Fresh ideas

Maike Thies, Co-initiator of REFRESH. Photograph: Timo Ullmann

Headlong into unknown waters: REFRESH invites visitors to the virtual think tank for four days. The programme includes exploring ideas and creating synergies around the topic of digitalisation in the arts and design. In cooperation with the Digital Festival, REFRESH will feature talks, workshops, performances, screenings and an exhibition. Four questions for co-initiator Maike Thies.

BY GIANNA BÄRTSCH

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Gianna Bärtsch: What is REFRESH and who is behind it?
Maike Thies: REFRESH is all about the future of design and the arts. It aims to explore immersive worlds and everything that is associated with them. It brings together outstanding international guests, the Swiss creative industries and university staff and students. REFRESH is an interdisciplinary festival with a conference character — or vice versa. It seeks to reveal the interfaces between various disciplines and to provide inspiration. There are a number of initiators: REFRESH is a joint initiative of the Department of Design and the Immersive Arts Space.

Why do we need another design or digital festival?
REFRESH foregrounds questions from design and the arts in the field of immersive technologies and thus opens up new spaces for thinking. Christian Iseli, who teaches film at ZHdK and heads the Immersive Arts Space, and I have intensively discussed the subject of immersion and the potential of new technologies. At some point, we realised: Now is the time to think in a different format, to find new collaborators. This is how REFRESH came into being. We don’t just want to grapple with technical questions, but to challenge technology with well-reflected, exciting contents.

Which topics will REFRESH spotlight?
It will experiment with many different approaches. For instance, Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stepanian, who sees herself as a designer of experiences and whose Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios / University of the Underground have attracted much international acclaim, illumines the influence of disruptive technologies on society. REFRESH will also feature Cameron Wilson’s digital supermodel Shudu, who outshines human influencers, and industrial robots, which have become an integral part of the family for the artist collective aatb and its artistic practice.

What does this event mean to you personally?
I find it fascinating to spend four days gaining experience and sensing that there is still much room for development. Instead of promoting exclusivity, I want to foster inclusion and thus get in contact with new people from different disciplines — to make friends. Also, it’s very exciting to observe what will emerge from these exchanges and what REFRESH will have initiated for the future.

17–20 September 2020, Digital and at Toni-Areal, Pfingstweidstrasse 96, Zurich. Free registration and programme: refresh.zhdk.ch
Maike Thies (maike.thies@zhdk.ch) is a Game Design research associate at ZHdK.
Gianna Bärtsch (gianna.baertsch@zhdk.ch) is a project manager at ZHdK University Communications.
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