Manly Dam Project | Place, history, water, engineering

Eight contemporary artists; Shoufay Derz, Blak Douglas, Nigel Helyer, David Middlebrook, Sue Pedley, Melissa Smith, Cathe Stack and Nicole Welch – along with eight engineers from the Water Research Laboratory (WRL), formed an open forum to research and discuss the critical role water and coastal management play in Australia’s future.

Their focus, the Manly Dam area – a unique landscape in Sydney’s north rich in natural biodiversity, shaped by the interventions of engineering and science, layered with Aboriginal cultural significance, and social and recreational activity.

Blak Douglas, Dam nation, 2019, synthetic polymer on canvas, 200 x 300cm. Courtesy the artist and Manly Art Gallery & Museum

Their efforts led to the Manly Dam Project, curated by Professor Ian Turner and Katherine Roberts, and the third of a series of significant art and science partnership projects involving the Manly Art Gallery & Museum, with works currently on show until 23 February 2020. Some artists (Douglas, Derz, Smith and Middlebrook) drew direct inspiration from the Manly Dam environment. With deep respect and responsiveness to the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the area, ‘they researched its biodiversity, social history and engineering story to create work that is poetic, powerful and provocative,’ said Roberts.

Sue Pedley, Otolith in the ear of the fish, 2019, Ink and soot on paper, 1000 x 150cm

Several public programs accompany the exhibition. Join sculptor, sound artist and writer Dr Nigel Helyer (a.k.a. DrSonique) for a Sound Walk Workshop on Monday 10 February and be led on an audio journey to find the descriptive and analytical language to describe sound in the environment. Attend the WRL Open Day on Saturday 15 February, and participate in a guided walk on Friday 21 February along the escarpment of the Manly Dam to the Curl Curl Creek waterfall, returning along the water’s edge.

Presented by Manly Art Gallery & Museum and UNSW-WRL, supported by the Aboriginal Heritage Office.