative interpretation to recalibrate history including the 'poppy project' at the Tower of London seen by over 5 million people, a phenomenon that became one of the most visited cultural experiences ever created.

Cronshaw drew attention to the Lost Palace project she worked on. ‘It was one of the largest palaces in Europe, bigger than the Palace of Versailles, covering over 23 acre and 1500 room. There is nothing left of it except the Banqueting House in modern day Whitehall, which is home to Britain's government. They used sound and haptic technology to enable people to walk the streets and recreate palace. It means you are in the exact spots of what took place,’ explained Cronshaw.

Tullin added: ‘Everything is focusing on Virtual or Augmented reality at the moment, so they tried to get away from that by making it a more physical experience for the audience.’

Also on the list of highlights is the co-founder of Animal Logic, Zareh Nalbandian, who is a rare speaker at such events and will share what is next for the ground-breaking animation company after its success on projects such as the Lego Movie.

Katy Clark, President BAM / Brooklyn Academy of Music, will share how the organization leads an alliance of organizations across different industries from cultural organisations to start ups, bars and property developers that have regenerated downtown Brooklyn but also protect it from the worstr excesses of gentrification at the other end of the process when the creatives are typically pushed out.

‘It demonstrates how a cultural organisation can take a lead role, and make a difference far beyond its immediate artistic mission,’ said Tullin.

Similarly, Diego Radivoy - who is the head of Creative Industries for the Buenos Aires City Government (Argentina) - will speak about how city has ‘risen as an international creative city location’, while Sam McDonagh of Airbnb will speak on how they are stepping into the cultural space with products such as Airbnb Trips and collaborations with organisations such as the Sydney Opera House which are challenging the top down definition of culture.

To view the full program of REMIX Sydney speakers

The main REMIX Sydney reception takes place at the Powerhouse Museum where delegates will get to experience the magical immersive world of Future Park

New trend: spaces for early stage entrepreneurship & cultural night zones

Cronshaw said that the term “cultural entrepreneurship” has definitely become more prevalent. 

‘It was always used in policy documents but now it’s used by a lot of people who are really starting to reshape what it means. But the challenge is always finding people that are willing to dedicate their entrepreneurial efforts within the culture space.’

The gene of wanting to go ahead and create a new business is hardwired to go after the largest market, and the creative sector is not always that largest market. Attracting people with that mind set and talent to creative industries is one of the bridges that REMIX offers.

A big focus for REMIX Sydney 2017 will be identifying and fostering those cross-disciplinary collaborations, as well as looking at issues around revitalising the nighttime economy.

‘What is the role of the night time economy within the broader creative landscape, and how can best practice globally drive this economy? It is a big issue around Sydney at the moment and has caused major startups like to question how committed the city is to attracting and retaining top local and international talent who want their cities to be a creative playground,’ said Cronshaw.

He said that we can learn from cities such as London and Amsterdam who have appointed ‘Night Mayors’ how to better integrate creativity into this core part of a city’s fabric.

Simply, there is no shortage of ideas at a REMIX Summit, or people to connect with to get those ideas on the roll. So if you are feeling stale, or itchy to break the mould and try something new, then two days in December could be your ticket to a reimagined future.

REMIX Sydney 2017 will be presented at UTS, Broadway, from 7-8 December. Don’t miss out – early Registration now open.

ArtsHub readers can access a special discount of 15% off ticket prices by using promo code artshub (lowercase) at checkout

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Gina Fairley

Tuesday 31 October, 2017

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
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