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CDU Event

Where Lakes Once Had Water

Presenter CDU Art Gallery
Contact person
Eileen Lim
T: 08 8946 6621 E:
Location CDU Art Gallery, Chancellery (building orange 12), ground floor Casuarina campus
Open to CDU staff and students, Public


On the occasion of the first public exhibition of Where Lakes Once Had Water in the Northern Territory, CDU Gallery presents a symposium exploring the intersect between video art, scientific research and First Nation’s customs and knowledge.

The symposium speakers will reflect on their perspectives of working in these beautiful, ancient and challenging environments, their research, discoveries and inter-disciplinary collaboration with fellow scientists, Elders and Traditional Owners. 

Where Lakes Once Had Water, video still

Information about the symposium panellists:

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth are a collaborative artist-duo based in Melbourne/Naarm, known for their distinctive video, sound and architecture-based installations that are audible as much as visible. Leber and Chesworth’s works are speculative and archaeological, often involving communities and elaborated from research in places undergoing social, technological or local geological transformation. Their works emerge from the real, but exist significantly in the realm of the imaginary, hinting at unseen forces and non-human perspectives. Sonia Leber is a Senior Industry Fellow in the School of Art at RMIT University and David Chesworth is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Art at RMIT University.

Roque Lee (Gullawun) is a ranger and artist. Through his work as a ranger, he spent several years in Kakadu where he also worked alongside scientists. As a ‘saltwater’ Larrakia man he is committed to the care of country and seas, as well as freshwater systems. During his time in Kakadu, Roque acquired artistic knowledge and skills from Indigenous artists in that region. He works across several mediums including objects such as spears and other weapons, didgeridoos, message sticks and fans made from bird feathers and bone.

Professor Jennifer Deger, Professor of Digital Humanities, CDU (Symposium Chairperson), is co-director of the Centre for Creative Futures and Professor of Digital Humanities at Charles Darwin University. Her work moves through the intertidal zones of anthropology, art and environmental humanities; it finds form in film, digital media, experimental writing, and curation. For the past 25 years Jennifer has worked on co-creative media projects under Yolŋu leadership, collaborations that continue to inform and energize her commitments to social research and its potentially transformative reach. She is a co-founder of Miyarrka Media, an award-winning collective based in northeast Arnhem Land currently funded by the ARC to investigate beaches as sites of intensified life and vulnerability. Jennifer co-curated Feral Atlas: the More-than-Human Anthropocene with Anna Tsing, Alder Keleman Saxena and Feifei Zhou, a collective ranked 15 on the Power 100 list of top influencers in the contemp orary art world for 2020. The new book by this team, Field Guide to the Patchy Anthropocene, will be published by Stanford University Press in 2024.

Mick Brand is a proud north Australian and has spent the past two decades working in savanna ecosystems in concert with those who know it best; Indigenous Australians. He is interested in pro- and paleo-ecology and how understanding past ecosystems can help inform future management in terms of people, climate and land.

Dr Cassandra Rowe is a palaeoecologist and palynologist, with a background in botany and geography, specialising in the use of pollen and charcoal to reconstruct past environments. Her research interests include the action of climate change and fire dynamics on ecosystem variability, and human-landscape relationships on vegetation pattern, with emphasis on tropical savanna environments, mangrove and island flora. The application of environmental history to ecosystem conservation-management is an additional focus. She has participated extensively in archaeological and geomorphological field projects, focused on multi-discipline data integration and working in close association with Indigenous communities. She is a Research Fellow at James Cook University.

Where Lakes Once Had Water is a 2-channel 4K UHD video, 28:24 minutes. Filmed on the lands of the Mudburra, Marlinja, Jingili, Elliot, Jawoyn and Larrakia communities in the Northern Territory, Australia, with additional filming and editing on Barkandji, Dharawal, Djabugay, Yidinji and Wurundjeri Country. It is a creative journey encompassing audio-visual realms, scientific endeavour and Indigenous knowledge, stories and custodianship – a coalescence of efforts to understand the ancient land.

Where Lakes Once Had Water was commissioned by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for 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 research for broader audiences. Where Lakes Once Had Water is on loan from the University of Wollongong Art Collection.


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