“She the River” collaboration for Untaming the Urban

The below text is the artist statement which accompanies the creative work She the River being presented as part of the Untaming the Urban exhibition, curated by Tracey Benson at the Australian National University, December 2018

A curatorial collaboration by Liz Barker, Louisa Miranda, and Thomas Dick

Statement by Liz Barker

As an artist, I make creek prints in rivers. I stand ankle or shin deep in the water and place my paper on the waters surface and gently peel it off again. I then dry and varnish them. The prints are beautiful and lyrical and they sing songs of the river. Songs of decay. Songs of new life. Songs of cycles. The surface scum is made up of phytoplankton, which is the base of the oceanic food web. Collectively these microscopic organisms while floating around on the surface level of the worlds oceans and waterways, provide up to 80% of the worlds oxygen through photosynthesis. This surface scum is source of all life on this planet. It is in this way that the creek prints are guiding me into the world of science. Perhaps they are the maps themselves. Landmarks along the way. They are non linear pathways, maps to unknown places, maps of the river themselves. A glimpse of the beauty of the whole. A journey back to wholeness.

This is a collaborative exhibition that explores these meandering maps and pathways. My creek prints are featured in digital format for the first time, presented on a large screen. But this exhibition is primarily about giving an aesthetic expression to Tom’s PhD research with communities in Vanuatu. Privileging multiple subjectivities and make them accessible through visual means. Understanding traditional wisdom as science. Curating science into art. Working with artist, poet and dancer Louisa Miranda the three of us are curating his research. Tom, Louisa and I worked together in Bangkok making prints like these from the overburdened waterways around the city. Almost 20 years have passed and this exhibition marks our creative and scientific reunion.

Along with the prints we take sonic recordings of the submarine environment, documenting more-than- human entanglements with the riparian setting through poetry and creative writing, while scientifically analysing the health of the waterways over time.

See:

Thomas Dick ‘Reconciling kastom, tourism, and art in the Pacific: the case of the Leweton Cultural Group and “water music”’ available at http://epubs.scu.edu.au/theses/560/

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SCANZ CBR 2017, Photo by Martin Drury

SCANZ CBR 2017

This is a very tardy post about an event that the TransArts Alliance led in organising in July 2017.

Through our partnership with Intercreate and University of Canberra’s Institute of Applied Ecology and the Inspire Centre, we created a 2.5 day workshop in Canberra to focus on the theme of Ocean*Energy From the Mountains to the Sea.

About
The overarching theme of Ocean*Energy would seem to be a strange fit for the inland city of Canberra. But if you look at the geological history of the city, it occupies what was once an inland sea which opens up a conversation about deep time and change over time. Close to Canberra is also the source of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, which have provided hydro-electricity to the region through the Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme.

The theme was deliberately open and provides for a diversity of readings on what ‘ocean’ and ‘energy’ can be. It can be a literal reading of energy in terms of electricity, renewables and solar or be defined as the effort, passion and focus of community to make positive environmental changes. It also allows for discrete discussions on place about islands, oceans, mountains and rivers. This forum provided the opportunity to look at areas like the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers and connect with existing research and knowledge about Country that could be contributed by participants.

Ngunawal Elder Wally Bell did a wonderful Welcome to Country as well as a healing ceremony at the opening and as part of the Water Blessing held at Lake Ginninderra with Loving Waters. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful ceremony followed by a group dinner.

Participants included: Dian Booth, Sandy Sur, Jacintha Bezgovsek, Desna Whaanga-Schollum, Josiah Jordan, Stephen Barrass, Julie Armstrong, Shelley Darling, Lee Joachim, Tommy Dick, Martin Drury, Siwan Lovett, Damian Wrigley, Kate Genevieve, Leah Barclay, Ian Clothier and Tracey Benson.