the Way-the Water-the Walk
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( Reserved for the Convenience or Pleasure of the People )
“’The Garden of Eden’ was irrigated. The origin of Eden means fruitful and well-watered. Gardens in the desert and the politics of water scarcity are as old as civilization...
…the word ‘rival’, which now means adversary, was originally used in Roman law to mean those who shared the water of a ‘rivus’ – or irrigation channel.”
Margaret Simons – ‘Cry me a River’. Quarterly Essay 2020
Over four days at the Castlemaine Art Museum we welcomed residents and visitors to test our work to inform its next development phase.
theWay~theWater~theWalk is a river basin simulator, which is part large scale puzzle, part performance in a plumbed landscape. The simulator invites active reflection on the Way of science, Water as subject, the Walk of research processes, and ‘radical action’ through art, performance, and public participation.
It offers a way of connecting with water and partaking in water management within Australia’s biggest river system – the Murray Darling Basin. Audience members use role cards to walk in the shoes of those who make decisions affecting the health of the river basin ecology, First Nation peoples’ cultures, financial market gain, river basin irrigation farming communities, food supply, tourism, and protected Ramsar sites
What shapes the health and survival of the system? Can it be kept in balance? If it collapses, then what? Participants find out through the decisions they make and the roles they adopt.
At CAM, there were many systems ‘collapses’ especially when we opened up on-line water trading for an hour each day over the period the simulator was active. Two performers were the “calm, ochre, eucalyptus, freshwater fish” quoted by a resident.
We recorded residents contributing their thoughts on rivers, and field recordings of the river system. These recordings then drifted through the installation.
The blue spheres indicate the ‘upstream’ Darling River region in Queensland and New South Wales, and the blue blocks indicate the ‘downstream’ plumbed system of the Murray River in Victoria and South Australia. As water moved through the river basin according to decisions implemented by ‘water systems caretakers’ and those made by audience/participants, the two fish sought to move through the basin and survive in the shifting flow.
Information on the greater context of our precious river system was provided in situ, and the even greater cultural context of our rivers and waterways was offered through ‘Dhelkunya Dja’ – the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clan’s Country Plan.
Please read Klare Lanson's commentary on the work in progress.
Next up we’ll be presenting this work online as an Alternative Design Session in the inaugural global Sustainability, Research and Innovation Congress in June 2021 – SRI2021
Creative team for theWay~theWater~theWalk
Concept and direction – Jude Anderson
Design and construction – Morwenna Schenck
Performers – Briega Young, Josiah Lulham
Sound design – Jacques Soddell
Participation and on-line simulator design – Georgia Symons
Water systems workers – Jude Anderson, Morwenna Schenck, Anna Schwartz, Georgia Symons
Documentation – Ideas Agency and Diana Domonkos
Punctum General Management – Steve Mayhew
With contributions from residents and First Nation members of Nalderun, Emeritus Professor Nordin Hasan, Dr. Jazmin Llana, Matt Cornell and generously supported by Claire Eliza – Pool of Dreams and the Australia Council’s Fellowship program.
This project has received the generous support of Pool of Dreams, Claire Eliza's Gift.