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refuge 2019 - displacement



PORTAGE: Raft, Flotilla, Shelter, Camp (2019-2020)

Survival skills for the climate emergency and community.

Build a raft. Convert to shelter. Set up camp.

Portage is a two-year, multi-platform and speculative creative project in four sequential parts: Raft, Flotilla, Shelter and Camp. It begins by imagining what 2030 may look like and asks questions about what will be the coveted values, skills and knowledges in the future. Will it be those who know how to grow food, those who can navigate with stars, or those who know how to collaborate within their communities of difference?

__‘Portage’ is the act of carrying a boat and its cargo between navigable waters. To portage is to work together – to secure your belongings to your body and to carry your vessel over land in unison to the next destination. As a metaphor in this project, we use the term to speculate about our shared future – what we can learn from each other, our environment and ourselves – to mobilise, collaboratively carry and arrive to purpose.

Decades of echoing sirens and warnings from the global science community have gone unanswered. Now is the time to prepare, to untether ourselves from conventions, self-audit our skills and knowledges, and to connect with our communities as we learn how to become more comfortable feeling uncomfortable in the years ahead.

What can we learn from you? What can you contribute? What are the skills and knowledges at the thresholds of being lost, undervalued and/or overlooked? And, what are the skills and knowledges we will need in the uncertain future? Some members of our communities have lived experiences of conflict and climate-related displacement, while others have never imagined. We need to talk. Portage is a speculative project that aims to delve deep into these questions laterally and to connect participants with audiences through shared activities and experiences.

--In 2019, Raft is a series of co-design and co-building workshops using materials from our natural and manufactured environment to build floatable structures. As a primer, Museum Victoria hosted the artists, partners and a group of local community members at the Te Vainui O Pasifika gallery in May to learn about watercraft, navigation and stories from Pacific Island communities. Over five days in the lead up to REFUGE, one hundred people will work together to build three watercrafts at Arts House. Each workshop will commence with an induction to learn basic building skills using bamboo followed by construction and assembly tasks. The co-built watercrafts will form Flotilla, an immersive installation for audiences to experience and to reflect upon the imminent climate refugee crisis. This arrival point may point us in the direction of the next portage destination.

In 2020, we are working with six intercultural master weavers and local residents at the Carlton, Kensington and North Melbourne housing estates in a series of workshops to transform Raft into Shelter to form Camp, where we ask the question ‘what would a Melbourne-centric disaster shelter look like? using materials from the build and natural environment. In the lead up to these workshops, we will host a public walk in Refuge 2019 around North Melbourne to learn from the weavers and from City of Melbourne rangers about growing, harvesting and weaving local and introduced grasses.