Waking Life in The Coronacene

It is quite likely that more people have been happy to see the calendar change this year than in quite a few decades. To put it lightly, it was a weird year. Scientists found evidence of possible microbial life on Mars and water on the Moon, Kanye West not only ran for president, but was endorsed by Elon Musk, a huge amount of ammonium nitrate caused a devastating explosion in Beirut, bushfires burned down a lot of Australia, the Nagorno-Karabakh war escalated virtually unnoticed, David Attenborough got on instagram, then left, and we probably haven’t spent this much time discussing vaccines since they’ve been invented. 

In the meantime, clubs around the world shut down, most of them indefinitely, and almost all festivals saw a fallow year. Yet, things have been pretty busy here at Waking Life, and we’ve been thinking that you all must be thinking, “if there’s no festival, then what do these folks actually do?”.

Most of the Waking Life team are lucky enough to have other jobs, so they were able to focus on those alongside competitive baking or managing mood swings. For a handful of others Waking Life is a full-time commitment, so they had to really shift gears given that a physical gathering was out of the question mid-pandemic.

On April 23rd we sent you all a love letter, and in it we wrote: “We couldn’t foresee a pandemic, but together we can choose how to respond to it. This is a chance to flip the script on how we connect, how we find meaning, how we heal our home, how we create, share and experience art. We can learn to travel with our eyes closed and be with one another in ways we haven’t yet imagined.”

And to live out some of those ambitions we created The Space Between, a semi-physical, semi-virtual, semi-subliminal series of events, activities and expositions to keep our community connected and continue conversations and artistic expression amid social separation (more in-depth coverage of this journey upcoming). On the coattails of this alternative offering also rode our donation campaign, as we were left with a sizeable financial gap. With the generous support of all of you, that gap was nearly bridged. 

Waking Life is more than the festival, it’s a multidimensional community project, so the interconnectedness between place, community, culture, soil, sun, water, air, living, working, dreaming, are dependent on being on site year round, and Covid catalysed this intention into reality. And so, the first team members moved to the Waking Life land and worked there all summer, using Casa Marmelada as a temporary homebase. We organised two volunteer weeks in which we turned an abandoned little house into a hospitable living space, and organised a major site clean-up. 

This was the first time we had some space to pause and reflect since March. Starting with the period of utter uncertainty, entering first lockdown, realizing Waking Life can’t happen, fundraising and running a semi-digital alternative program, then missing out on the festival and all the built-up excitement that never found fulfillment, bottling up some of these emotions, uprooting and rerooting life to the countryside, meanwhile most friends working in events, arts & culture fields dealing with very precarious work conditions, trying to be there for one another but each dealing with our own struggles, entering second lockdown – it has all been one big fuckin’ process, yet we still count ourselves immensely privileged compared to what we’re witnessing on the global stage. 

In our microcosm however the site clean-up had been completed, including the removal of unstable structures, from stage carcasses to shaky wooden infrastructure and a million little things that constitute site reorganisation. The little house is starting to feel familiar, and we’re aiming to kick off our volunteer program and first workshops and residencies next fall. In addition, a permaculture design plan is being put together, which will include a reforestation proposal for the entire site, starting with the camping. More shade and green on the horizon!

Will Waking Life take place this year? Truth is we can’t say yet. But we are working on a Covid-19 framework with several scenarios ready to put in place once we have more detailed information. In many ways, 2020 was an unsolicited bootcamp in exercising patience and sitting with uncertainty, so let’s try to implement what we’ve learned in this new year. What we can promise is to stay connected, to spend some more time crafting stories and designing an exciting plan B, while remaining vigilant and up-to-date on new policies and regulations so as to let you know how Waking Life 2021 will flow, depending on where the tides take us…

*Those in the Waking Life mailing list – including all 2020 ticket holders – will soon receive an email with more information about what we know, what we don’t know, and a general decision making timeline for the upcoming weeks.