Gray Area Festival 2022

Distant Early Warnings


Now in its 8th year, the Gray Area Festival returns in a new hybrid format with both in-person and virtual conference talks, performances, workshops, and an exhibition to demonstrate the critical role of creative practitioners as cultural first responders.

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Gray Area Festival partners with the McLuhan Institute this year to explore artistic practice as an important sensing agent in a world of rapidly evolving media and technology. Building off work by media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who in 1964 compared artists to Cold War-era distant early warning systems which were designed to raise alarms at signs of impending nuclear catastrophe, this festival stakes a role for arts and technology experimentation as a critical research & development department for society.

This year’s festival participants coalesce across concerns around the future of climate and ecological systems, algorithmic complexity and control, and the surface areas between technology and identity.

“I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.”

-Marshall McLuhan

Workshop Series

On Sunday October 2, Gray Area Festival presents a workshop series from C/Change, a new venture by Goethe-Institut San Francisco and Gray Area, exploring the future of technology-enabled cultural exchange. Prototype and experiment along with artists and creative technologists from all over the globe, through topics ranging from design history to decentralized livestreaming, reproductive surveillance, and Afro-futurist worldbuilding.

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