At Brahma Kumaris

As I prepare to write my annual post about the year that was, I can feel the mercury rising. It is predicted to be 39 degrees celsius today in Canberra.* In many ways this sense of anticipation is a bit like how my year unfolded. It started very gently and intensified as the year progressed. When I reflected on my post 2017 in the rear view mirror, I made some pretty big claims about what I hoped to achieve in 2018.

There is so much to be grateful for. I have learnt many lessons this year, especially about myself and the unrealistic expectations I put on myself that can overwhelm me. This year served up quite a few surprises along the way too, which made for some very interesting times. And although in theory the working year is over, there is still lots to do to tidy up before next year. I feel like I am still processing, still trying to find some distance to reflect on the bigger learning from 2018. Last year I said this about 2017:

It was a year of opening heart, mind and spirit to accept new kinds of knowledge, like a process of initiation for some strange reason.

This year saw a deepening of that process of initiation, an increasing recognition that I need to keep working with this weave. The other big lesson is that it is not easy to hold lots of threads at once and care needs to be taken to avoid making knots in the thread.

It was a year of building connections and being made aware of the threads that cross between the spaces of practice and discourse. There was a wonderful sense of weaving across the many different kinds of conversations that happened and finding mutual points of connection.

This year I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the key events instead a monthly breakdown. This is mainly so I can later add some more detailed posts about some of the symposia and workshops. Although these events were all very different and specific to their context, I found strong connections running through the heart of many of the conversations that emerged.

Exhibition at CSIRO Discovery Centre
Part of my Waters of the Past project was exhibited at the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Discovery Centre in Canberra in January and February this year. There was some great feedback about the work and some of it now lives at the Institute of Applied Ecology at University of Canberra.

Aboriginal Women’s Business Retreat
The Aboriginal Women’s Business Retreat with Tjanara Goreng Goreng in the Blue Mountains was an incredible start to the year. Hosted at the Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning was organised by the Foundation for Indigenous Recovery & Development Australia (FIRDA). The group of around 60 women of all cultural backgrounds were welcomed by two Elders of the Blue Mountains, Aunty Bev and Aunty Carol. Here I learned about Kanyini and its principle of connectedness, which resonated very strongly with many things I had learned from my Māori friends and Elders. The gathering was open to all women, Indigenous and non-Indigenous to talk about history, culture, knowledge, and women’s issues. At the end of the weekend we had a ceremony and sang and danced with our feather headdresses which we made earlier.

It was a joy to meet and connect with such a diverse group of women and I am sure that some of the connections made at this retreat will be lifelong ❤

SCANZ 2018 peace*water*power
This year I only attended the Hui for SCANZ 2018 peace*water*power at Parihaka, Taranaki, Aotearoa. Josiah Jordan and I presented the Ancestral Journeys project which we showed at Balance UnBalance. It was really good to return to Parihaka. This place is very special and I feel so blessed to be welcomed onto this land and for the beautiful friendships that have evolved since I first attended SCANZ2013. It was also good to present with Josiah in the same room at the same time 🙂

Women, Art and Feminism in Australia since 1970 (WAFA)
It was great to go to WAFA hosted by the Victorian College of the Arts at University of Melbourne. There were some brilliant presentations from artists and researchers focused on feminist issues including the body, fertility, social justice, sexuality, identity, technology and activism. For me it was like coming home in many ways, a big reminder of the issues which drew me to art theory so many years ago. My presentation was very personal, exploring my practice and focus on land, presence, ritual and place in its relationship to the Sacred Feminine and Water. This post is the online version of my paper presented at the WAFA symposium. What made this time really special was a spontaneous catch up with old friend Edwina Bartlem – WandA co-founder and owner of well known Brisbane Artist Run Space from the 90s, Bartleme Gallery. It seemed so fitting to see the WAFA exhibition with Edwina and share some memories of a great time in Brisvegas.

Fenner Conference of the Environment
In March I attended the Fenner Conference on the Environment at the Australian National University. It was great to see colleagues from a range of sectors at this event. There were some excellent papers and I really valued the growing recognition that to solve the complex issues facing our communities we need different kinds of thinking and especially creative thinking. There was a strong theme of collaboration running through the presentations and topics were wide-ranging from urban aesthetics, to energy efficiency, smart cities, urban renewal and a focus on multi-species urban ecologies and the ‘more-than-human’ world.

Rivers Fellowship
I signed up again for the Australian Conservation Foundation’s (ACF) Rivers Fellowship which was a wonderful way to meet other river lovers from across the Murray-Darling Basin. There was also another fellow from Canberra and it looks like there will be an ACF Community Group starting up in the new year, which will be an excellent way to connect locally.

Learning about energy and water lines
After our retreat in May, I visited my Uncle Gaz and he took me on a road trip to the mouth of the Murray. Garry is also a dowser and he is teaching me about dowsing (divining). I feel immense gratitude to be a student of this skill as it connects for me the energies of earth, water and of ancestors, as divining is a skill that has been passed down through my paternal, Nordic ancestral line.

Murray Mouth

Murray Mouth

Public Sector Innovation Month
As part of our departments contribution to Public Sector Innovation Month in July, I organised some researchers to come and speak to the department about their work, focusing on the theme of “working together.” Viveka Turnbull Hocking, Jacki Schirmer and Deo Prasad generously gave up their time to give presentations to the staff in the department about their research. I really believe we need to be opening up more conversations across these sectors as there is much to be learned from sharing experiences.

