Menu Close
  • TimeThursday 10 February, 12.00-1.30pm
  • VenueANU Drill Hall Gallery
  • Tickets

Bookings essential:

In 2018 and 2019 collaborating artists Sonia Leber and David Chesworth were invited to travel with a team of Earth scientists on field trips to remote, expansive landscapes in Australia’s Northern Territory. Commissioned by ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), this interdisciplinary experience resulted in an immersive long-form video artwork Where Lakes Once Had Water, filmed on the lands and waters of the Mudburra, Marlinja, Jingili, Elliot, Jawoyn and Larrakia communities in the Northern Territory, with additional filming and editing on Barkindji, Dharawal, Djabugay, Yidinji and Wurundjeri Country. It is a creative journey encompassing audio-visual realms, scientific endeavour and traditional Indigenous knowledge, stories and custodianship – a coalescence of efforts to understand the ancient land.

On the occasion of the first public exhibition of Where Lakes Once Had Water, Drill Hall Gallery presents artists Sonia Leber and David Chesworth in discussion with CABAH scientists Tim Cohen and Cassandra Rowe in the gallery. Chaired by CABAH’s Amanda Lawson and Adj. Professor Margo Neale, each speaker will reflect on their perspectives working in these beautiful, ancient and challenging environments, their research, discoveries and inter-disciplinary collaboration with fellow scientists, Larrakia rangers, Elders and Traditional Custodians.

About the speakers:

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth are a collaborative artist duo 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.

Tim Cohen is an Associate Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong. He is the Deputy Theme leader for Climate in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). He is a geomorphologist and Quaternary scientist who researches landscapes and their evolution and past climates. In many ways he is a natural historian, an earth scientist and somebody who reads the landscape. His current work includes palaeoclimatic research in central Australia on what was once Australia’s mega-lakes. Whilst many in his field either stick to the past or the present, Tim’s research attempts to straddle the two and integrate the results into the management of the Australian landscape. He has had extensive experience in both the research and applied aspects of his work working for state governments, resource management agencies and as an independent consultant.

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.

Cassandra has wide experience working across northern Australia, extending into southern lowland Papua New Guinea. 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 currently a Research Fellow at James Cook University, based in Cairns.

Amanda Lawson, symposium co-chair, is an emeritus professor at the University of Wollongong (UOW). Following a career in the arts in Australia which included leadership roles in the museum and gallery sector, she moved to UOW in 2004, becoming the inaugural head of Art and Design and later Dean of Creative Arts and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts. Until recently she was also director of the UOW Art Collection.  From 2017 Amanda worked on the establishment of CABAH, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage as Chief Investigator and leader of Education and Engagement programs. Retiring in 2020, she is now an Associate Investigator with CABAH, continuing her interests in curatorship, arts development and audience development with a focus on CABAH’s series of art commissions. She is commissioner of Leber & Chesworth’s Where Lakes Once Had Water.

Adj. Professor Margo Neale is Head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges, Senior Indigenous Curator and Principal Advisor to the Director at the National Museum of Australia. She was inaugural Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program and the Gallery of First Australians at the Museum, having held roles previously at the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where she co-established and curated the first Indigenous gallery, Yiribana. She was the inaugural curator and established the first Indigenous Art Department at Queensland Art Gallery. Margo is a co-recipient of seven Australian Research Council grants in collaboration with the ANU, Monash, Yale and the University of Victoria. She is the author, co-author or editor of many publications, including the Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture and the recent Thames & Hudson book on Songlines. She has curated major exhibitions such as Australia’s largest international solo exhibition for an Australian artist, Emily Kame Kngwarreye (2008) which was also the first national touring exhibition for an Aboriginal artist (1998). Her award-winning Songlines exhibition is currently touring to major venues in Europe, UK, USA, and Asia. Margo is of Aboriginal and Irish descent, from Kulin nation with Gumbayngirr clan connections.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and sovereign custodians of the land and waters throughout Australia and Torres Strait Islands, and pay respects to Elders, past, present and future, and to all First Nations Peoples.

Photo: Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, Where Lakes Once Had Water (video still), 2020. 2-channel 4K UHD video, stereo audio, 28:14 minutes. University of Wollongong Art Collection. CABAH Art Series Commission in partnership with Bundanon. 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. 

Essential COVID-19 information for visitors to the Drill Hall Gallery here

The Drill Hall Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.