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  • When10 February - 10 April
  • Artists NamesSonia Leber and David Chesworth

Sonia Leber & David Chesworth
Where Lakes Once Had Water, 2020,
2-channel 4K UHD video, stereo audio, 28:14 minutes.

In 2018 and 2019 artists Sonia Leber and David Chesworth travelled with a team of Earth and environmental scientists investigating changes in the climate, landscape and ecology over many millennia in the Northern Territory. Leber and Chesworth’s Where Lakes Once Had Water (2020) channels this experience, in which Indigenous rangers, Elders and community members collaborate with scientists in spectacular yet challenging environments.

Presented across two screens, this immersive long-form video is a journey encompassing audio-visual realms, scientific endeavour and traditional Indigenous knowledge, stories and custodianship – a coalescence of efforts to understand the ancient land.

Sonia Leber & David Chesworth: Where Lakes Once Had Water was commissioned by the Education and Engagement program of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) in association with Bundanon. It was filmed on the lands and waters of the Mudburra, Marlinja, Jingili, Elliot, Jawoyn and Larrakia communities in Northern Territory, with additional filming and editing on Barkindji, Dharawal, Djabugay, Yidinji and Wurundjeri Country, and is the first of four art commissions that aim to engage artists with aspects of CABAH’s research to make new work that responds to, questions, and interprets the research for broader audiences.

Dedicated to researching and preserving Australia’s cultural heritage and natural environment, CABAH works across disciplinary boundaries, and seeks to garner broad perspectives of the past in order to engage new audiences with the story of ‘epic Australia’.

Melbourne/Naarm-based artists Sonia Leber and David Chesworth are 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. Leber and Chesworth’s artworks have been shown in the central exhibitions of the 56th Venice Biennale: All The World’s Futures (2015) and the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire (2014). Solo exhibitions include What Listening Knows, Messums Wiltshire, UK (2021) and the survey exhibition Architecture Makes Us: Cinematic Visions of Sonia Leber & David Chesworth, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2018) touring to UNSW Galleries, Sydney (2019) and Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane (2019).
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.

Related events:

Symposium: Where Lakes Once Had Water – 12.00 – 1.30pm, 10 February. Bookings essential.

A comprehensive monograph has been published by Bundanon in association with CABAH with commissioned essays by Sophie Knezic, Fiona Gruber and Tim Flannery, plus Michael-Shawn Fletcher in conversation with Sonia Leber and David Chesworth. Supported by the Gordon Darling Foundation and designed by Paul Mylecharane and Kim Mumm Hansen of Public Office. Available from Perimeter Books.

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, with additional filming and editing on Barkindji, 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.

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