Somewhere in the Light: PETRIE 2022
Somewhere in the Light: stories of love and loss was shown at the Petrie School of Arts in Brisbane in June this year. A songwriter (yours truly) and a cellist (Gillian Love) wove music, story and archival art to honour the gifts we carry from those who are no longer present. There were light refreshments after the event and a gentle invitation to share personal remembrances in a participatory artwork and connect with others in conversation.
Emerging from the shadows of a global pandemic too, many have been denied access to important rituals of death and farewell. This year, an additional intention for the event was to hold space for losses that have not been able to be publicly acknowledged because of lockdowns, restrictions, mandates and border closures. I asked my friends in Australia and overseas to share on social media, a request for stories from people who have had this experience of loss over the last two years of the pandemic. The deep and thoughtful responses received were also woven into the event.
It seems to me that, by and large, we are from a culture that’s not very good at remembering. Usually, it’s onto the next thing, the relentless nature of progress. And it seems to me it can be hard to find a place to speak about loss and what the people we have known who have died have meant to us. This work is an ongoing performing arts space dedicated to acknowledging the inevitability of loss and to the practice of remembrance as a life-affirming endeavour.
Below is a video of the finale song from the event. The sound isn't the greatest unfortunately but I feel it captures something of the beauty and reverence of the space present on the night :)
Last year, in Something Your Hand Touched 2021, I invited ten local songwriters and poets to share their stories and sad songs alongside archival artwork. Next year, the event will take a different shape again to reflect the many shades and ongoing, ever-changing experience of loss over time. This is not an easy space to step into and I'm thankful for the many people who continue to show up in their capacity and desire to have meaningful and hard conversations. I'm thankful for those who are willing to wonder out loud with me what it is to remember well, the gifts we carry from those who are no longer here.
To those who came for their trust and willingness to step into a space reflecting on loss; to Gillian, a beautiful musician and artist; to Lindsay Drummond, dramaturg and improvisational theatre teacher who helped me shape this event; to Ted, Connie, Erica Rose, Peta and Tony for sharing their pandemic stories of loss with me; to Andrew Shepherd, Margaret Shepherd-Tovey, Jonathan Wald, Rosie Waters, Carla Bures, Larysa Fabok, Kelli Dendle and Margaret Kirkman for bringing their voices and hearts to some old letters; to Shane Rowlands who warmly welcomed everyone and read the introduction so perfectly; to the audience members who photographed the event and sent their pictures to me; to Charles Living for his work on lights and for his endless support of my crazy ideas, to Mike who created the soundscape for the event; to Kelli and Larysa, the Tea Angels who provided hot drinks and refreshments for everyone; to Anywhere Festival and to Moreton Bay Regional Council for their continuing support of me as an artist in the region - I’m very grateful.
"... a beautiful, melodious, poly-vocal and multi-layered invitation to be with sadness and loss as well as deep gratitude and remembrance for those people who we love and have died and live on in us." - SR
"Lovely and heartwarming. At the end of it I had an experience of feeling really peaceful. I was touched by the way that Mira brought the elements of loss, remembrance and the archive together. It was subtle, not blaring or loud or sensational like so much today. This space was a pause and a slowing down... I thought that was really nice. It made me realise just the importance of live art and performance - everything is so hyped up and of grandeur today rather than just a simple sharing in community where one person feels there's something important to be shared and so they share it... a way to build connection and sharing in the community." - AM
"Thank you for a beautiful show. There were many beautiful moments. I loved seeing your dad's slides, your letter to him, the song you sang after the second lot of slides was amazing, the letter about the son who committed suicide was really potent and I had a few tears writing the memorial. I'm glad I came, I love how all the different pieces built meaning and insight." - RW
"It was a delight to be able to be taken with such care and thoughtfulness upon the journey of loss and remembrance. I really appreciated the beautiful installation at the front of the room. All of the lights snaking out of it made me think of the lifeline of all of our paths while alive here on earth, the ways they twist and turn, and the necessary end we all come to in death. It felt like an altar, but in a very non-precious kind of way... which somehow anchored the raw, everyday-ness of death a little more for me. I appreciated hearing different voices in the audience narrate the letters, there was something so unifying and interesting about hearing the chorus of voices from throughout the audience... and the nature of the letters shared, made me think again of the everyday-ness which we all somehow take for granted. It felt poignant and relatable. I adored the photographs shared from your fathers collection, the deeply beautiful sense of nostalgia they evoked, it felt so intimate and just down right beautiful to see life captures in that way. I also really appreciated hearing your scholarly work being narrated throughout, I enjoyed the introspective yet somewhat clinical experience of it to contrast the more emotional aspects. Your singing was so beautiful and haunting, it invoked in me a tenderness and nostalgia. I adored the cello playing as well, for all its deep rich notes which also felt very haunting. I think my favourite part of the experience was hearing you read out the story of your friend who had passed, and when you placed the flowers of remembrance to those you have loved and lost upon the installation. I felt so much of that in my heart... it felt previous, sad, intimate. Lastly, I enjoyed having the chance to reflect on my own loved ones I have lost and honour them through writing. Thank you so much for putting such care and love into this offering of art to the community, Mira! It is such important and necessary work in this world." - SL
"What a memorable evening! The beautiful old hall, the variety of subtle lighting, all added to the warm calmness of the atmosphere. The combination of cello, guitar and voice filled the space with heart stirring music and the variety of spoken words transported the audience to memories of the past and the present. Thank you Mira for a lovely experience." - MST
"Until the night of Saturday 4th of June my only experience of memorials has been the ANZAC dawn service.At those dawn services, songs are sung, poetry and/or letters are read and people come forward to lay flowers/wreaths....there is no applause. [This]... was a beautiful memorial and tribute to your father. That moment where the memorial is about what a person meant to us, how their lives affected us, influenced and shaped us... where the memorial becomes a tribute to the person for the gifts they gave us, a celebration of that person and of the ongoing influence within our own lives. Thank you again for inviting me to the memorial and teaching me what a memorial truly means." - FM
"The best thing was being able to grieve in a soft and gentle way... People stayed afterwards, they wanted to stay, they came for the chai, but they stayed for the conversation, and connecting with each other... Sharing memories, making memories... Mira's wonderful thoughtful lyrics in her songs that were written for the event... The gentle reverence for death... Treating death like an old friend and not something to be frightened of helps to reinforce my resilience... Gillian's atmospheric cello during the slideshow reaching into the acoustics of the hall... Most of the audience were involved somehow, reading the letters from absent loved ones, to remember them... People sitting together in the dim darkness was like being in a cave. The lights were like a campfire where the darkness allowed my imagination to make up the rest. I would do it again." - LF