Embracing the awkwardness of human conversation, this program offers a unique opportunity for intimate one-on-one conversations in experimental formats, tackling anxieties, debilitating habits and hard-to-talk-about subjects like mental health.
Awkward Conversations make no demands, have no expectations, and require no social skills whatsoever.
Our “AWKWARD CONVERSATIONALISTS” are each inspired by their own lived experiences. A mix of artists, performers and activists, they are committed to creating ways to connect, to flouting the rigid conventions of normal social communications and to respecting radical diversity.
We highly encourage people to book tickets to secure a spot with our Awkward Conversationalists. Places will be available on the day, but numbers are limited, so get in early! The Awkward Conversations Program is a safe space but would like to advise participants that conversations may contain diverse and potentially sensitive content.
WHO: Dawn-joy is autistic. She has hyper-sensory capacities. She notices things that others may not – sounds, lights, smells, textures – which are often harsh, jarring and painful to her. Join Dawn in her quest for refuge and calm, inside a ‘clement space’, designed for respite from an over-stimulating environment.
HOW: Dawn welcomes everyone to chat with her one-on-one: with words or without words, ask questions or offer ideas; make something together or just sit in silence. We can have a conversation that is comfortable for both of us.
WHO: Debra Keenahan (Festival Ambassador) is never nobody. She’s always looked at, she’s often stared at, she’s commented about, and sometimes laughed at. What she really wants is to be spoken with. Debra calls a dwarf a dwarf.
HOW: Let’s have a fiery chat eye-to-eye.
WHO: Greg is a cartoonist and story writer who likes to be respected. Throughout Greg’s life, listening, watching and writing stories has been a remedy for feelings of anxiety…except on the rare occasions when he suffers writer’s block and feels fresh out of ideas…then Greg feels anxious once again!
HOW: Friendly, humorous and charismatic. Choose your own adventure as Greg reads his comic aloud to you. (Greg is supported in one-on-one conversations by a representative of Studio A).
WHO: Sarah is a producer and curator with an experience of acute psychosis. She is devoted to making sense out of her own and other people’s experiences through new media storytelling.
HOW: This conversation explores the relationship between mania and colour, and challenges our assumptions around psychosis.
WHO: Amala is a Wiradjuri artist who engages with First Nations knowledge(s) and perspectives on the experience of anxiety.
HOW: One-to-one conversation over a warm footbath using native plants. Discuss the relationship between anxiety and the physical body as a finely tuned instrument of Biame (creator spirit) drawing on the healing properties of water, eucalyptus and sarsaparilla.
Katy B Plummer
WHO: Katy is a textile, video, and performance artist with an interest in personal revolutions and mythic internal narratives. Katy channels/processes her anxiety through compulsive making.
HOW: Keep your hands busy and your mind on-task with Katy. Hand-twist and wind strands of rope as you and Katy process your thinking by making.
WHO: Malcolm is interested in dispelling the anxiety of being ignorant by having open discussions that focus on what we do not know, and what we do not know that we do not know. He is an artist who proposes an equality of intelligence in all when it comes to our ignorance.
HOW: Confess the limitations of your knowledge and understanding in a safe space in which you can ask each other any questions on your mind, without necessarily looking for answers to them.
WHO: Artist, activist, and experimental conversationalist, Lois Weaver constructs alternative models for public conversation to make space for the things we wonder about.
HOW: Drop in for a ‘Porch Sitting’, where small, informal groups sit side-by-side with Lois on the steps of Customs House to ‘wonder’, observe, dream, or reflect upon the other Awkward Conversations you have had.
WHO: The anxiety of starting something new can be paralysing. Where do you begin? James is a visual and performance artist who is always confronting the first mark.
HOW: Start something new and overcome your mental block with James.
WHO: Bè Aadam (Festival Ambassador) who uses his own lived experience to inform his work in the mental health sector. He takes a strengths-based, inclusive approach to advocate for a model of care that places people at the fore of mental health programs and services.
HOW: Bè has experience in protracted and persistent psychological distress since childhood and has sought many treatment methods to manage his symptoms. As an Ambassador, Bè will listen, share his experiences and tap into the broader community to promote wellbeing in new and creative ways.
Mitch Jones AKA “Captain Ruin”
WHO: Mitch Jones (Festival Ambassador) is an escapologist and circus performer, as well as festival ambassador. He has spent time in a Turkish jail, is anxious about incarceration and pursues his desire to escape the confines of conventional life.
HOW: Talk to Mitch about practical techniques of escapism!
Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi
WHO: Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi (Festival Ambassador) has been an active advocate for mental health issues and awareness for several years after his own experiences with depression and anxiety. He believes that open discussion around difficult topics is vital to start conversations that can not only improve lives but also, in some cases, to save them.
HOW: The S-word – Alessandro offers calm, level headed conversations about suicide. Let’s just say the word and see where it goes.
This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Department of Communication and the Arts’ Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund.