Gold Coast artist Libby Harward will present her years-long project on water sovereignty at national virtual arts event Next Wave ASSEMBLE! this weekend.
The Next Wave Festival is a biennial festival normally held in Melbourne, on the land of the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation. It showcases and promotes the work of young and emerging artists and fosters the creation and presentation of works across a broad range of art forms, including dance, theatre, visual arts, performance, new media, and literature.
The 2020 event was the perfect place for Gold Coast multi-disciplinary artist Libby Harward to present her work deadstream_DABILBUNG (brokenwater), a site-specific, conceptual video and soundwork which explores water rights and the protection of First Nations water sovereignty. With the cancellation of the physical festival, a new event was formed – Next Wave ASSEMBLE! a virtual gathering of artists over the next two weeks, and Libby has adapted her piece to the online format.
Libby describes how the restrictions changed her work.
“It was always going to be some video and soundworks, but I was going to do some sculptural work of the deadstream – brokenwater. I really didn’t stop, it’s been a blur for me really, as soon as the restrictions happened I’ve been saying ‘I took a bend in the river’ (laughs) I went full on into producing the videos and the soundworks online.”
The work looks at the issues facing fresh and saltwater country and culture, following 230 years of colonial mismanagement of the country’s ancient river systems; over-extracted, commodified, depleted and disrespected.
“From the speculative marketplace in water futures to rorting of water allocations, excessive irrigation IS colonial violence,” says Libby. She further describes the work and the process of its creation.
“In streaming film and sound works made in reflection of a 2800km road trip I took with children crossing at least 10 of the 27 Aboriginal nations that make up what is known in contemporary western terms as the Murray Darling Basin, an ancient and imperilled river system, I am trying to channel this pain; a kind of spiritual blood-letting, through which thoughts – concepts -conversations – and First Nations perspectives – may flow.”
The importance of the work was further imprinted onto Libby when the pandemic struck, as she realised how significant the stories and information she had gained from potentially vulnerable Elders and communities was.
“I realised I had a lot of interview content full of Indigenous voices which is really valuable to archive, so I felt a strong sense of responsibility and urgency to work on and preserve those precious stories.”
After a lengthy and competitive application process, a years-long journey from conception to creation, and some last minute twists thrown into the mix, Libby’s work, a co-commission between Next Wave and Placemakers* Gold Coast, and now entitled deadstream_DABILBUNG (brokenwater) presents channel_deadstream_tv, is ready to go, and she is “really excited”.
Libby has been supported along the way by Arts Queensland, Australia Council for the Arts and the City of Gold Coast, and is determined to do them all proud, especially her First Nations community, whose voices her work is amplifying, and the systems the work is supporting.
“It was a big deal for me to make sure what I produced was going to be of value for Indigenous communities, the place and for the rivers,” she says.
Libby’s work will stream in two time slots, with the majority of the work being shown on Sat 23 May 5pm – 6pm right here. After the works are streamed you will be able to view them further on Libby’s website. Check out her Insta and Facebook for more updates.
You can read full ASSEMBLE! program for more works from exciting artists around the country.
IMAGE: From episode 4 of channel_deadstream_TV, DOWNSTREAM – Listening with the River with Aunty Cheryl Moggs – Bigambul Elder (Goondiwindi) (C) Lavonne Bobongie