Potential,becoming, being- gathering tales that bring learning and change
Last week I attended the Regional Arts Australia Artlands conference. ( thank you for the participation grant Regional Arts Australia and Regional Arts Victoria) The conference theme this year was the space between.
There were many sensational discussions and presentations about this idea and theme= particularly around many and diverse cultural ways of knowing/seeing and being and the importance and value of these as we connect and utilise creativity to innovate and co-create, to give voice to stories and issues and to find better ways forward out of the wicked problems we currently face- locally and globally.
In one of the presentations at Artlands 2021, artist Carin Wilson – talked about the Maori concept of Wā. (pronounced waa). In Te Reo Māori, Wā means time, season, period of time, interval, term, duration. Carin spoke of Wā as a place and space between and emphasised that…” we are built to live in this space between”- particularly as creatives. Carin spoke about paying attention to ‘potential’ …’becoming’… and ‘being’…on our journey – to be silent… listen… and feel… so that we can gather tales that will bring learning and change.
This concept of the space between has been resonating with me the last 18 months or so in this seemingly relentless, space that we find ourselves in during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personally I think of creative/ making time as being in that space between. I think that for me practicing art is about journeying into that space to explore boundaries between self and the world – to connect/reconnect memory, emotions, identity and make sense of everyday happenings, to discover/uncover different stories, actions and possibilities for the future. For me this is a liminal space, a space that is about crossing over. A liminal space can be defined as a threshold, a space where we have left something behind, but are not yet fully in something else. It’s a transition space …a transformative space.
I love being in that space. For many creatives being in a place of liminality, of transition, is a state of creative being. It is the place where there is potential to act. For me it’s a place of being aware, active but still. Its a space of trusting that, in the unknowns, and uncertainty, I will find direction. Carin Wilson described this as standing still in our journey and letting the destination come to us. As a designer and creative I’ve always felt comfortable, grounded and my authentic self in that liminal space. Going into this space to create has also been important to self care, mental health wellbeing and resilience.
We are currently, collectively living through the space between, and a period of transition. The disruption of COVID 19 pandemic has brought about events outside of our control, and we’ve had to negotiate through more uncertainty and unknowns and rapid change in our daily lives. The crossing over of that liminal space from a space I go to in my creative practice, into daily life has felt overwhelming. Liminal spaces can bring us face to face with inner fears about who we are, how we show up in the world, our strengths, vulnerabilities, our values. It may also prompt us to question our core values, beliefs and our identities. It may also impact on our resilience and mental wellbeing. Like many others I’ve felt overwhelmed by that over the last 18 months.
It may feel as if the only option is to hold onto “business as usual” as an anchor and to hope that things return to “normal” as soon as possible. Understandable right? Yes.. but as creatives we know there’s another possibility. The possibility of the potential power of the space between, of that liminal space. That it holds potential power to interrupt our habitual lives and draw us out of “business as usual“, of what we know into the unknown and potential of what’s next – transformation.
A friend recently shared this poingnant article with me.. Between depression and flourishing , theres languishing. The article describes the state that many find themselves in as a holding pattern and highlights that…
“On a personal level, the pandemic has made worse the practical and psychological struggles of many people; they’ve lost their job,opportunities or business, they are disconnected socially, and are barely getting by. The future is unknown, and that’s where the anxiety and angst comes from. Every day and week we are confronted with something new.”
It goes on to explain that…
“People are questioning the future for themselves and others. They are blocked from achieving things that are meaningful to them, whether that’s entertainment or connecting with other people or travelling, starting a new business, getting married or having children. All of those things seem pretty risky. The languishing mindset can lead people to be paralysed in many spheres of life.
This is because clear, meaningful goals drive us forward, they give us hope and energy and a positive mood, too. They provide a sense that we are making progress. If those goals and hopes are dashed, it can produce a whole host of negative emotions.”
This makes sense. But what if we reconceived the holding pattern as a transitional space instead of a blocking space? What if instead of instantly questioning or judging ourselves, or perceiving the unknown and new as a threat we take an opportunity to strengthen the way that we hold space for ourselves so that we can find the way through the space between?
That same article suggests some ways to address languishing in the space between. One suggestion is to “give yourself some credit for what you are achieving and to acknowledge the positive impact you are already having.”
What if instead of just “giving our self credit” we focus on holding space for ourselves?… on giving ourselves permission to suspend all the usual judgements we hold about success and value and worth, must dos/should dos – to instead check in, reflect, be self compassionate and self aware – or as Carin Wilson shared… to listen and feel and gather what we need to bring learning and change.
Personally, I figure that is a good place to start. I figure that by holding space for self … by paying attention to potential, becoming and being … not just in my creative practice but in all that I do… I might be able to embrace the space between – embrace opportunities to surrender, to give over to something larger than self and trust that I will be held and supported with whatever is needed to navigate through uncertainty during this time. It’s a big learning when we are kind of programmed to be anxious about the unknown… or when “making progress” is noted by certain kinds of achievement or measures of success..
My sense from listening to stories and voices from other creatives at the Artlands conference and elsewhere, is that while artists and creatives in Australia have faced challenges about our worth and value over the last decade – heightened by current circumstances… we also know how to work through the space between… we are built to live in it and can lead the way through it. Personally, there is much hope for what comes next in that thought!