Growing up in sheep and cattle country in western Queensland, Meme McDonald has always had an affinity with the land, and in 2016, she continues in the role of Artistic Director for Geelong’s Extreme Arts Walk - M~M. She speaks here to the crew at M~M HQ about her passion for land, walking journeys and the Geelong region.
M~M HQ Crew: Meme, describe what M~M means for you?
M~M is a golden opportunity to walk the land. An opportunity to take part in a rare moment that only happens every two years, when it is possible to walk a pathway from the eagle’s view at You Yangs Big Rock to the watery mouth of the Barwon River. And to be inspired along the way with stunning vistas of industry, nature and extreme art in some rather unusual places.
M~M HQ Crew: How did M~M come about?
Extreme times call for extreme art. In 2007, I was engaged as Artistic Director of Connecting Identities by the Arts & Culture Department of the City of Greater Geelong.
My brief was to take the issue of the rapid change that municipality of Geelong was facing, with its sizeable impact on local identity, and create an arts programme that could have a positive effect on people’s perception of themselves and their place.
The first question I asked myself was, ‘what connects us?’ One answer is, 'the land'. I have a long-term interest and respect for the Aboriginal cultures whose footsteps we follow. The traditional songlines that criss-cross this entire continent are rich food for the imagination. Early discussions with elders in Geelong endorsed the concept of creating a contemporary songline – M~M.
In its pilot stage in 2009, M~M went up stream from the mouth of the river to the You Yangs. When we changed to go with the natural flow of water downhill in 2014, the whole timing of M~M fell beautifully into place. M~M2016 will consolidate this flow.
M~M HQ Crew: For those who experienced M~M2014, what is different about this iteration?
We are following in the footsteps of indigenous ancestors who walked songlines – walking journeys that stretched across the country – from southern Victoria to Cape York. At 80 kilometres, our M~M contemporary songline is a baby, barely born. It will take tens and maybe hundreds of years until it becomes a songline of significance. M~M2016 will see a consolidation of this songline and a strengthening of the extreme arts that walkers will experience along the way.
M~M HQ Crew: Why should people be putting M~M in their 2016 calendars?
M~M is an extreme arts walk - that is unique to Geelong, to Australia and perhaps unique even further afield. M~M is not intended to be easy. It takes courage to walk this land and to commit to such a physical challenge. But for those who take a chance, the opportunity to discover the region by taking an extreme arts walk, is a uniquely local experience that is not to be missed...
M~M returns 6-7 May 2016. Registrations will open soon.