Brisbane’s newest festival has a death wish.
Metro Arts wishes to get Queenslanders talking about death and embracing grief, and they’re going to extreme lengths to do it.
They’ve announced Deathfest, the first arts and culture festival of its kind in Queensland, which will run throughout November.
The brainchild of Metro Arts’ creative director Jo Thomas, in collaboration with ethicist Sarah Winch and Hummingbird House general manager Fiona Hawthorne, Deathfest — literally a festival of death — will comprise of world premiere performances, live music, movies, immersive interactive activities, cemetery tours, and provocative discussions about life, death and grief.
Thomas says the festival is a response to society’s fear of death, and our reluctance to confront the topic head-on.
“The past century has seen death and dying in the industrialised world move from an everyday part of life to being hidden from society,” she says.
“Death has become something that is done in private, with mourning no longer ritualised. This lack of awareness and experience with dying, the dead, and the bereaved has resulted in widespread death anxiety.
“Hopefully, through the arts, we can promote intergenerational conversation and cultural perspective, to have these conversations in a different way and find new ways to embrace the inevitable. An understanding of the processes, the machinations and our options in death and grieving may just see us live well and die well.”
Highlights of the unusual festival include:
- The world premiere of internationally renowned choreographer Fran Barbe’s Exquisite, a sensual exploration of hope, heartbreak, love and loss.
- Julie Vulcan’s marathon five-hour performance, I Stand In, that enacts a death washing ritual involving massaging, oiling and wrapping participants in a shroud.
- Master stonemason Pete McFarlane’s art installation, I Am Not Here, Leave a Message, which features three grave sites for members of the public to engage with through sound, touch, smell, taste and writing.
- A series of provocative discussions about death, dying, grief and loss, including ethicist and author Sarah Winch’s Wine and Die; a public forum about how to die well called, funnily enough, Dying Well with ‘deathwalker’ Zenith Virago; and Death N Art, an exploration of the way artists explore death in their work.
- Visual art that will spill out across the city in Fish Lane, Hutton Lane, Eagle Lane and the William Jolly Bridge.
- A tour of Brisbane’s historic Christ Church Milton Memorial Garden cemetery, including a twilight concert by the Threshold Choir, a group dedicated to singing people over the threshold of death.
Deathfest will run from Saturday 12 November to Sunday 20 November at Metro Arts and various locations around Brisbane. For more info, visit metroarts.com.au/deathfest.