Borrowed Time: on death, dying & change
on death, dying & change
November 2-4 Dartington Hall, UK
What constitutes ‘a good death’? How do we know death, personally? What room do we make for the dead – within our relationships, our ways of speaking, our shared geographies? And how might the insights of end-of-life care and death practices help us to navigate the fundamental unsustainability of the dominant culture, and to better imagine what comes after it?
Over three days on the Dartington Hall estate in England’s southwestern corner, we’ll open a space to explore these and other questions pertaining to death, dying and change, and to ask what dying has to teach us about living well, and living sustainably.
While many experience death as sudden or violent, dying more often comes to us gradually. That there is a deep resource of hope, wisdom and resilience to be found in confronting and preparing for death’s arrival is something long understood, across all cultures. What, then, might such preparation entail in the context of anthropogenic mass-extinction?
One way or another, this greater dying now presses upon us – whether we are experiencing ecological loss and displacement first-hand or negotiating the uneasy, grief-laden sense of borrowed time that has become an insistent background noise for many. How might those whose lives are as yet relatively sheltered by structural or geographic privilege learn to listen better to the obscure, too-big-to-hear keening of biological annihilation? Might art and shared testimony prove better equipped to hold and integrate such unimaginable loss than the spreadsheet, the relentless graph?
In the face of these dilemmas we’ll gather to re-align our time here together by turning to meet death – through story and song, personal witness and critical discussion, feasting and silence. Whilst we welcome academic papers and expect focussed panels to form a valued element of this gathering, we’re also specifically inviting people to bring other and perhaps less tried-and-tested ways of speaking to death, dying and change. These might include experiments with embodied knowing, deep listening, or movement. Proposals of performative and other artwork are invited, as are ideas for ritual and ceremony. Workshops whose durations may run an hour, half a day, or even all night are most welcome, as well as equivalent opportunities for smaller group work that allow for a more intimate sharing of experience.
We invite you to a creative summit where an end-of-life carer may find themselves sharing a conversation with a poet, a dancer and a climate scientist, and where the nature of our theme may steer such conversations towards the urgency, honesty and radical hospitality called for by a time of accelerating change.
[Bee image: Sarah Gillespie End of the Summer (detail) mezzotint engraving]