In contemporary Western culture death and dying are generally regarded as something to fight against, deny, hide from public view and above all fear. But what if we were to look at them differently? Despite understandable fear and denial, we may have very good reasons to want to learn more about death and dying. Thinking about and experiencing mortality–our own and that of others–can make us our lives richer, deeper and more valuable to us. Mortality in truth is the intensification of life.
We are announcing the second Sydney edition of the Festival of Death and Dying.The festival will take place 7-8 October 2017 at Critical Path located at 1c New Beach Road, Rushcutters Bay. There will be over 20 participatory workshops, performances, talks and ceremonies on different aspects of death and dying over two days. In addition to talks and discussions, you will have experiences, which do justice to the full spectrum of what is at stake in mortality.
This week two articles about the upcoming Festival were published in the Sydney Morning Herald: one focussing on the work of Michael Barbato, Efterpi Soropos and Jessie Williams and the other on the work of Tina FiveAsh and Peter Banki. Testate Lawyer Donal Griffin also spoke last week to News.com. Read also about the recent festival on 9-10 September 2017 in Melbourne on ABC News and in the Sydney Morning Herald and in 18-20 November 2016 in Sydney in the Guardian, News.com, ABC Radio National, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.
Our Workshops and Performances
In this workshop, we will explore how to be with yourself in a dying process, while you accompany someone you love. It will address questions such as dying at home, home-based after death care, integrated funeral care and ceremony creation. We will also speak to the role and power of contemporary ceremony and storytelling in our funeral rites.
While holding forms an integral part of many physical interactions, and while it can, by itself, generate intense emotions and sensations, it is rarely investigated on its own merit. Often we do not actually feel safely held, even though that is what we long for. We can only truly let go when we know that someone will be there to hold us. Once we understand what it is that makes being held a less than satisfying experience, we can be clearer about what it is that we wish to feel in an embrace and where to place our attention.
In this workshop you will be invited to engage with a range of religious and spiritual meditations on death, and to use those in order to reflect on what you have learned, or perhaps not wanted to learn, in losing someone you loved.
Dr. Peter Saul has helped to write all the current NSW Health guidelines about end of life, and is a senior intensive care specialist working in both public and private hospitals. His excellent TED Talk "Lets' Talk About Dying" has been seen by nearly a million people. Dr. Saul's workshop will give you advice as to how to talk to doctors, and how to make decisions for others and for yourself. It will include elements of planning ahead, understanding personal values (and how these influence the decisions we make for others) and how to take control when that is needed.
This workshop will focus on some of the unusual language and experiences of dying patients. It explores the history and significance of end-of-life dreams and visions and will show how these experiences and the language used by dying patients are often ignored or misinterpreted in today’s highly sophisticated medical environment. It will explore the myths and truths surrounding their cause and provide examples to illustrate the profound healing effect end-of-life dreams and visions can have on the person dying and their carers.
When her mother Evangalia, died of breast cancer in 1995 a process began that both devastated and enlightened Efterpi Soropos to research and develop sensory concepts that would create a better perception of space and environment through the senses for vulnerable people. HUMAN ROOMS™ is an immersive experiential concept that can assist participants to reduce stress, induce relaxation and meditative states within a peaceful and harmonious environment that is self directed.
One of the most profound and intimate experiences is to be wounded and unable to forgive. The inability to forgive may not be something that is simply chosen. Something very powerful continues to say ‘no’, even if one would like to say ‘yes’, to forgive the other, believing that it will make things easier, lighter and better from now on. In certain cases even after one has said ‘yes’ and meant ‘yes’, the ‘no’ insists.
In this role-playing workshop, based on Alan’s solo performance Share my Coffin, we imagine and enact the idea that one is in their own coffin being not ready (unprepared) for death and departure, with things left unsaid or yet to say, conversations yet unfinished, feedback not heard.
In their respective roles, workshop participants will take turns to lie in a simple coffin and speak with those gathered around who witness and support them by taking on significant roles, listening and/or responding as stand-ins, representing those with whom there may be unfinished business and issues.
