Old Doc's Revival:
Drug Aware Activation
A Personal Necessity
Desperately searching for a place in which to set my roots, at least for a little while, I softly danced down the Western Australian coast. Landing in Margaret River, I was immediately drawn to the township, which celebrates arts and people. As I urgently searched for a sense of self within place, the stoic south west graciously hosted me, swaddled in warm coos of ancient forests.
Once-upon-a-time a Doctor’s Surgery, the hostel I found myself in creeks with life, as if the hallway exhales as each person marches through it, on their individual missions. A dichotomy of place - for somewhere named after a beehive: La Colmena. In my quest for self-establishment I became fortunate enough to receive support from Regional Arts WA's YCulture: Drug Aware initiative in engaging community in social practice art events, ultimately delivering a new mural artwork aided by the hands of hundreds of individuals.
I hoped that the open-house painting would instigate a sense of pride and autonomy over place, simultaneously inviting a broader audience into a space which I identified as my home. On the precipice of the hostel, patrons were forced to recognise our living space as our home, and our lives as living spaces.
I hoped to un-thingify, therefore un-garbagify, the way we treat eachother, and shift our expectations of one another within that dynamic. Rather than the formulation of specific new artworks, I was implored to craft a space which allows, and encourages, art experiences.
As I hovered above the broken deck, dosed in sunlight, drowned in hums of musical internationals - I am reminded of an essay by Mary Jane Jacobs - Reciprocal Generosity. A body of writing which solidified my heavy desire to host art experiences in a non-exclusive space - wherever that may be, and whomever that may entail. That “generosity exists in exchanges, like conversations, and within temporal experiences shared by a social or communal body… though these generous acts might not look like art, or in fact be art but become art-like moments.”
At the core of my practice, a reflection of my being, I craft a space which does not act as art, but becomes a space for art-like moments.
"Opening the process of art-making to others previously held at a distance is demanding. It involves inserting them into the process and being accountable to them, while they - having become thoughtfully and constructively engaged - become accountable to us and to the art”
Mary Jane Jacobs
Eager participants walked in to the outdoor space, and sat a while before walking to our neighbouring coffee shop - whom donated an entire day of coffee to our team, along with a tub of donuts, as an act of community support. The generosity which floods our lives - instigated by the stage I crafted.
It is an incredibly fulfilling feeling to be the catalyst of creation.
Without the platform I proposed, without the artist to design it, and without the funding of Regional Arts WA, where would this group of peoples have been?
The time flew, and at its busiest we were tangled as a game of twister, eager to paint alongside one another. Contributing to the space, creating an artwork through the art-engaged experience. One third of the wall down, and backs happily aching, I eagerly awaited day two.
Watching an artist step back, step closer, dot here, swish there. I have never had a viewpoint like this before. I instantly know the procedure, the blurring of the eyes, and subtle tilt of the head. A click of the tongue indicates his approval. Mokai dances with the brush, around the rusting trays of metal which litter the floor of the space we decorate.
He is an incredible artist, but more than this he is an incredible person. Mokai has the kindness and intelligence of a thousand people. Trusting his instincts, and trusting me, he dove head first into this project to create a space to celebrate life with our newly blended family.
Dancing a Fine Line
A morning (not one week prior to the beginning of ODR: Drug Aware Activation) drizzled in tense dialogue - a reminder of the constant dis-welcome we receive in these regional places - we sat ajar. Tyres slashed, others let out with sticks, signs scribbled and littered around the back of our home. We sat still - waiting; though no one was sure what we were waiting for.
The hostel Manager Loz eventually reached out to the local community. In an act of "please see us" rather than "please help us". We desperately needed to be seen as valuable contributors to our community. Where are we supposed to go if we are unwelcome in our new homes?
By the afternoon offers of love and support poured in, onto our home’s doorstep. Lamb from a farm down the road, contacts for towing services, simply visitors who sat and listened for a while. Submerged in kindness from strangers who live here and welcome us deeply. Blanketed in generosity, visited by members who are willing to donate their time to us.
It is an incredible roller coast to live atop. It reminded me of the importance of this project and the goals I'd set out to achieve.
Another Wall to Bang One's Head Against
Restrictions slowly seeped through the town, a thick layer of oil relentlessly leaking down the main street (I am sure the shire will be unpleased after spending millions on the renovation of this space).
We are a lucky team, to have survived COVID-19 untouched in Western Australia, years behind the chaos of the rest of the world. Our home went into lockdown on the Monday, where our community showcase was scheduled on the Friday. A small blow to the project - yet this was the time I was excited for most. To welcome the distant community into our home. To shift the interactions between people and space such that hostels are communes are galleries. To challenge the expectations of places to perform singular duties, in order to better communicate the ability for venues to host varied experiences for a multitude of peoples.
Luckily we were able to engage the wider community through social media and the local newspaper, through word-of-mouth, and through promotion by local businesses such as Cafe Mosaic.
Below are a few reviews from participants of the project. You can find their faces on our polaroid board. A reminder that each hand which worked to craft this space has a face, a home, and a history. I hope they take the memory of this art experience with them to grow other spaces they live in over their lifetimes.
Here is the article written for the Augusta Margaret River Mail, authored by the lovely Nicky Lefebvre from Arts Margaret River.
"The event brought the community together and let everyone enjoy art. I loved it!"
"I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of such a beautiful communal project. It was so wonderful to watch everyone collaborating and creating some incredible art. I loved it!"
"I really like this art project everyone were together really happy and sharing about arts and different things around the world. And also the place is now amazing"
"Such an amazing project that brought the backpacker community closer to the locals. I personally think that this idea it's a wonderful work of art that says a lot about backpackers, we all worked together as a family getting to know each other more and more everyday. Thanks to this project i'll be able to have indelible memories for the rest of my life. A huge thank you to Darcy and Mokai, i'll always be grateful!"
"I enjoyed the art project the fullest. It was a big family come together and also the perfect chance to get to know each other better and learn more about art and perfection. It was so nice to come home and see everyone together painting and listening to music, singing and dancing together. And memories in polaroids. A nice thing to see our backyard area growing with collars and flowers every day more. People for more creative and inspired every day. Thank you Darcy"