Dis.art turns "learning into a Netflix-like experience"

19 February 2018

Imagine Gordon Ramsay cooking his staple beef Wellington while teaching you Foucault’s theory of power. The intricate nuances of modern discipline would probably be made much more appealing than in a 400-page academic study. In the age of information, the creative collective Dis sought to communicate news, facts and knowledge in a comprehensive and intriguing way. The result is the new streaming channel Dis.art, which screens videos that break down critical theory into engaging short films about otherworldly cooking shows and headless online lecturers.

Dis first launched in 2010 when the four founders, Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso, and David Toro, decided to create a satirical lifestyle and fashion magazine that focused on topics like distaste and dystopia. Eight years later the collective have expanded their artistic endeavours, having worked with Frieze Projects and exhibited in places like MoMa. Dis.art is their latest venture. The platform launched this January 2018 and streams informative and inspiring videos for a limited run of 30 days. “We want to turn learning into a netflix-like experience. We were inspired by Mooc (massive open online course), but also by the idea that you could learn critical theory from a cooking show. We wanted to create a hybrid platform for entertainment and education,” Dis tells It’s Nice That.

If knowledge is power, Dis is not only a creative collective but also a democratic force that uses popular media to empower people by encouraging critical thinking. “With more and more people learning to read each day, the world gets closer to the post-literate. Videos, podcasts, audiobooks, and learning channels are growing. We want more knowledge — we just want it delivered differently. All this tells us what we already knew, that the tools have changed,” Dis explain. They are not alone in this endeavour. So far, the collective have collaborated with a number of big names on their videos like artist and comedian Casey Jane Ellison, theorist McKenzie Wark and filmmakers Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and Daniel Keller. 

Accessibility is their number one aim. A recent video shows the artist Babak Radboy explaining complicated concepts to a group of children. “Circle Time teaches kids (and us all) about the complicated social machinery of our techno-capitalist world. In the first episode Babak Radboy explains the ruthlessness of capital to children, peeling away the skin of our society to reveal the skeleton of money propping it up.” The artist asks the children sat around him how they would define money. He then goes on to explain that money holds society up “like a puppet” and that it permeates every aspect of our lives. The children listen, reflect and interact with Babak Radboy as they try to wrap their heads around the capitalist machine.

Dis.art combats the notion that visual media is a platform of passive consumption by encouraging its audience to be active thinkers with intellectual value. The collective re-imagines society’s relationship to videos and streaming channels, making intellectual theory accessible when it would otherwise be confined to a thesis. “This is the future of television (we hope). It’s time for an audience in action. We want to train ourselves in complexity, learn to connect things, and build narratives that make sense out of disjointed networked information and prosthetic memory. To inform and mobilise around the critical issues of today, which are never ending.”


Dis.art. Still from Circle Time: What is Money with Babak Radboy.


Dis.art. Still from The Restaurant by Will Benedict and Steffen Jørgensen.


Dis.art. Still from The Seasteaders by Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and Daniel Keller.


Dis.art. Still from Mad with Casey Jane Ellison: Mothers and Daughters.


Dis.art. Still from Amalia Ulman, Bob is a Job is a Job.


Dis.art. Still from Chus.

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About the Author

Daphne Milner

Daphne has worked for us for a few years now as a freelance writer. She covers everything from photography and graphic design to the ways in which artists are using AI.

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