24 September – 20 November 2021
Water as culture, concept and commodity
Guest Curator: Danni Zuvela
Lead Artists:: Libby Harward, Archie Moore, Mandy Quadrio
Here, Libby Harward brings together sea salt, mangrove mud collected from Yartapuulti (place of sleep), Kaurna country with Uncle Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien, with radiant heat and negative space in a custom-built water extraction chamber.
Standing inside the chamber, as the heat builds, the artist begins to sweat. As she perspires, under duress, the salt water performs a critique of the forced extraction of water bodies by corporate interests.
The artist’s absent body is implied by the presence of the mud handprints above the chamber door. The absence is not neutral. Rather, it is charged, accusatory, and political: the heated empty volume of the transparent case confronts the viewer with uncomfortable reminders of the ongoing ‘museumification’ of Aboriginal people and their culture in the museum and gallery sector through the trade in, and refusal to relinquish, stolen cultural ‘specimens’ – precious material artefacts and ancestral remains.
Mangroves are responsible for protecting our intertidal zones where fresh water meets salt water. The mangrove mud lapping at the edges of Libby’s chamber holds the stories of the Kaurna people, as well as Libby’s own story as a salt water woman. Libby’s Quandamooka country consists of sand islands that sit on a system of fresh water aquifers, one of which is pumped out to supply household water in South-East Queensland.
The capacity of these ancient underground water systems to sustain the endless thirst of occupation is unknown. However, what is clear is that the continual escalation of freshwater extraction is enabled by a regime of power as venal as it is irresponsible, underpinned by an ideology that critics of Australian water policy term ‘hydrodenialism’.
Libby often uses the mangrove mud from the precious intertidal zones of her Quandamooka country and neighboring countries in her work, as this mud – a material that is fundamentally both earth and water – has a direct relationship with her own blood.
PVC pipe, perspex, wood, sea salt, sweat, heat lamp, mangrove mud and ochre collected from Yartapuulti (place of sleep) on Kaurna country, with Uncle Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien.