Sunday, 26 May 2019

One Man Band...

...and more on that soon!*
On Death, Dying and Grieving
A strange old week with a few moments of grief - up close and personal, diffused and by six degrees of separation. In Lancaster I took part in a piece of new immersive work with the artist Fabiola Santana under the title - A Home for Grief. It was a completely unexpected treat which exposed some profound and unexpected reflections, yet at the same time brought me up close and personal with other people's experiences and aspirations around the process of dying and of caring for each other. In short, this Lancaster Arts commission was a guided exploration - part aural - part psycho-geography. Confronting and gentle. While I embarked on this (over an hour long) process, someone quite unknown to me, but close to someone I love, died very suddenly - and because of their youth - very tragically. The reverberations of this loss have been felt quite elementally. Like a ripple moving underground that erupts unexpectedly. Soil and stone, wind and water.

For many years I've been following the work of two very different activists who are embroiled in the business of dying: in the US, Katrina Spade and her recompose project, and hailing from Australia, Dr Philip Nitschke and his latest explorations around ways that we might die with dignity and at a time of our choosing. These are two very different people, pursuing very different agendas around how we live, die and return to nature. It is thrilling that Katrina has announced "that natural organic reduction – the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains into soil - has been legalised for the disposition of human remains in Washington State." Her press release provides some key facts.

"The Recomposition Science Project, a research study at Washington State University which the company co-sponsored in 2018, previously found that natural organic reduction is an effective and safe alternative to burial and cremation.

Natural organic reduction with the Recompose System offers an additional choice for after-death care that is natural and sustainable. With significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage, it addresses increasing demand for green alternatives:
• Recomposition uses 1/8 the energy of cremation, and saves over a metric ton of CO2 per person

• If every WA resident chose recomposition as their after-death preference, we would save over a 1/2 million metric tons of CO2 in just 10 years. That’s the equivalent of the energy required to power 54,000 homes for a year.

Recompose offers an alternative choice to cremation and conventional burial methods. Our service-recomposition - gently converts human remains into soil, so that we can nourish new life after we die." Superb, progressive and very, very impressive work. More details are HERE. I've never been a great one for the cult of Ted Talks, but what the hell - here's Katrina sharing her thinking.

Perhaps poles apart, Philip Nitschke has launched the world’s first 3D-printed euthanasia pod ‘The Sarco’ which he showcased at the Venice biennale 2019 at Venice Design. The machine is the creation of Amsterdam-based Euthanasia activist, Dr Philip Nitschke and Dutch industrial designer, Alexander Bannink. Find out a little more in the film below.

Philip describes the aim of the Sarco "is to allow a rational adult the option of a peaceful, elective and lawful death in an elegant and stylish environment. The Sarco capsule is detachable and can be used as a coffin for burial or cremation. The mechanism within the base is infinitely reusable." "The invitation to exhibit in Venice came quite unexpectedly" said Dr Nitschke today.  "It takes a courageous curator to be prepared to exhibit an object which has such a serious real life use." What conjoins these two very different and very radical thinkers is their belief that things can be different and their continuous drive to turn their vision and ethical beliefs into practice. 

Facing inwards and outwards: challenging inequalities within Greater Manchester
The Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change is publishing a range of guest blog-postings and podcasts over the next year or so. For our first foray into encouraging new thinking around the broadest arts, health and social change agenda, PhD candidate Frances Williams went to the launch of Wigan's ‘cultural manifesto’ - under the banner of The Fire Within and with the curatorial eyes of Al & Al  is a hybrid  of 'public event, exhibition and also catalyst for investment.' You're bursting to know more - so go straight to it by clicking HERE.

This brand-new theatre piece has been created through a programme of public engagement and creative enquiry into the lived experience of young onset dementia. Throughout 2018-19, Manchester Camerata has engaged with multiple dementia support groups across Greater Manchester to capture and tell the stories of younger people living with dementia. Shining a light on both the positives and negatives of living with dementia, the groups have considered how it affects someone of a younger age and their family and friends. The piece takes the audience through the journeys of four people. Each have been affected by young onset dementia – a mother and son, and a woman and her loving wife. Manchester Camerata’s ‘Dementia Voices’ project is being toured across Greater Manchester from 19th – 29th June 2019. To find venues click HERE.  

SANE launches creative arts scheme to inspire people affected by mental illness    

Individuals affected by mental illness are being given the chance to fulfil their creative potential under an exciting new initiative. The Creative Awards Scheme has been launched by the mental health charity SANE with the aim of improving the quality of life of people with mental health problems, their families and carers, by helping them to pursue the visual arts. The scheme will make grants to individuals to enable them to engage in creative and educational activities such as taking an evening course in photography, or creating a piece of art. The scheme is open to anyone with a diagnosed mental health condition or anyone acting as a full-time carer to submit proposals for works of visual art. The awards will range from £75 to £300 to cover or contribute to the cost of materials such as paints and frames, attending training courses, or supporting the provision of replacement care in the case of carers who apply. Click HERE for more.



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