Programme Day One

Anxiety, Culture and the Future

How can we imagine the future when we can’t see it?
Anxiety, Culture and the Future explores collaborative cultures that enmesh arts with science, clinical and other knowledges to create new ways to imagine the future in a time of general anxiety.

Programme may be subject to change

Day 1 – Empathy

Friday, October 18, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Domain Theatre

“Empathy and kindness…drive social change. These are not just sentiments they are tools”  Jacinda Ardern.

Day 1 explores the role of art and cultural institutions in promoting empathy, mental health and social justice. It asks how we go beyond sentiment to provide the tools we need for social change.

9.30am Welcome to country

9.35am Conveners opening address: Jill Bennett and Lizzie Muller

9.45am Renata Salecl: “Empathy with the ignored — from the alt right to incels and imposters” Introduced by Jill Bennett
Individualized society promotes the ideal of the individual who must be noticed, and idealizes choice in ways that contribute to psychological suffering. Additionally, social media opens the door to a range of emotions: feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, hate, as well as empathy and connection.These feelings and emotions have been increasingly embodied by the far right, which seeks to assuage the fears of being ignored and marginalised through the production of easily identifiable enemies, paranoia about the future and fantasies of a return to an imagined traditional society. How can we respond?

–10-45-11.15am Break–

11.15-12.00pm Empathy and the overlooked: Options for action
Unless we can imaginatively ‘step into someone else’s shoes’ we cannot empathise. But the empathy problem goes deeper. Neuroscientific evidence suggests that we direct empathy to people we perceive to be ‘like us’. Some of us make a conscious effort to overcome bias and stigma – but are we really comfortable with difference and diversity? Can we deal with another’s distress, or even listen effectively?

Introduced and chaired by Jeremy Smith, Australia Council
Jill Bennett discusses The Empathy Clinic – an experimental art exhibition that offers practical strategies for addressing fear of difference and cultivating empathy.

Debra Keenahan, artist in The Empathy Clinic exhibition discusses her experience of fear, hate and being overlooked – and the Virtual Reality film Being Debra which offers the audience an insight into the embodied experience of living with achondroplasia dwarfism.

Performance: Evelyn Araluen, a poet born, raised and writing on Dharug country, and a descendent of the Bundjalung nation, screens her new commissioned work ’interior anxious’. Made in collaboration with Hugh Clark.

Performance dialogue: Evelyn Araluen and Jonathan Dunk on ‘entanglements of class, mental health, and cultural identity’.

12.00-1.00pm Voice, Treaty, and Truth
The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution and foregrounds the mechanisms of truth-telling as fundamental to an equitable future.

Megan Davies, Aboriginal Australian activist and human rights lawyer identifies the importance of voice, treaty and truth telling and introduces the innovative hybrid art practice of Uti Kulintjaku and Rene Kulitja, the artistic director for the Uluru statement.

12.15-1.00pm UTI Kulintjaku, (NPY Women’s Council), performance presentation. Uti Kulintjaku is the initiative of Anangu women artists and ngangkari (healers) from the APY lands, working at the intersection of traditional cultural practice and western approaches to mental health, finding ways to address trauma, youth suicide, addition, mental health and incarceration. NPY Women’s Council will be represented by: Rene Wanuny Kulitja, Nyunmiti Burton, Pantjiti Lewis, Tjulapi or Pantjiti McKenzie and Patrick Hookey (interpreter).

–1.00-2.00pm Lunch–

2.00pm Cultivating Future Thinking
Introduced and chaired by Bec Dean

The capacity to imagine the future is linked to the capacity to remember.
Muireann Irish, cognitive neuroscientist illuminates the emotional, cognitive and neurological dimensions of future thinking in conversation with artists working on the mechanisms of memory and imagining.

Visual artist Shona Illingworth discusses her work based on memory and trauma, including her long term art collaboration with a woman with profound amnesia, which was nominated for the Jarman Prize.

Artist Alex Davies and the Australian team behind Edge of the Present discuss their Big Anxiety commission based on research into suicidality and the use of art and technology to cultivate future thinking.

2.45-3.15pm No Feeling is Final
Honor Eastly in conversation with the director of one of the UK’s most radical arts for health programs, Clive Parkinson. Honor Eastly’s ABC podcast No Feeling Is Final opens the door on what it is to live with thoughts of suicide.

–3.15-3.45pm Break–

3.45-4.30pm Nathan Filer Introduced by Vanessa Bartlett
Award-winning novelist and former mental health nurse, Nathan Filer talks about the process and experience of writing his books The Shock of the Fall and The Heartland, reflecting on the challenge of writing about psychosis in both fiction and non-fiction. Filer’s interdisciplinary creative practice, drawing on first-hand experience as a care professional as well as extensive research into the lived experience of so-called schizophrenia, raises profound questions about the way we perceive schizophrenia and, by extension, mental health and diversity in general.

4:30pm Plenary and Q&A. Chair: Vanessa Bartlett

4.45pm Close

Evening Event: UNSW Galleries, UNSW Art & Design, Paddington

5.30pm Empathy Clinic private viewing, UNSW Galleries

6.30pm Leigh Ledare in conversation with Psychosocial researcher Lynn Froggett
Leigh Ledare’s The Task is an art project using Group Relations—a psychosocial method developed by London’s Tavistock Institute–to surface the dynamics of empathy, race and gender politics, conflict and responsibility.

According to BOMB magazine,
“…The Task is “a movie for anyone who” has ever been paralyzed with resentment when told they need to check their privilege—but then, maybe it’s for those whose disabusement has yet to begin…”