What if we are instinctively more cooperative and loving than we think?
This is the question at the heart of The Bonobo Project, a creative collaboration exploring concepts around human nature and culture, the ‘human condition’, and whether or not humans might possess instincts to be more cooperative and loving than our contemporary society suggests we are.
The Bonobo Gathering
An experimental winter retreat on Australia’s Sunshine Coast 26-28 JULY 2019
A key component of the project is a gathering of co-enquirers to be held on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia in late July 2019. We are calling it The Bonobo Gathering to playfully investigate the idea that a bonobo-style society might be a healthy model for human society.
Our closest relatives on the primate family tree are bonobos and chimpanzees. And while chimpanzees have a competitive, aggressive, violent, patriarchal society, bonobos by contrast enjoy a cooperative, nurturing, peaceful, matriarchal society. Human society seems to display aspects of both. But evidence is now mounting that bonobos, and not chimpanzees, are genetically more similar in some key areas, and that the common ancestor of all three species (Ardipithecus) was possibly also more bonobo like. So we want to scratch beneath the surface of our nature, and our nurture, and see if we might find some bonobo underneath.
The gathering will be structured around a series of creative, collaborative, experiential art ‘experiments’ intended to shed light on key questions about our humanity, and in particular our instincts. These experiments will enrich our enquiry into how we create conditions that result in kindness towards strangers, empathy, shared intimacy and other bonobo traits. They will intervene in the notion that art is sacred and untouchable. And they will be more than we can imagine now, because they will be emergent, interactive and play-based. Both principle collaborators have discovered a desire to resist the impulse to define and categorise, instead maintaining the tension of open, unknowing curiosity. The results of these experiments and the creative outputs of the gathering will form a substantial part of an art show (exhibition/performance/event) later in 2019.
The invitation is open to anyone who feels drawn to participate to register their interest. Numbers will be limited to about 20 participants.
Our hope is that people will come willing and ready to engage with one another around this theme, actively contribute to and participate in the program over the weekend, and potentially even continue to be involved with the future art show and events.
The gathering will be held Fri 26 - Sun 28th July 2019. Participants will be welcome to come early or stay later if they wish to create extra time to help set up or pack down, to sight see or to just relax and socialize. But we request that Fri-Sun be focused on the creative, collaborative and FUN intent of the gathering.
We will gather in the rainforest in Chevallum in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The property is readily accessible by transport being about 1.5 hr north of Brisbane by car or train (to Palmwoods or Nambour), and the Sunshine Coast airport is only 20 minutes away.
Facilities on the property are rudimentary and folk with particular needs around access and mobility are encouraged to flag these on the form so we can discuss it with you.
The weather at that time of year is typically dry and relatively warm with daily maxima around 22 and minima around 10.
We are asking people to register their interest via the linked form, to tell us a bit about themselves and their interest in this project. Registering will add you to the group of potential participants and keep you in the loop as the project develops.
Registrations will close at the end of May and registrants will be invited to commit to attending shortly afterwards. While we will endeavour to include everyone who wants to come, since places are necessarily limited it may be that some who have registered an interest will miss out.
It’s our desire that the gathering be open, inclusive, self-organising and free of charge, and that participants come prepared to give and receive freely of both who they are and what they have. The land has an abundance of space, sunlight, water, vegetation and winter warmth. Facilities and infrastructure however are limited. This means it will be a camp out for most with a camp kitchen and composting toilet set up outside. Space for inside cooking, bathing and sleeping is very limited but we will do our best to assist those with particular needs.
More details of the program and what you will need to bring will be provided to those that register their interest.
If you’d like to contact us about the gathering or the project please email us at email@example.com
May 2019 - Registrations of interest. No commitment required. Join the mailing list and find out more information as it becomes available.
June 2019 - Initial details of the gathering will be circulated and registrants will be invited to commit and secure their place.
July 2019 - Final details of the gathering will be shared. Arrangements around participants’ intended arrival and departure dates, travel and lift-sharing, and various contributions to the gathering will be coordinated.
26-28 July 2019 - The Bonobo Gathering
August 2019 - Post-gathering project activities (for those who wish to continue) and The Bonobo Project show/s (locations and dates to be advised)
Your hosts and co-enquirers
Bios are a bit like hats. They can say so much, but you can mostly only wear one at a time. And context is everything! I have worn so many hats in my life. Here’s a selection for your consideration: activist, adventurer, atheist, artist, ecologist, explorer, faerie, father, gardener, homo, husband, lecturer, lover, missionary, musician, nomad, scientist, singer, speaker, writer. Good luck trying to wear some of those at the same time right?
Butterflies don’t wear hats. They put their colours on their wings and advertise them to the whole world wherever they go. It’s easier than trying to remember which hat you’re supposed to be wearing - and so much less baggage! As for my colours, I’m not sure I can really see them that clearly myself. Lots of blue and green for sure. But so many flashes of brilliant opalescence in there too. Perhaps you should tell me what you see?
This particular butterfly lives in the forest, as close to nature as possible, and with as little environmental impact as possible. I left my science career and mainstream life 5 years ago and have been living simply in nature as an artist since then, seeking to heal, to continually reassess my values and align my life with them, and to find my best, unique and meaningful contribution to humanity with the time I (we) have left.
And that is why bonobo. Because I need to know what it means for me to be human in this time. And what it means for you to be human in this time. And what it means for us to be human in this time. What manner of humans we will need to be to survive this new age we are entering? Do we dare believe we can thrive in the face of what is coming? And what it will mean for us to live a beautiful life as we watch much of what we know and love pass into history?
I’m an itinerant and a layabout, so very interested in lying under a shady tree listening to a burbling creek on a warm day. Hopefully with a good book made of paper. Sadly, both trees and idyll days are under threat. So too are my people…so many beautiful things in the path of a voracious, rampaging Juggernaut. How will we survive?
I do a bit of performance and also textile art, I’ve facilitated art therapy classes at a local rehab, reassuring addicts the outcome of their artistic experiments are secondary to the process. The means are the ends, see. I love to go exploring and ask questions because I’m nosey. I’m an armchair philosopher and a wordsmith. I tend gardens and provide goosedown comfort to the people I love, or at least I try to. I grasp at straws and hands and sniff the flowers.
Are there some opaque, watery depths I can dive into? Crawling around in the leaf litter or the ashes…moving slowly and heavily. Perhaps there’s a fire that needs tending and so I can stare into it, caught in the detail.
I thrive in the bosom of grassroots communities, attuned to the life force rhythms of nature and also seek out irreverent pop cultural expressions, big city kicks, opportunities for dressing up, exploring sexual deviances and other lifestyle frivolities. Minimising my ecological footprint and support of the capitalist system is easiest when living under the poverty line, so no one find me a Sugar Mama. White Lady Problems Abound.
You can register your interest in The Bonobo Gathering here or can email us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org