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 2018 Sydney edition of the Festival of Death and Dying.The festival will take place 22-23 September 2018 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.
Festival Director: Peter Banki, Ph.D
Curatorial Advisor and Festival Dramaturgy: Victoria Spence
The 2018 Sydney Festival Program
Meet the festival presenters and learn about how to get the most out of the festival experience. We will introduce ourselves by each completing this sentence: "Before I die, I would like to..."
Drawing on the Byzantium and trans-cultural practice of shrouding and wrapping bodies in fabric, Blake Lawrence will share with you his artistic practice.
This is a workshop about physicality, movement and meaning.
Two words in our modern times that are laden with misconception: touch; commitment. What happens when we swap the meanings of these two words? How do we than interact with one another? Definitions and our rolls with each other can become clearer.
Internationally renowned artist, Maree Clarke, will speak about mourning practices of South Eastern Australia. In particular, she will focus on the practice of wearing Kopi mourning caps. We will have the opportunity to see Kopi made and worn. The wearing of the Kopi will be done with respect and reverence for the revitalisation of this mourning practice, within a contemporary context. Men and women are encouraged to attend.
When most of us think of ceremony we imagine it as a series of actions to mark an occasion or life event that are given a particular form and mode of expression. Whilst this is true, what is most powerful about ceremony is that which remains unseen. Ceremony is a way of performing how things can yet be, in tension with the way they are in everyday life. Ceremony is a sacredness within the everyday, where other possibilities are glimpsed, and where changes (both real and attitudinal) are seeded.
What is a secret? What role does a secret play when someone is dying or dead? When someone dies what happens if their secrets die with them, or the skeletons come out of the closet? Can secrets enhance or corrode our relationships? Are secrets necessary to our sense of self, identity, and purpose?
In this workshop we will explore the practices of different religious and spiritual traditions as they address death and dying, faith and the afterlife.
Based on Kerrie Noonan's research on renegades both inside and outside the death and dying 'system' in Australia, she will explore how they have managed to create social change. The workshop includes insights from her interviews with coroners, celebrants, community workers, death doulas, death midwives and artists.
The fear of death, it is said, is the mother of all fears. In this workshop we will not seek to overcome fear or master it, but more modesty just to approach and feel it, which is not a simple matter, since death is not something that is exactly graspable. Fear is not the opposite of courage. In fact, very often the two go together. Often we are not even aware that we are frightened of something, or the extent to which fear is in the driver's seat in so many important aspects of our lives. Fear is not necessarily bad, it is there to protect us, but sometimes the protection prevents us from taking beautiful risks.
An Evening of Long and Short Works. Program announced soon.
Lets tell each other stories about our experiences with death and dying and lets listen closely and empathically.
Renowned US American author Sally Tisdale will comment on her recently published book: Advice For Future Corpses: A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying. It explores all the heartbreaking, beautiful, terrifying, confusing, absurd, and even joyful experiences that accompany the work of dying.
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.
How can funeral photography be integral to the grieving process? "I realise more and more that I am only interested in capturing the subtlest of emotions, a son concerned for his mother as they enter the church to attend the funeral service of her mother, a daughter reaching for her mother’s arm at the graveside, a boy crying in the dust. These photos will never make headlines or win prizes but in an increasingly toxic and partisan world for me they represent the epitome of what it means to be human." John Slaytor
As a society, we are not very skilled at talking about suicide. In some ways this is can be explained, because suicide summons two of our greatest fears – the fear of death and the fear of madness.
We will open a space for dialogue and reflection on suicidal urges and acts that steps out beyond the dominant explanatory frameworks: the bio-medical, which assuredly connects suicide to ‘mental health issues’; and religious, linking it to sin and moral weakness.
While death is often understood as referring to the end of life, it is important to remember that death can refer to the ending of anything, such as a friendship, a love affair, a social role, a period of one’s life, adolescence, youth or middle age. Death may mean simply a transition, albeit one that seems irreversible. This workshop will convoke and conjure the deaths of our lives and those of others, so that we may dance for them as our witnesses.
How do you 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.
The closing ceremony will be an opportunity to gather the whole festival together at sunset and will involve a water departure at the Rushcutters' Bay jetty.