About The Festival
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.
Stretching over two days, from Saturday morning to Sunday at dusk, the Festival of Death and Dying includes over 30 workshops, performances, ceremonies and talks on different aspects of death and dying. In addition to talks and discussions, you will have experiences, which do justice to the full spectrum of what is at stake in mortality. All workshops are learner-centred and for every-body–both young and old, people of varied and all abilities.
Our Workshops and Performances
In this workshop 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.
Participants will first listen to a talk and then be guided through a process of experiencing clay headwear (Kopi) to support a deepened understanding of Aboriginal culture and the connections between arts and emotional well-being. The workshop will address ‘Sorry Business’, with the greatest respect.
We are honoured to announced that Frank Ostaseski, co-founder of the Zen Hospice in San Francisco and the Metta Institute will be speaking via tele-conference at the festival. He will be speaking about deep listening and compassion in end of life care, as well as about his new book The Five Invitations. He teaches that reflection on death causes us to be more responsible—in our relationships, with ourselves, with the planet, with our future.
Together we will use meditation and visualisation techniques to create a vision of the end of our own lives. In safety and whilst being deeply held by experienced practitioners, participants will be invited to then explore the many elements of end of life, after death and funeral care currently available in Australia.
Accompanying a loved one to their death is an unfamiliar expedition in our predominantly death-phobic society.
Thrust into the mysterious world of dying and death without preparation for what’s ahead, the living can struggle through the fog, stumble clumsily within alien surroundings and ride the emotional whirlwind with heavy hearts and clouded minds.
The premise of this workshop is that personal and planetary deaths may be intertwined. In other words, grief and anxiety about different deaths – our own, that of others, and, beyond that, traditions, other species, loved places, habitats and ecosystems – may be mutually reinforcing, and contributing to a collective paralysis. How might we begin, then, to process this grief and anxiety?
In this workshop we are going to depart by reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s last unfinished poem: “Come you, you last one” and Maurice Blanchot’s very short novel “The Instant of my Death”, which recounts an ecstatic experience of death at the hands of the Nazis at the end of World War II. These will open the space for a discussion of four of the most influential theses on death and dying in twentieth century Western philosophy: 1. Our unconscious, which is to say, the greatest part of our psyche, does not know or believe in death (Freud); 2. Understanding that our death is possible is the condition for any authentic selfhood and historical existence (Heidegger); 3. Our relation to our death is firstly through the other, whose death has a philosophical and ethical priority (Levinas); 4. Our relation to ourselves is a priori posthumous; anticipatory mourning is the fundamental condition for any relation to ourselves and others (Derrida).
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.
Funeral ceremony planning can be exquisite relief to the dying and a thoughtful, deep ceremony can assist the grieving process with grace for survivors and friends. You will receive some guidelines and a chance to begin writing your own eulogy, perhaps a confronting task.
How do we sit with the dead? How do we journey with the dead? Pippa White and Annie Bolitho are end of life practitioners who help families who wish to accompany their dying ones at home. In this workshop they will give you a visual demonstration of their practice, which is informed by the rich and diverse cultural traditions of Melbourne.
It’s common after a loss or a death to feel very stressed, confused and tired. If the loss or death happened in a sudden or traumatic way, like a suicide, disaster or an accident, then the stress, confusion and tiredness can be overwhelming. It is possible to be able to cope with these events, but sometimes it’s hard to know if you or other people affected are doing OK.
In this interfaith panel we will explore how faith and the afterlife is thought about in Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
Yielding is a release into gravity as well as space. It brings us to a place of deep stillness and rest supporting recuperation for our nervous system and the potential transformation through surrender. In this workshop, Alice will guide participants through the experiential embodiment of ‘yielding’ – a Body-Mind Centering® principle that actively explores our relationship to gravity and space.
Pia Interlandi explores the ways fashion design can directly approach the realities of the dead body, specifically, the moments between death and disintegration, and in doing so, seeks to contribute to the ways in which fashion design can play an important role in the way we approach the dead body and the rituals surrounding death.
I lay motionless on a bench in a concrete grotto in Katoomba, a melancholy and intimate space for the contemplation of one’s own mortality. My then 4 year-old daughter, Ramona, caringly shrouds my body with sarongs, symbolic of my past life (and her birth) in Darwin. I remain still throughout. As the shrouding progresses my head eventually too is covered and I am forced to succumb to blindness and abandon all control. I had become silent, an absent mother.
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.
The Inaugural Melbourne Festival of Death and Dying will conclude with a closing ceremony and curated feast to help you digest the festival. (Vegetarian and Gluten Free Options Available). It is possible to come just for the feast.
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.
An Evening of Long and Short Works with Alice Cummins, Alan Schacher, WeiZen Ho, Peter Banki and others. More information coming soon.
In this workshop, we will open a space for dialogue and reflection about this difficult, complex and often very stigmatised subject. In the first part, we will explore in a sensitive and careful way the effects of the suicides of others on us. In the second part, we will approach the question of our own suicidal thoughts and fantasies: where do they come from? What do we do with them?
The proximity to death is not necessarily negative, it can be that which gives us the feeling of being most alive. Death touches us not simply as “a fact of life”, but also as a fantasmatic object of desire. Many people, consciously or unconsciously, search for limit-experiences for the intensity and thrill of being on the threshold of something that gives them the feeling of being close to death.
This workshop 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.
These works were made in response to my father’s death. They use photography analogically to reveal the metaphysical presence of death in life. I perform dressing in my dead father’s suits backwards, striving to form an imagined embrace with my father, reaching across to him in death. Using my body in his suits, I try to simultaneously mimic him, and to merge my body with his lingering presence, so I can somehow – if only momentarily – inhabit his skin.