13. 12. 2015

How to Begin: Just Begin.


There’s something quietly powerful about just starting. Activity breeds more activity. It gives others permission to follow suit.


This ‘trueness’ has followed me around in many pairs of gloves over the last few years. I’ve encountered it over and over again in the Renew Movement (and it’s Creating Spaces conference in 2013), in every independent piece of art I’ve experienced, in community led initiatives that pop up and gather speed (or not), in the things that I have started (sometimes finished) and mostly left undone.


Why trueness rather than truth? Because I write poetry and and the ‘ness’ of it strikes me a little closer. Also shhhhh!


But anyway, what was I saying?


A week ago we had our public outcome of Manifold Portrait as part of our This Is A River residency. Our public outcome was a low-key/low-fi evening of sharing. Sharing food. Sharing conversations. Sharing things we’d thought and things we’d made during the residency. We had over 40 people wander over and through (which far exceeded my expectations – thanks everyone!).


Throughout the day we’d been in the park preparing. It was cold and very windy. We kept hoping the wind would die down (it wouldn’t) to enable our idea of writing and photos strung between trees and other park architecture to happen. Instead we had to improvise, casting aside some ideas, recreating how we might share others, inviting new sharing entirely.


My car and our ‘collaborative graffiti’ car became pop-up art gallery walls

The back of my car became an ideas and ongoing connection hub

We discarded the idea of signage, but kept our lighting trails

Lights popped up on existing creations

We shared soup (thanks Tully) and handmade cookies (thanks Caroline).

We swapped names and stories and memories and ideas.



It was lovely. Exquisitely beautiful. In simplicity. In trueness. In beginning.



On Saturday – the day before the sharing evening –  Jess (+ Jess’ friend Isaac), Caroline and I came together in the park to sift through our material in preparation for the sharing evening. Some of the neighbourhood children came over to see what we were doing and what they could do to help. Caroline read her poem from a previous week to them:


“So I began reading. The kids commented as I went. Darren asked regularly, ‘where’s my name?’, they all laughed at the fart joke. But afterwards, Alysha said that moment of the poem reading made her feel very emotional, that it was an important moment, just as important as tomorrow’s presentation. I asked her why? And she said she watched Winnie and it wasn’t just about being the star of the show (Winnie is definitely the star of that poem), but there was something about the way she reacted, a kind of mixture of wonder and pride I think. I did feel a lovely energy while reading it, and for me as the writer of the poem, I felt the day all over again, the easy relationships between every body there that afternoon, the simple acceptance of what was going on, of why we were all there together. Another moment of living, of presence, of being in the world.”


(Read the poem itself here: http://carolinereidwrites.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/using-power-of-observation-to-create.html )


 Above: Some of our helpers on Sunday during set up.


Later over the weekend, while everyone else was having a break or doing other things, Winnie and I walked over to Winnie’s house so I could ‘properly’ meet her mum. We’d seen Meagan in the yard before, calling the kids back home, but we’d never formally met.


Meagan, Winnie and I stood chatting in their front yard while the boys buzzed in and out of the house noisily. I told Meagan about the poem and about reading it to the kids and Meagan said to me “Oh yeah, I write poetry too. Some angsty. Got lots of it.” and I asked if I might read some of it. She said she’d try and find some for me. She’d have to look in old boxes to find it. It might take a while. I said that would be great.



One of Winnie’s cousins was visiting on Saturday and again on Sunday. She told Caroline:


“We came down here with a blanket one night and lay down looking up at the fairy lights. And we took photos of ourselves pretending to hold the lavender and making the same kind of lips as that face there.”



And on Sunday Yvonne said


“I think it’s good that you’re doing this.”



and Lucy said


“We need more stuff like this. I’m from Monash, but I’d love to be involved or help out in some way. I understand why my brother (Isaac) said I should come down tonight”



and Isaac said (in answer to his friend asking what we were doing)


“They’re just trying to get stuff happening.”



Above: Our collaborative graffiti art car


There is something quietly powerful about just starting.



Manifold Portrait. It’s been so so quietly perfect to meet you.



There is so much to uncover here. We are together – artists and community – making and having an impact. Anything is possible right now. It’s delicious and terrifying and exactly what should be happening at this stage of the conversation.


Our This Is a River residency is ‘just’ a beginning. Our public sharing was not the end. It was an opening, a furthering of the conversation we have started here.


I’ll be in the park again this coming Sunday 20th September if you feel like talking.


Or keep following Manifold Portrait as it unfolds here: https://manifoldportrait.wordpress.com/


Above: More from Sunday set up and conversation.





Alysha Herrmann


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