Festival In Focus: Utopian Dystopia

The deputy curator of the new media festival in Kochi tells us what to expect at the inaugural edition

The inaugural edition of new media festival Utopian Dystopia, which brings together the fields of art, design and technology, will be held in Kochi from Saturday, 02 July to Saturday, 09 July. We spoke to deputy curator Vinod Ramaswamy to get a sneak peek of the eight-day event.

How exactly will Utopia Dystopia blend art, design and technology?
The whole idea of Utopian Dystopia was to bring together different art forms under one umbrella. Artists, architects and designers are part of the festival. It will have 25,000 square feet of installations by scientists and product designers and exhibits by 150 digital artists and mural artists.
We received around 430 NFT applications. From those, we have handpicked the works. Apart from local artists such as Rebecca Rechana Paul, whose NFT is about women in a sort of dystopian Kerala, we have national and international artists like Ishita Banerjee from Canada and Melvin Thambi from the US. We also have interesting talks and workshops at Design Kerala, a Web3 metaverse conference. There will be film screenings, music concerts and an avant-garde fashion show as well.

In what way will the art installations be interactive?
Neuroscientist Abhijeet Satani worked with his mentor, multidisciplinary artist Raghava KK, for this project. His installation has to do with brain mapping. He is also launching an NFT. At the installation by [architecture firm] Make.Inc Design+Build, they blindfold you and then make you choose a route, Utopian or Dystopian and take you through it. There is an interactive work with a version of a ferrofluid that moves according to music. At the Design Kerala Conference, there are going to be generative art workshops.

What makes Utopian Dystopia different from other new media festivals?
We have a blend of artforms and we have given each of them an equal amount of importance. It’s all under one umbrella and at a very affordable price, just Rs 100. We want [everyone from] a student who is, let’s say, in the eighth standard to a 50-year-old to come and experience the festival [through which we] want to show a slice of the future.

If I have only an hour or two to spend at the festival, what should I see?
When you walk in, you are going to see an amazing installation hanging from the ceiling. It’s by Italian architect Giombattista Areddia and our chief curator Asif Rahman Junaid. Next, you should check out all the installations on the ground and first floor. On the sixth floor, there’s a mural that features the work of 13 artists, including a student who has just finished grade 12. These are things you shouldn’t be missing for sure. The NFT gallery is something to watch out for. If you can, attend the Design Kerala conference on 03 July and the Meta X conference on 07 July, both of which will have some really solid information and takeaways.

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