A Creativity and Community Resilience Studio at Dookie Campus
Resilience has become a central term in responses to the escalating risks of climate change-driven natural disasters.
As a strategy of governance, resilience aims to marshal the capacities of individuals and communities to adapt to changing circumstances and cope with unforeseeable events. (Rose and Lentzos 2017). While critics argue that resilience strategies shift the burden of responsibility from the state to individuals to become self-sufficient citizens, others argue that it also offers the possibility of the formation of new kinds of community, a rethinking of what community is and could be within the frame of governance (Zerowski and Sage 2017).
For us in this project, we see the increasing aggregation of governmental and institutional resources around resilience as marking an emergent opportunity: to reinvigorate social relationships and reinstate ways of knowing that have been marginalised by two hundred years of western, technology-driven settler colonialist traditions.
This project situates the arts and creative practice at the centre of resilience strategies. While innovative technologies and new methods of land management are vital, governmental and institutional investment in these initiatives will be less effective if they ignore the diverse knowledge and expertise of arts and cultural research, in partnership with local communities.
Bringing the varied insights and techniques of the arts – including visual art, dance, music, film, performance and design – into our investigations and policies around strengthening community resilience, we will discover new ways of connecting diffuse knowledges, and expand understandings of what a community is.
Drawing on existing studies and evidence and contributing a vital new conceptual framing.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the arts are invaluable contributors to community resilience: creative industries revitalise local activity centres and diversify regional economies; the arts support social wellbeing and inclusion, and promote environmental awareness (Dunphy 2009). These studies see art as a useful addition to broader regional resilience strategies, particularly as a form of healing post disaster to aid recovery.
As valid as these approaches are, in this project, we seek to go beyond creative industry models which promote culture-driven entrepreneurial activity and economic development. Equally, we seek to go beyond a crisis intervention approach in which art appears after the fact of disaster and is siloed from other sectors. Rather, we seek to demonstrate how creative arts practice and research can build social resilience as a continual process of community-building, co-design, and knowledge collaboration, and as an active contributor to shaping what resilience looks like in place. As the literary scholars, Brigid Magner and Emily Potter (2019) have argued, ‘place-stories matter to environmental futures’. It is through demystifying old narratives and imaginaries, and co-creating new, shared stories that we might reshape how we relate to land, place, each other and the future in Australia.
Moreover, by strategically deploying the arts in spaces of ongoing community preparedness, these projects in turn serve to articulate the workings and real-world value of the creative industries, thereby also strengthening the resilience of these creative communities of practice at a time when the precarity of creative careers signals an immediate crisis in the sector.
Using expanded ideas of time and collaboration to extend our critical understandings of knowledge-making.
How does creative practice function as a mode of enquiry, a method that can bring new ways of knowing to the fore and build connections between diverse knowledges and knowledge holders? Artists and curators with long histories in art activism and socially engaged practice caution that genuine cultural transformation requires long-term commitment (Anne Sophie Witzke in Lam et al 2013).
As the Indonesian art collective, ruangrupa has argued, ‘The modern emphasis on efficiency has ignored the richness of time in diverse cultures. Uncertainties and failures can be seen as luxuries – luxuries that contemporary society compels us to do without. Money is not everything. Time is.’ (ruangrupa and Papastergiadis 2021).
Mindful of the propensity for short-term, outcome-driven and transactional resilience research and practice that overwhelmingly favours technological innovation, our project seeks to establish the conditions for a more enduring, locally-embedded, iterative and non-linear approach.
Trialling a Creativity and Community Resilience (CCR) Studio in 2022
Our project will undertake a practice-led experiment in shaping a new knowledge community around regional climate resilience. The site for this experiment will be a Creativity and Community Resilience (CCR) Studio at the University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus, the home of the Federally funded Victoria Drought Resilience and Adoption and Innovation Hub. Building upon synergies between the Hub, a newly launched Art + Ecology art residency at Dookie, and the project team’s research and industry networks, the CCR Studio will trial creative arts-led community resilience strategies developed in an urban context, and translate these to meet the needs of regional communities.
In its first year of operation, the efforts of the CCR Studio will be framed by the following questions:
What are the borders and barriers of the twenty-first century University campus? The contemporary campus is digitally networked and industry engaged, but how well does it connect with its locality and local community? How can the campus be expanded to function as a public space, a meeting ground, and an ‘ambient’ community with the capacity to share knowledge rather than simply disseminate it?
What are our ways of knowing? How do we recognise and support diverse ways of knowing? What kinds of methods can we adopt to draw connections between scientific, local, Indigenous and creative forms of knowledge? How do we communicate cross-culturally and across sectors and disciplines?
How do we co-create community? What are the different communities that intersect through geography (location), connection to place (networks, histories, attachments and memories), and diverse forms of practice (labour, scholarship, taking care)? What are the experiences, perspectives and knowledges of marginal or less visible sectors of the community and how do we draw them into dialogue?
What are the temporalities that shape regional lives? How might resilience work against the temporality of crisis management and industrial time? What other temporalities exist that we might draw upon for more resilient ways of relating to place?