The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre at Katoomba is an amazing space. Located beside the equally fantastic Blue Mountains City Library in Parke Street, above the Coles/Village complex, the site offers a wide variety of exhibitions and resources along with a great cafe and gift shop. And the outlook from the viewing platform is spectacular.
The current exhibitions include Mapspace and Hayley West’s Remnants of the dead and demands on the living. The West exhibition is defined as an artistic inquiry into death rites, a contemplation of life and loss, a reimagining of objects and memories. A range of media is used to highlight the transformation of objects; their role and importance change over time as they are passed on to the next custodian. This transformation is often shown as cathartic, ‘a way to sit with grief’.
One of the aims of the exhibition is to raise the level of death literacy through arguing that by being informed and prepared for death, this knowledge is in turn empowering not only for ourselves but for others.
Grief can be difficult to display in our society. The visible signs of grief are seldom on show; there are no widow’s weeds or black armbands to demonstrate to others that you are grieving. There was a podcast about this last year on Earshot (Radio National) which outlined how it was challenging at times not only to reveal that you were grieving, but also how to signal that you were ready to return to the world. Another interesting podcast on this matter was an interview earlier this year with Airdre Grant on her book, Stumbling Stones. Grant is able to articulate the wild despair that can accompany loss, the sense that everything that mattered so much before the loss subsequently barely matters at all.
West’s exhibition offers some insights into how objects can be transformed to help with the process of grieving and of acceptance. It is thought provoking and despite the gravitas of the subject, it offers hope.
[Photo: Hoskins Memorial Presbyterian Church (Uniting Church of Australia), Bridge Street, Lithgow]