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Where Lakes Once Had Water

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth
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Where Lakes Once Had Water is a 2-channel 4K UHD video (28:24 minutes), filmed on the lands and waters of the Mudburra, Marlinja, Jingili, Elliot, Jawoyn and Larrakia communities in Northern Territory, Australia, with additional filming and editing on Barkandji, Dharawal, Djabugay, Yidinji and Wurundjeri Country. Where Lakes Once Had Water is a CABAH Art Series Commission in association with Bundanon, and is on loan from the University of Wollongong Art Collection.

Where Lakes Once Had Water contemplates how the Earth is experienced and understood through difference ontologies – ways of being, seeing, sensing, listening and thinking – that reverberate across art, Indigenous though, science, ancient and modern cultures, the non-human, and in between.

- Sonia Leber and David Chesworth

In 2018 and 2019, Australian artists Sonia Leber and David Chesworth travelled with a team of Earth and environmental scientists who are investigating changes in the climate, landscape and ecology over 130,000 years. Their journey took them to Australia’s Northern Territory, from locations of long-term aridity across the ephemeral Lake Woods, to Nitmiluk/Katherine Gorge and tropical Girraween Lagoon.

Where Lakes Once Had Water was commissioned by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) in association with Bundanon. It is the first commission in a series initiated in 2018 that aims to engage artists with aspects of CABAH's research to make new work that responds to, questions and interprets the research for broader audiences. 

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The artwork and the scientific research have been supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence scheme (Project number CE170100015). Views expressed are those of the artists and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council.

The artists acknowledge the traditional owners and sovereign custodians of the land and waters throughout Australia and the Torres Strait Islands, and pay respects to Elders, past, present and future, and to all First National Peoples.

Images (above): Where Lakes Once Had Water, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth (video still), 2000.

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