What could a compassionate community be? And what role might it play in the dying process and in death? Join a panel of people who are passionate about re-imagining the role of communities in death and dying in Australia.
Terminal cancer is such a common diagnosis, but unless we have had personal experience with it we are very sheltered from how it feels to be diagnosed. Often we are at a loss just simply knowing how to respond when someone confides in us that they're dying. In this workshop Tamara candidly shares her own experience of being diagnosed with terminal cancer at 36, and provides an opportunity for everyone to explore how their lives would be impacted if they received this diagnosis. The second part of the workshop investigates the question of what is an appropriate response when the ill person tells you, the healthy person, that they're terminal. To conclude the workshop, there will be a no holds barred discussion and Q&A session around terminal illness where nothing is taboo.
Most poets write a lot about death, and funerals (along with weddings) are one of the few public occasions at which poetry is frequently read. In this workshop poet and philosopher Luke Fischer will share his own poetry (especially from his new collection A Personal History of Vision) and discuss how it addresses death and grief. He will also shed light on how Rilke's poetry finds meaning in these themes.
This workshop is a two-day process, which will draw from Pancha Tanmantra (a West Javanese energetic practice). It will conclude with a circle in which you may encounter the energies of a deceased or living family member, friend or lover. You must attend both workshops to take part in this. If you would like to experience this process, it is strongly recommended you contact WeiZen Ho via email prior to the festival at least 7 days before attending. (Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org)
In this workshop you will learn how to write a Will that reflects your own wishes and values. Legacy lawyer, Donal Griffin, will share with you what people have done well and not so well in terms of their Wills. Personal relationships often pay the price in a world where the property market means a lot. Too often, dry lawyers give people documents that are either too complex or too simple to look after a client’s family. This workshop will enable you to have the Will you deserve. In addition Donal will also share a little about the book he is writing for his son: The Irish Book of Living and Dying.
In this workshop artist/Photographer Tina FiveAsh introduces The Death Letter Project, a three-year undertaking, during which she invited fifty Australians to write a letter responding to: What is death? What happens when we die?
The project’s fifty letters, accompanied by photographic portraits of each contributor, provide a glimpse into the diversity of thoughts, beliefs, and experiences surrounding death in contemporary Australian society.
How do the processes of art and grieving attempt to find meaning in the chaos of the void? How do we create in the storm that is propelling us forward? Based on our digital essay, All the Little Boxes, we will consider how the digital essay gives voice to our grief. It explores non-traditional storytelling in order to theorise, ritualise and create from the state of bereavement, encouraging viewers to recognise grief as an essential part of life.
Catharsis* (from Greek κάθαρσις) is the purification and purgation of emotions through art, or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.
This experiential workshop channels an expressive response to grief… remembrance… celebration… connection with past loved ones through breath, movement & vocalisation.
In this workshop, we will physically explore letting go. We will undergo a process of guided relaxation of the body and from this relaxed state, we will explore the beginnings and endings of interactions with other people with the help of tai chi partner work.
Contemplating death and dying is a core principle in meditative practice. Drawing on his own experiences, as well as lessons from historical influences such as the Stoics, the Samurai and Buddhist traditions of conscious dying, David Packman will guide workshop participants through a powerful death meditation as well as discuss the concepts and underlying philosophy of such a practice. The workshop will also include a series of related exercises which focus on the pivot point where life is given and taken away – the breath.
Leonardo Lion says he doesn't believe in death or in immortality. Maybe he has a point: for who of us really believes in their own death?
Many people give up their plush animals well before they go into puberty. However, there are also quite a few who never give them up, and courageously carry them into adulthood. For me, they are not toys, but living creatures, with unique personalities, likes and dislikes, and even sexualities. Beyond giving emotional comfort and reassurance, they create magical worlds of intimacy that it is possible to share with others. In this performance, the plush animals will help us (not) to think about death and dying. Plush animals, in general, don't have much of a sense of time. They live in the present (or at least they pretend to). What's most important to them is just the attention they get and being loved. Maybe we can learn something from them. They have a lot to say!