INSIDE CRACK – Well-versed for the Future

An Interview with Aaron Kirby and Eleanor Malbon
By Alex Morris @Nemiwai

“We are staring down the barrel of an ecological problem that is going to dramatically affect the way people live their daily lives,” Aaron Kirby said. “It’s not ‘how do we stop this?’ at this point. The project is to say how do we mentally approach this change as to not lose our minds and understand what’s going on.”

Aaron’s talking about the future of society and an interactive poetry performance he will be in at Crack Theatre Festival alongside Eleanor Malbon. The two Setting the Stages artists are Canberra residents, and their project is Eucapocalypts Now. They hope that their audience will not only enjoy the poetry but also feel inspired to discuss ideas together after their performance.

Eleanor said a movement called Dark Mountain has helped to inspire their poetry.

Image by Martin Ollman

Image by Martin Ollman

“It’s quite controversial; some people think it’s really pessimistic, but for us it’s doing away with aggressive optimism, and we’re inspired by the ideas [from Dark Mountain],” Eleanor said. 

According to the website, “The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling, and we want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it.”

Aaron and Eleanor write poetry like many who prescribe to the Dark Mountain movement, and also their day jobs contribute to their knowledge and passion behind their beliefs. Aaron has worked for the last four years as a Public Servant, and Eleanor works as a researcher at ANU in the fields of ecological sustainability and systems thinking. Eleanor said that working as a researcher influences her poetry.

“I haven’t written poetry from a technical perspective like I do in my academic work, but the world view I’ve gained from [my work] is what I’m concerned about when I write poetry,” she said.

Aaron said that working in government for the last four years has helped him understand certain issues and has inspired his creative practice.

“The skills I use at work are different from the skills I use as a poet; the state of public policy these days is such that, we’re really focused on setting the conditions for objectives that are already decided for us: [for example] economic growth, security,” he said.  “We’re not really very good – as citizens – at thinking about what is the purpose of the state, of what is the good in life and how do we achieve it. We tend to focus on quantitative issues, gaining more rather than thinking about what is good.

Neither like to be referred to as poets.

“I’ve never liked the idea of being a poet,” Aaron said. “It’s a very fussy lonely label; the great artist sitting thinking and writing. It’s an over specialisation. Everyone is a poet. When we feel things strongly and we articulate well, we’re being poets.”

Aaron and Eleanor said that the poetry is the least important part of the performance, and the conversation they have afterward with the audience is their priority.

“We think the show is going to be provocative in a good way, the thing we are most interested in is not what we do but the thoughts we can inspire,” Aaron said.

They believe ideas and creativity can help to address the slow ecological decline that’s happening. They believe that, despite the decline, the way people experience emotion will be largely the same.

“When we’re trying to have conversations with people about where we’re going as a society, it is about connecting with people on an emotional level,” Eleanor said. “That’s exactly where creative processes come in.”

“Poetry can be a valuable way of not just explaining your work but enlarging your world and living a more meaningful life,” Aaron said. “I’d like to see less audience members and more people writing and performing.”