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Festival of Dangerous Ideas crowd at Carriageworks
Photograph: Yaya Stempler

Four engrossing highlights of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2022

Truth, trust, tech, taboos and tattoos – after a two-year blip thanks to you-know-what, Australia’s most exhilarating showcase of original thinking is back

By Time Out in association with Festival of Dangerous Ideas

Presented by the Ethics Centre, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI) will once more take over Carriageworks for one wild weekend, September 17-18. Buzzing audiences will make a beeline towards a staggering line-up of 72 inspiring speakers and artists.

You know that old adage that you should stay out of the kitchen if you don’t want to get burned? Well, how on earth would we ever feast on the juiciest joys of life if we took that stuffy direction too seriously? We’re burning up for a tasty FODI program curated under the red-hot banner #BeConsumed.  

Here are four of our top picks...

With the full program on sale now, you can book a festival multipack, offering a 15 per cent discount, or grab individual tickets from $20. Find out more here.

If you’ve ever considered consciously uncoupling from the wilds of social media, then trust us (more than Zuckerberg), you’re going to want to snap up tickets to hear from Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen. A computer engineering whiz with an MBA from Harvard and a flair for algorithms, she also grew up with a passion for politics instilled by her professor parents. This is why she thought she could genuinely help defend democracy by taking on a gig as the lead product manager on the Civic Misinformation team at Facebook.

Pretty soon she realised that her day job was doing the exact opposite, as the platform’s propensity for amplifying fake news and conspiracy theories threatened the bedrock of the American electoral system during the Trump years. Disturbed by the devastating impact of hate speech on Facebook users’ mental health, and uncovering a plot by human traffickers, Haugen decided to speak out, becoming an unlikely activist. During Unmasking Facebook (Sat Sep 17, 1pm) you can hear why she believes the social media giant is out of control, putting profit over people. “I never wanted to be a whistle-blower,” she says. “But lives were in danger.”

There are few limits to what outstanding poet, actor, New York Comedy Festival headliner and remarkable performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon (aka ALOK) can do. Which is why it’s frankly insulting to try and limit them to the stuffy old notion of the gender binary. The Texas-born author of best-selling books including Beyond the Gender Binary, Femme in Public and Your Wound / My Garden advocates for a fairer world in which kids can grow up to love their bodily diversity and embrace self-determination in a safe and supported way.

If the idea of a full-colour spectrum of identity appeals to you, particularly after all the trans-community bashing we had to endure during the recent barrel-scraping federal election, ALOK is the breath of fresh air you’re going to want to breathe at FODI, arguing that gender is so much more fluid and fun than we’ve been led to believe. Expect this to be a joyous recognition of the power of difference freed from bodily policing (Sat Sep 17, 7.15pm).


It goes without saying that China is not a particularly safe place to be an outspoken artist with a knack for criticising the powers that be in the most arrestingly visual ways. That’s why Shanghai-born activist and cartoonist Badiucao is now based in Australia, where he can continue to challenge censorship and politically motivated persecution under a pen name known and respected all over the globe.

If you’re worried about how historical narratives can be twisted (something we’re not exactly unfamiliar with in a colonial Australia unwilling or unable to face its dark past and present), you’d be spewing to miss this (Sun Sep 18, 11am). He’ll sit down with our homegrown champion of cartoon criticism Cathy Wilcox, whose sharp-as-a-tack editorial art pops up in the Sydney Morning Herald, and ‘investigative humourist’ Dan Ilic in defence of drawing truth to power. “My understanding of art is it is a language,” he says. “I have these messages to tell the world about China and human rights, about democracy and freedom.”

Getting a tattoo is one of the most intimate ways we have of expressing ourselves, literally scarring our skin as a canvas for an image that means something special to us. Having said that, we’ve all heard the stories of folks waking up after a big bender on holiday with something totally dumb they didn’t exactly plan for. But what if there was an exciting way of meeting somewhere in the middle of these outcomes?

That’s what in-demand celebrity American tattooist Scott Campbell is offering you at this year’s FODI, though you won’t actually get to meet him face-to-face. Instead, pop your name down in a lottery. If your name’s drawn out of the hat, you’ll be asked to pop your arm through a glory hole of sorts. Rolling the dice of fate, Campbell will then ink you with whatever inspiration sparks in him, all without even speaking. “It’s a chance for people to not take their physical selves so seriously, and take part in an exchange of faith that will literally change who they are for the rest of their life,” he says.

There are 12 sessions with Campbell across the two days from 11am to 5pm and you must be attending a paid session at FODI to be eligible for the raffle. One thing’s for sure, if you’re picked and go through with it, you’ll never forget this year’s FODI!

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