Using art to talk about death

2016-10-18-16-01-21As a nurse, Becky Guigsberg has seen people face death. As an artist, she sees her latest project, Before I Die, as a way of getting people to make the most of their lives while they can.

“I recently left my permanent nursing position to concentrate on working as a full time artist – this was a challenging shift in my career but it was based on the idea of truly living,” she explains. “I have witnessed a lot of death, poor choices in lifestyle and regrets from fellow members of our community in my 25 years of nursing.

“I felt that if I didn’t make the break I may look back at my life, say when I am 80 years old, & possibly be regretful. I believe we need to use our time wisely, make peace with our fellow human beings, and ourselves, be present, follow our dreams and be honest.”

The concept of the week long project, fund-ed by a Council cultural grant, is to examine the unavoidable end that will happen to all of us, and
in examining death be guided to evaluate what is important to us while we are alive.

“I believe the arts can successfully provide a metaphor for the subject of death. This topic is frequently avoided or poorly addressed and
I want to provide a platform for meaningful discourse, examination and contemplation.”

Becky was inspired by a TED talk by Cindy Chang, an artist in America who painted the side of a building with blackboard paint, provided a bucket of chalk and the words stenciled on the top ‘Before I Die I want to…’. She was overwhelmed with community interaction and engagement.

“I would like to provide a similar creative and educational opportunity to enrich our community,” says Becky. “I have obtained permission from Cindy Chang to use her concept and there will be a blackboard installed on the outside of the Old Fire Station with the words “before I die I want to…” and a bucket of chalk for the public to use.

“I am not convinced we discuss death well; the aim of this project is to encourage active participation, in a vibrant, non-religious and positive way,” she says. “I hope to engage the public with the concept of living well now, in this moment, and having control or a plan for our end of life.

“The week will be uplifting and will celebrate being present, living with gratitude, personal achievements, a beginning and an end.

“My aim is to provide a space for active community participation. I see a real need to address the issues of death and dying in a forum that is positive, creative, sensitive and informative.”

Details: Thursday 27 October to Wednesday 2 November. With the walls of the Old Fire Station hung with works by local artists relating to the theme of impermanence, living well and dying well, there will be free mindfulness presentations, yoga sessions, cultural storytelling and
a practical workshop on planning for death ($20).

In addition, there will be two events at the Little Blowhole Art Bar – a Zombie Bollywood Halloween Party on 30 October to celebrate the Day of the Dead, and a Spoken Word Open Mic event for comedians, poets, musicians, storytellers to share their thoughts, under the encouragement of Kiki Bitovabitch, on 2 November.

Copies of the program are available at the Old Fire Station, the Little Blowhole Art Bar and the Library.







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