ISEA 2018
Although I did not make the journey to South Africa for ISEA2018, I was very happy to present the video of Ancestral Journeys with Josiah Jordan as part of the exhibition. Here is a link to the PDF of the full conference proceedings (pp143-146). Josiah and I have talked a lot about how we can expand this work into a virtual reality experience so watch this space in 2019 🙂

Made of Walking – Cyprus
It was a real pleasure and privilege to be a workshop presenter and residency participant and the Made of Walking residency in Cyprus. This was a wonderful event which I was able to attend thanks to support from ACT Arts. These are a series of posts about the residency that you can read under the project category Walking Projects. The event was organised by well-known European walking arts group Milena Principle. I hope to be involved in more projects with the Made of Walking crew next year as I really enjoyed the walking, deep conversations and diverse perspectives about what is means to be a ‘walking artist’.

Behaviour change in public policy masterclass
Led by Behaviourworks Director Liam Smith and his team, this workshop focused on behavioural solutions to public policy challenges, including some of the latest methods and tools to bring about real and effective change. Hosted by Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG). This was a really valuable workshop with one disclaimer – the out of date reference to energy bills and how people respond to seeing their neighbours consumption data – sometimes it is a reverse incentive. It was really good to know that my MSci research is well aligned in terms of the literature and methods, which was very reassuring 🙂

GEER 2018 Symposium
This year I joined the Group of Energy Efficiency Researchers (GEER) as a member which was a real highlight. It is a real privilege to work with this group of researchers and to learn more about some of the amazing research being put into practice. The 2018 Symposium was also an excellent way to see if my own research project is on track in terms of the theory and some of the issues and barriers affecting people facing energy vulnerability. I am still working on a longer post about the event.

Healing our Spirit Worldwide
It was an incredible honour to volunteer at the recent The Eighth Gathering of Healing Our Spirit Worldwide. The gathering was hosted at the International Convention Centre in Sydney and brought together Indigenous peoples from around the world to “gather and celebrate the power of our knowledge and our wisdom, to share our stories with pride and purpose and to harness the spirit within and around us”. I also had a role as a co-presenter on the subject of “Weaving Connections” with Felicity Chapman – a weaver and healer from the Whitsundays. We created a circle and Felicity spoke about the power of weaving through her story. In short this event was an inspiration and it was really wonderful to connect with some old friends from near and far, seed new collaborations and to be witness to so many stories of hope and positivity.

Untaming the Urban 2018
It was a real pleasure to work with Viveka Turnbull Hocking to bring together the Untaming the Urban symposium and exhibition. My role was to organise the exhibition which was an interesting and fun challenge given that we decided to co-locate the exhibition so it was in the same building as the symposium. We had two meeting rooms to present the work and strict rules about what we could attach to the walls and ceiling. I am still writing up the catalogue for the show as there were many resonances with the symposium which need to be contextualised.

Bookbinding
Over the past few months I have also been making some artist books which has been a great use of materials I found at home. I really love the process of bookbinding and stitching the spine – it is like a form of meditation. After being encouraged by family and friends I set up an Etsy shop Gersemi Gifts to sell them online.

#365wak
My walking project #365walk did not quite unfold as I had planned. I have learnt that I am terrible at making routine posts. Traveling, other activities, family responsibilities, the weather and forgetfulness all played their part. Although not a perfect project, you can still see lots of posts if you look under the #365walk hashtag in Instagram. I plan to continue share walking posts and stories.

What is in store for 2019?
Next year is about not taking on too much – not biting off more than I can chew. I feel like I failed my first ambition to take better care of my health in 2018 as I am feeling quite spent.

There are a couple of projects in store in Norway and Aotearoa New Zealand and hopefully some time in Bali for relaxing eco-dyeing and plastics collection. My other big commitment is getting some papers published as part of my MSci project. With that and a guaranteed wild ride at work due to election year, I am thinking that less is more for healthy mind, body and spirit ❤

Best wishes to everyone for an amazing 2019 – full of health, joy and happiness.

Youse are amazing!
Thank you to the many wonderful people who I worked with in 2018. So many sources of  inspiration! To my colleagues at the Department of the Environment and Energy, I am very grateful to work with such a great group of creative, thoughtful and committed people and look forward to 2019. Thank you to the Intercreate Trustees and community who continue to inspire and motivate me to keep weaving this path. Thanks to the Institute of Applied Ecology at University of Canberra (UC), especially my MSci supervisors Ross Thompson and Jacki Schirmer for their time and patience and Brigitta Yabsley for helping me wrangle Qualtrics 🙂 Also thanks to the Faculty of Art and Design at UC, Stephen Barrass and Viveka Turnbull-Hocking for another year of XMP (Cross Media Production). To my 9 Rivers collaborators Anne-Britt Rage, Anneke von der Fehr and Josiah Jordan – you are all amazing and look forward to more conversations and collaborations. To my collaborators at TransArts Alliance, thank you for your time and energy – it will be wonderful to see how some of these ideas unfold. The last and biggest thank you always goes to my family  – Marty, Lukas, Nikki and Oscar – thanks for being who you are and accepting me the way I am ❤

With immense gratitude for all that was, what now is and what will be.

*I started to write this on Saturday 29th December 2018. It did get to 39 degrees, hence my inability to finish writing this post – too busy trying to stay cool!

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About bytetime

Tracey M Benson is a lover of travel, having a diverse background as an artist, writer and researcher. Working with online environments since 1994, Tracey's experience includes providing digital media, web and social media solutions to government, non-profit, private industry and tertiary sectors. Her focus is on sustainability behaviour change and the use of communications and emerging technologies to empower community and build culture.

Category

Ancient knowledge, Art Projects, Artist Residency, Behaviour Change, Gersemi's Gifts, Research, The reluctant scientist, Waters of the Past

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