This is (Not) a Drill: Creative Adaptation in response to wicked problems

Artists are agitators and changers. They are not afraid of the dark. Refuge is a an the intersection between artists and scientist that was held in North Melbourne town hall. Tara Dowse introduced the thinking behind refuge, both the changing climate, but also an acknowledgement of first nations relationships to the land. The first refuge focussed on floods and storms, the second on heatwave, this years will be using pandemic

<p><a href=”″>City of Melbourne/Arts House – Refuge (full documentary – 11mins)</a> from <a href=””>Polygraph Productions</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

One of the key aspects is agency, and the artistic component is interlaced with practical preparedness workshops, such as rediplan.

Lee Shang Lun, one of the artists from refuge, spoke about the role of games. You can’t as an adult, play as a kid. That would be foolish. But that’s we need to do, to discover, to test boundaries. IF you  can measure change, its’ not the change i want to see. Its the third space in between, the nuance. The way we change is through stories and music.  He then told an interactive story, where he used us to direct the direction of the story until the end, where there were no choices.

Yoko Akama making the invisible visible through the design. She uses a technique called playful triggers, which are used to identify risk to communities. It uses strength based, or asset based techniques to work with communities. Asking people to map community networks, but by using playful triggers, visually represents community dynamics, and acts as stepping stones, to have tricky conversations with other community members.

Brian Walker from CSIRO gave a fascinating and different take on resilience. Resilience is not good or bad. May not always be good, a dictatorship or a salinised landscape is resilient, so for it to change, you need to weaken resilience.

Resilience is not about bouncing back, identify might remain the same, but the person is different. Resilience is about change, and the closer you are to the bound, thisis where adaptation occurs. If you don’t let children play in the dirt, they don’t develop immunity.

Redundancy is an important part of resilience, but usually the first things to go in efficiency drives.

When do you move from adaptation to transformation? rely upon the first rule of holes. If you are in one, stop digging, ie its time to change to something else. don’t include it, we will make the wrong decision.

Where is the innovation and emotion? this is where the arts come in. If we don’t value it, don’t include it, we will make the wrong decision. Learn how to change in order not to be changed. Build systems that will be safe when they fail, not fail safe.

Faye Bendrups, the Controller from Footscray SES, who is also a lecturer in performance studies, and latin american studies, makes the comment, who better to be in a tricky  place, than with artists, who are very adaptive. Refuge is a place where everyone belongs. Valuing creativity is good for the economy. Can creative practices inform emergency management? yes, because its done by people. Incorporating artistic approaches into emergency management can come up with novel and creative approaches to unthinkable challenges.

So, at the end of the day one, what stands out for me, a very poignant statement from Tara,  on the limits of thinking “the idea of a not yet thought future, and may be unthinkable” but arts can help thinking the unthinkable.


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