A small friendly robot called Pepper is blinking cheerfully, waving and nodding from a room in the midst of the Australian National University (ANU). But it’s not a science lab, or the cybernetics department: this is a festival launch.
Uncharted Territory will bring together art, science and technology at the place where creative innovation brews and bubbles. Over 10 days from Friday 7 to Sunday 16 July in the city and around the ANU, the festival combines all the terrific things about Canberra – big brains, strong networks, great ideas and huge creative energy.
The festival events are a heady mix of research, participatory workshops, exhibitions, performances and panels.
You could get hands-on with the latest technology used in game development or filmmaking industries with the ACT’s nation-leading Academy of Interactive Entertainment; demystify 3D printing at a workshop on designing, slicing, and printing on a consumer 3D printer; watch robots dance together (and kiss!); or join a cutting-edge tabletop game for grown-ups, meticulously designed for collaboration and creative thinking.
How about the interaction between hand sewing and electronics? Or building a collaborative cardboard city with your kids? Lindy Lee will be discussing her huge new NGA commission, there will be panels on poetry and science, and exploring the science of hearing through classical music.
And as the ANU’s vice chancellor professor Brian Schmidt points out, this is not surface level, image-driven content but the real deal. It investigates where and how science and creativity meet in previously uncharted territory.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there were high hopes for the festival in 2019, but after being shunted by the pandemic, the idea had roared to life again. It’s well aligned with the city’s arts ambition and strategy for economic development, both of which reference the city’s creative industries and knowledge economy.
“We were looking for a major winter event to anchor our seasonal approach and we needed something that had a massive point of difference from what other cities were offering in winter,” Mr Barr told Region.
“The thinking was, why don’t we draw upon all those strands of thinking, and support the statement of ambition for the arts, the CBR Switched On economic development strategy, the universities and the tourism sector?
“It became very clear that we’d have a lot of willing partners, particularly the universities and that was absolutely integral to the festival being a success.”
Professor Schmidt says Canberra is one of the world’s great university cities, closely networked and connected across disciplines by virtue of its relatively small size.
“By head of population this is the most student-heavy city in Australia, the most startup-heavy city in Australia. What we can do here is be edgy. We can look at what happens at the pointy end of technology and art, not some glamourised pop culture vision of these things,” he says.
“I see this as being at the leading edge of knowledge. We will have the ability to hopefully bring in people from around the country who actually want to see what the future really looks like. It plays to our strengths as a city, as a community.”
Find out more about Uncharted Territory here and watch Region for more news about events and people. Uncharted Territory runs from 7 – 16 July.