Awkward Conversations

Awkward Conversations offers one-on-one conversations in experimental formats, tackling anxieties, habits and hard-to-talk about subjects like mental health.

Sometimes the best conversations are awkward. What if you say the wrong thing? What if you make too much eye contact? Or not enough? What if nothing is spoken at all? Or your conversational partner is unlike anyone you have ever met before? 

Awkward Conversations is a program of one-to-one conversations that extends what constitutes a conversation. 

To participate in this event you must be 18+. 

The Conversationalists

Anna Spargo Ryan is a perpetually anxious writer who uses lyricism to offer new language describing the experience of life with psychosis and other serious mental illness. 

What to Expect: Join Anna for a conversation about the words we use to articulate the psychology and physiology of mental health, how they restrict us, and how bringing poetry into medicine can make everyone’s life a bit easier. 

Clem Bastow grew up feeling like she’d missed a key memo on human behaviour. It wasn’t until Clem was diagnosed as Autistic, at age 36, that things clicked into focus. Her memoir, Late Bloomer, celebrates the realities of Autistic experience and considers the "what if" moments throughout her life through the prism of late-diagnosed self-knowledge. 

What to Expect:  Experience the world as Clem does through an immersive audio experience, followed by a conversation using sensory elements to explore and explode myths and misconceptions about Autism, and how it has shaped Clem's life in powerful ways. 

Dani Leever uses their lived experiences with OCD and anxiety to create art; whether it be through the written word, music or collage. They find catharsis and healing through exploring their experiences artistically, making sense of their life as words form and art is made. 

What to Expect: Come and discuss with Dani what it means to draw on your lived experience to create art. Do you have a project coming up that you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable through? Discuss honouring our stories, respecting our boundaries and creating brilliance from a dark place. 

Daniel Regan found his voice through pictures. Drawing on his own experience with self-injury and self-harm, Daniel finds language in photography in the absence of words (and it helps). 

What to Expect: Join Daniel in a collaborative visual conversation focusing on your current emotional landscape by constructing and reconstituting his photographs and found imagery. Talk if you like, or let the conversation be guided by your creative endeavours. 

Nicola Redhouse is a writer who is interested in the ways we think about and treat mental pain, and  the capacity for talking therapy to make real and lasting change, and for words and communications to hold subterranean secrets. Her book Unlike the Heart explores her experience of anxiety via an interrogation of the workings of talking therapy and medication. 

What to Expect: ‘You’re trying to work out what’s stopping you enjoying each other’s company’, says psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on a good outcome for therapy. Can you enjoy yourself with someone else? Spend time drawing, writing, doodling, playing or making with various art supplies in the company of Nicola, while she reads to you from her book. What might you make, and what might you not be able to make, in the company of another person? 

Stéphanie Kabanyana Kanyandewe experiences the world through several forms of synaesthesia (sound/colour/texture, auditory-tactile, spatial sequence), meaning that she will experience a single stimulus like sound or light as a range of multi-sensory effects. Fluorescent globes are Star Wars light sabers burning eyes and splitting her skull to the sound of high volume electrical noise, that squeaky trolley wheel at the supermarket induces full body pins and needles and yet music is often like billowing rainbow clouds she can only assume are akin to being on LSD. Life's a trip in Stéphanie's world, and as multidisciplinary artist and composer she invites you into the journey. 

What to Expect: Using physical, aural and visual props, Stéphanie will offer conversationalists a phsyically immersive insight into her life as a synaesthete as she discusses neurodiversity and mental health and the positive outcomes that arise from opening yourself up to more sensory experiences.

Tom Middleditch is an ASD/ADHD artist and access and inclusion specialist in Melbourne Australia. He works as the Access and Inclusion Coordinator for RISING, Access Coordinator for MIFF, and The Artistic Director of A_tistic. As the director, he and his team of multidisciplinary neurodivergent artists, consultants, and educators aim to bring neurodivergent lives, insights, and experiences to the stage.  

What to Expect: Got any questions about autism or ADHD you haven't found the right place to ask? Confused about it all? Wondering what the deal with saying 'With Autism' instead of 'Autistic'? Tom is here to talk about that. Or not, he's also quite ADHD so the conversation might spiral wildly out of control because there is something more stimulating that comes through. Who knows. Should be fun though! 

Khin Myint struggles with bullying and toxic masculinity in his youth led to mental health issues and a suicide attempt. Khin recovered through singing, travel, meditation and storytelling. Later in life, his family grappled with questions of euthanasia and mental-versus-physical disease as his sister’s mysterious illness took centre stage in their lives, before she was euthanised in 2013. 

What to Expect: Share a conversation with Khin about how stereotypes and binary thinking around illness, gender and race might have impacted our unique stories. Khin will use prompts to provoke reflective thinking if needed. 

Peta Murray likes to walk her own talk. She has always made art from pedestrian matters. Play and perambulation are critical to her lifelong management of GAD and Depression. She is an expert on grief and loss, and a believer in daily rites and rituals of meaningful irreverence. She is also an HSP but will not disclose what this is, because it takes one to know one!  

What to Expect: In this conversation, I set out to take an Audit of your Playfulness and an Inventory of your Inanity.  Together we will give your Inner Childishness a thorough Check-up. This is a Serious Matter. As a qualified Doctor, I may then undertake, with your permission, to Finetune your Frivolity, or Recharge your Risibility, and/or to nurse your Appetite for the Nonsensical back to Rude Health. No Guarantees. Terms and Conditions apply.

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.