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Reimagining urgency and agency at Melbourne Design Fringe

Reimagining urgency and agency at Melbourne Design Fringe

Reimagining urgency and agency at Melbourne Design Fringe

Jacky Cheng, photo by artist

Working to a speculative brief of ‘designing for utopia’, 12 designers have been invited to showcase their work for Design Fringe, a program that’s part of the Melbourne Fringe. And you can expect thought-provoking pieces that push the boundaries.

“We are living in urgent times which require a complete rethink of the way we consume and design for consumption. This year’s Design Fringe asks participants to speculate on what their utopia looks like, not necessarily with answers but rather as prompts for conversations. From recycling to a complete end in production, this year’s exhibition will open the way for our audience to think about what comes next, how we might change and what each of our utopias might look like,” says Curator & CEO, Vincent Alessi.

Imagining alternative utopias, the 12 designers invited to this year’s Design Fringe, which is part of Melbourne Fringe and Linden New Art, are exceptional: Ash Allen, Emma Jackson, Hung Hin Chan, Ilan El, Jacky Cheng, Jake Williamson, Marta Figueiredo, Maryam Moghadam, Moya Delaney, Pattie Beerens, Phong Chi Lai and Sarah Muir-Smith.

Emma Jackson

Invited to reimagine society, community, politics, and conversation through design, the speculative work ranges freely across materials, methodologies, approaches and an understanding of what constitutes design and how it can be a source of vision.

As such, the work includes – a sculpture that embodies art and design in the Age of A.I.; a metaphorical play between algorithms and human creativity; a coffee table that speaks to the friction of designing in a culture of hyper-curation and the pervasive feeling of sameness from social media; a room divider that explores issues of women’s health and empowerment, a stool that uses to humour while explicitly referencing a body part to elicit feelings of play while remaining utilitarian; a patchwork that reflects the diversity within our world, and celebrates differences… and so much more.

Running as part of the wider Melbourne Fringe program, there are several events planned. On Saturday 7 October, there is a Keynote Talk – Designing Our Utopian Futures with one of the most diverse and interesting grouping of talent imaginable: Dr Jillian Wallis, Associate Professor in Landscape Architecture at the University of Melbourne; Jean Darling, founder of Cirque du Soil; and Saran Kim, a University of Melbourne Master of Architecture.

Marta Figueiredo’s I go to the depths of the ocean within the body of a woman

On Wednesday 11 October, a Tactile Tour, catering to those who are blind or vision impaired, will provide an escorted experience of design with an accessibility guide. Diversity and accessibility are primary considerations for Design Fringe in 2023 and visitors will have access to an audio guide to the exhibition in different languages, tactile tours (where possible) and Auslan interpretations.

Meet the Designers on Sunday 15 October, with take the form of a panel discussion between Linden New Art’s Curator, Dr Vincent Alessi, and this year’s Design Fringe Designers as listed above. This will be followed on Saturday 21 October with Possible, Probable & Preferable Futures – an in-conversation style event between Dr Vincent Alessi, Director of Linden New Art, and a professional futurist to speculate on the multitude of futures.

Event details

Design Fringe
Speculation: Eight Billion Little Utopias
23 September – 26 November 2023
26 Acland St, St Kilda VIC 3182 (Bunurong Boon Wurrung Country)

Photography by Jonathan Griggs

Summer Days by Ash Allen
chAIR by Hung Hin Chan
Hope Canons by Ilan El
Jake Williamson’s coffee table
Cheeky chair by Maryam Moghadam
Sarah Muir-Smith
Pattie Beerens, Nature 2.0


Gillian Serisier

Gillian Serisier is an editor-at-large for Indesign Media Asia Pacific, where she covers all corners of design and art across the Habitus and Indesign network. Gillian has contributed to many outstanding publications, and her extensive knowledge and sharp words make for compelling storytelling.