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China Academy of Art 3rd Annual International Postgraduate Conference 2019

In November 2019 I took part in the 3rd Annual Postgraduate Research Conference at the China Academy of Art Shanghai School of Design. The conference was attended by postgraduate students from the UK, Europe, America and China who were invited to present their research to peers and a panel of judges from academia and industry. Subject specialisms included communication design, fine art, digital media, fashion, fashion communication and urban space design. 

I had the pleasure of seeing talks by international researchers and practitioners as well as discussing my own research through a paper submission and presentation. 

The second stage of the conference was a collaborative 48 hour design camp culminating in an exhibition. The camp was designed to offer participants the opportunity to work with practitioners across cultural and disciplinary boundaries with just 48 hours to produce a response from brief to concept to production to install. 

The brief asked us to explore garbage classification which is a topic of huge social, cultural and political change in China. The Chinese government introduced a new complex compulsory system for recycling in May 2019 with steep penalties inclusive of fines, criminal charges and loss of social currency. This topic offered participants the opportunity to share experiences from different countries and cultures within and around the topic of climate change.


My partner Georgia Pullen from Solent University and I devised Trash Talk, a multi-media installation turning the concept of authoritarian environmentalism on its head.

In countries all over the world, governments are finally taking action to counter the climate emergency we are all experiencing. However, rather than taking responsibility for decades of poor legislation by challenging the 100 global corporate polluters responsible for 71% of emissions (Carbon Majors Report 2017, CDP), governments are pushing the responsibility on to the shoulders of individual citizens. In some cases, this is by force, with threats of fines, criminal records or reduced social credit, intensifying the already stark realities of austerity and global inequality. 

With neoliberal and nationalist values slipping insidiously into every aspect of our lives, collective responsibility becomes evermore challenging. But as we move into an age where it will soon be too late to change the outcome of climate disaster, taking responsibility is more important that ever. Every citizen has a part to play in a global movement, and we seek to challenge the paradigm of individualism. Ruling through fear disenfranchises communities at a critical time when empowerment is a far stronger motivator. 

The installation we developed sought to embrace the ownership of environmental responsibility and challenge the negative messaging through a subversion of existing campaigns, packaging, strategies and propaganda. The key message is that civilians shouldn’t fear the attempt to combat climate disaster, but embrace it, through the means available to them, one of which is in the form of garbage classification. It aims to turn the reality of authoritarianism into a sense of empowerment, taking back control of a message that should have always been ours. 

The conference ended with an awards ceremony in which I was thrilled to be awarded the Special Jury Award, the top accolade of the event.

Animations made using Space Type Generator 

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