2018 Gray Area Festival

A conference, performances, workshops, and an exhibition surveying culture through the lens of art and technology.

  • Dates: July 26 - 28, 2018
  • Location: Gray Area / Grand Theater, San Francisco, CA
  • Role: Curator
  • Link: Gray Area Festival 2018
  • Collaborators:
    • Gray Area Foundation for the Arts
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10 years ago, Gray Area started the conversation in San Francisco around how the integration of art and technology practice could create a wiser, more creative, inclusive, and forward-looking approach to innovation and social responsibility. The Gray Area Festival is our flagship event advancing this dialog around the most consequential topics in technology today, using artistic inquiry to help understand their implications. Our exhibiting artists and speakers will address diverse topics such as understanding the role of women in the development of the internet, government surveillance, 3d scanning and the body, cultural heritage preservation, technology production in Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta, Afrofuturist strategies to technology development, new forms of distributed governance, new economic models for artists, and a broad spotlight on some of the most trending technologies: distributed ledgers and blockchains. This program confronts some of the greatest tensions in our society today and gestures toward ways to move beyond them.

The day-time programming is paired with incredible performance nights which feature a curated international lineup of electronic music and digital arts to further inspire audiences.

Now in its fourth edition, the Gray Area Festival is a unique global event focused on advancing open culture and the common good through holistic innovation and aesthetic practice. Our programming presents a survey of culture through the lens of art and technology, offering a deeper understanding of the present moment along with visions of the trails and opportunities ahead. Held at our Grand Theater in San Francisco’s Mission district, the Festival highlights Gray Area’s continued pursuit of integrated art and technology applied toward civic, educational, entrepreneurial, aesthetic, and social practice.

We live in a time where the institutional foundations of our society seem increasingly in doubt, and arriving at a consensus on truth and reality seems more difficult than ever. As our commitment to the post-war economic order is questioned, and the social contract of the state redefined, we find little help in building a more equitable society from the corporations of Silicon Valley that a free cyberspace has birthed. Now Blockchain based technologies threaten to further disrupt and decentralize our concepts of global governance and economy. While much is being said about the improvements these technologies will bring, why will their effects turn out differently from the open web? How do we promote a better society for people while handing the steering wheel further over to machines?

With this year’s special look at Distributed Systems and Blockchain, we present a number of subversive interventions against technological control along with the largest collection of Blockchain based artworks ever assembled on the West Coast. The artists in this exhibition offer looks at the possibility of technology to still make space for free culture, allow freedom from surveillance, and help us retain agency. Through the creative exploration of some of the most cutting-edge, and least understood, systems of global infrastructure today, they find sites of trauma ahead, and fissures where progress is still possible.