Arts House Will Present Refuge 2018: Pandemic

Over the past twelve months for the third iteration of Refuge's five-year project, the City of Melbourne's Arts House has led a unique conceptual inquiry that interrogates different concepts to be prepared for pandemic threats.

Through rehearsed scenarios, labs, workshops and residencies, Refuge brings together artists, researchers, emergency service providers and community members to explore new methods of social impact, community resilience and alternate approaches to preparedness.

In August at the North Melbourne Town Hall, Arts House will present Refuge 2018: Pandemic - a creative nexus and interrogation blending real information with real science over four days to highlight possible ways that communities could be prepared for pandemic situations through public forums, games, conversations and artistic works.

Pandemics are unpredictable - for example, the increasing evolution of influenza, including last year's outbreak that impacted over 160,000 Australians.
In Australia, there are on average 2,500 to 3,000 deaths every year as a result of seasonal influenza with approximately 1 billion people infected seasonally throughout the world.

The 1918 Spanish influenza killed 40-50 million people.The 1947 Asian influenza killed 2 million people.And the 2009 swine flu epidemic reached all continents within a few weeks of detection.

The executive summary of the Australian Government's Review of Australia's Health Sector Response to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009: Lessons identified, highlights: "There are many lessons for health officials and governments to learn from the experience of the 2009 pandemic. While Australia's response showed that being well prepared was important, success depends on a multi-stakeholder cooperative approach, with key elements being effective communications, robust science-based decision making and a flexible public health response system able to respond rapidly to a crisis."

Planning for the impact of potential pandemic circumstances is complex - it's important to consider alternate thinking and approaches, including remaining flexible, open and adaptable to explore all possibilities.

As identified through evaluation by the Research Unit in Public Cultures at the University of Melbourne, the durational collaborative interrogation approach initiated through the Arts House Refuge project provides an exceptional site to exchange ideas and a totally different sphere of knowledge sharing that rarely connects creative practitioners, researchers, academics, scientists and government agencies to examine potential climate-related disasters and collectively trace alternate ways to respond and be prepared.

For Refuge 2018: Pandemic, Arts House has partnered with the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute); Australian Red Cross; Emergency Management Victoria; the University of Melbourne; Resilient Melbourne; SES Footscray Division; St Joseph's Flexible Learning Centre; and Melbourne General Cemetery to review and assess the multifaceted impacts of climate change has on epidemic and pandemic situations through knowledge-exchange labs, workshops and residencies.

Artists Madeleine Flynn, Tim Humphrey and Lee Shang Lun had the opportunity for a residency at the Doherty Institute to work with epidemiologists and developed their responses presented at Refuge 2018: Pandemic that include We Contain Multitudes - an audio visual work in the Arts House bathrooms that explores memory, forgetting and disease control that asks: who gets the vaccine?; Isolate and Contain! Mapping the Pandemic - a live interactive experience that builds an imaginary virus and maps its effect on communities; and Outbreak - an immersive, live game that features dynamic puzzles, a mysterious disease and the quest for a scientific cure.

Over five months and informed by the Australian Red Cross preparedness kits, Kate Sulan worked with students from St Joseph's Flexible Learning Centre, North Melbourne in North Melbourne to create In Case of... - an exhibition showcasing emotional 'grab-and-go' kits for times of disaster; and during Refuge 2018: Pandemic participants can make their own survival resource.

Developed using Emergency Management Victoria's Community Based Emergency Management approach, Lorna Hannan worked with local North Melbourne community members to create Ruth Crow Corner - a conversational artwork over a cup of tea about everything from immunology to community.

On the final day of Refuge 2018: Pandemic, the Australian Red Cross will present a mock emergency pandemic exercise where they will conduct home-visits to residents in North Melbourne and West Melbourne and provide well-being checks and give information regarding potential epidemic or pandemic situations.

Pandemics and epidemics present a challenge to understand corporeality, fears and taboos; and teach communities the necessity of ritual.

An innovative and experimental cultural experience into preparedness, Refuge 2018: Pandemic explores the health impacts of climate change: epidemics, grief, stigma and anxieties invoked by the language of disease.

Culminating the collective explorations and discoveries, Refuge 2018: Pandemic will present a nerve centre that captures new approaches of preparedness and responses to a pandemic through a series of interactive events designed to collectively learn, connect and strengthen the capacity to respond in the future.

Quote attributable to Emily Sexton - City of Melbourne, Arts House Artistic Director: "Refuge is a whole new way of working across and beyond the arts towards a community that is prepared for the worst possible scenarios; in previous years, fire or flood. In 2018, the possibility of a widespread pandemic. It's exciting and entirely sensible that creative minds take a leadership position in imagining new and better approaches."

Quote attributable to Laureate Professor Peter Doherty - Patron of the Doherty Institute: "We're delighted to be involved in Refuge. It's fantastic to see clinical and lab-based scientists working with the creative arts community to intrigue and inform the broader community about pandemic infections, particularly influenza, and what we can do to minimize the risks."

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