I’ve been a media artist for two decades. I mostly make lengthy, complicated work, where I tend to be responsible for the form and invite others to make the content. hammocktime is different. It’s my first solo artwork, and my first work as an artist at Adelaide Fringe. It’s simple, subtle and potentially powerful. Given my typical veer toward digital, large-scale, longer-duration work, I’ve struggled to believe it is enough, but battled to let it be itself regardless. I’m still tweaking this and that, but I’ve managed to avoid letting myself attack it with the sledgehammer of reinvention despite so many panic attacks driving me to want to. Imposter syndrome is a bitch.
Its simplicity is what has worried me. Criticisms of ‘but you can buy a hammock and use it for years for the same price as your half hour in one’ are common. Yes, you can – and you should. But hammocktime is about more than just lying in a hammock. Would people get that? Would it work? Would people use the opportunity, the permission to pause, and let themselves commit to 30/45mins of reflection? And if so, what effect would that have on them? Would they understand the social change aspect within it? Would that have meaning for them if they did? Is that nod to social change prominent enough, without being preachy?
hammocktime isn’t for everyone, it’s not meant to be. I’ve always said with media art, still a niche artform, you don’t aim for the masses, you aim for those who get it, and, if lucky, let their engagement catalyse a natural ripple effect. hammocktime is aimed at those who know the world is broken and it hurts them. They try to be the best humans they can but all this capitalist destruction of our daily lives, our independence, and our planet has far reaching physiological ramifications. Activists have an extremely high burnout rate, and a far-too-high suicide rate. hammocktime is a gift to them and others with the same heavy hearts.
It says “hey you, yeah, the world is kinda scary. but in order to get through it, you have to take care of yourself and you have to think positively, act positively. here, come lie in a hammock, I will be here with you the whole time. I will help you enter a short period of relaxation, contemplation, reflection, and then I’ll just sit here in total silence with you while you take yourself wherever you want to go.”
That’s it. That’s its simplicity.
For those who get it, they take that gift and they 100% allow themselves to let go. The relaxation injects them with something akin to a powernap boost. The social change questions confirm the positive potential in any dark surroundings. The bringing together of all the guests’ one word answers at the end presents a collective shared consciousness of the will to believe in something better, and a subtle nod to the actions we can take individually and collectively about those thoughts.
While so often over the last few years I have desperately yearned to grab people by the scruff of the neck and yell furiously in their faces “don’t you fucking SEE?” I know that’s not the way to enable change. So I’ve been trying to find a way to trigger the same impact but through love, generosity and empowerment. The hammock is a trick, a distraction. Everyone loves hammocks, so many of us own them but so few of us give ourselves permission to use them as often as we should – or for as long as we should. The same goes for meditation. Many people try meditation but give up because their brains won’t shut up. They don’t realise that the brain doesn’t shut up – if it did, you’d be dead. Meditation isn’t about stfu it’s about learning to pass through.
In the guided intro we don’t do a body scan or deep chakra breathing, we simply drop mentions of the elements you may or may not want to consider as you drift off. Breath, body, distraction, sound. Then silence, your silence, where you can listen intently to the noise in your own head, or to audiences/performers in one of the nearby venues, or the not-so-silent disco next door, the pop up street festival stage outside Gluttony on the weekends, people chatting as they walk down the path next to our site, and in the 45min evening slots can return to the one consistent – our acoustic musician in our space. Or you can play with that cacophony, make your own live remix, adjusting your own sliders and channel controllers.
If you let go, totally release yourself to your physiological connection with your hammock, your trees, your soul, you can go somewhere truly beautiful, and truly your own. And all this is just a device, a way of thinking about and approaching life. We give you a card at the end, the same promo business card which may have gotten you to our space, and tell you to put it somewhere that stress occurs – your office computer monitor, your car’s visor. That image behind the text is those trees you gazed at for 30/45mins, those words “STOP! #hammocktime”, a trigger. Look at that card in times of stress and it’ll take you back, a reminder that there can be calm in any storm, if you choose to find it.
— Hugh Sheridan (@hugh_sheridan) February 20, 2016
It’s been a slow start for us at fringe, partly because we’re running on the smell of an oily rag without marketing budgets or paid staff, and partly because getting people to give themselves permission to take pause is bloody hard (ironic given that’s kinda the point of the project!). I’m not running the project to make a fortune, I’m running it because I feel it’s needed. Sure it’d be nice to (at very least) cover costs, pay myself and reward my amazingly generous volunteer guides and musicians with more than just an artist’s pass, but we still prefer that all three hammocks are full for every session – so if you’re an artist, it’s worth checking in to see if we have any available slots and we’ll let you in for free (donations welcome!).
Free marketing is always a huge boost for niche projects like this, and the attention of famous people is a rare and beautiful luxury. We had a rather special guest at last night’s 45minute session; Hugh Sheridan (in town with his band California Crooners Club) came along … and he absolutely loved it. He got the simplicity, the need for positive reinforcement and active social change. He got it so very deeply that he actually thanked me for making the work. Through his and many other responses to the work I’m finally beginning to shrug off imposter syndrome and believe that hammocktime’s simplicity is in its truth. It works. People come in stressed, hungover, busy-minded. They leave, relaxed, smiling, grounded, wearing that gentle gaze which comes from a deep inner sense of calm. Even if that wears off, it was there… and it can be there again (with or without a hammock).
I’m very proud of this little piece of ‘activation through inaction’ and even if we don’t win the attention of the masses, I don’t care. If the people who come get it, my work is done.
We’re open Weds-Sun throughout the Festival from 5-9pm for 30min sessions, with late-night acoustic musician sets on Weds, Fri and Sat nights from 9.30-10.15pm. We’re also calling for more guides so that we can add earlier daytime slots from 11am on weekends – ping if that timing suits you better as a guest and I’ll let you know when they’re scheduled. Book online via Fringetix, or chance your luck on the door at Gluttony (we’re down the left hand side when you walk in the front entrance, look for the bamboo screening between Silent Disco and The Carry On). $20/23 for 30mins or $30/33 for 45mins.
Long missive, but heartfelt. Come try it, everyone, you might like it x