2-channel 4K video, 5.1 audio, 29 minutes
Exhibition space approx 10m x 9m, variable
Acoustically isolated screening space, if possible
2 x 4K (3840 × 2160) video projectors
2 x 4 metre wide projection screens
Sync video delivery, eg 2 x 4K Brightsigns
5.1 audio system
Where Lakes Once had Water is a spectacular and sensorial video and sound installation that transports us into the remote arid zone of Australia - from the ancient dry lakes of central Northern Territory, to Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge and coastal Girraween Lagoon.
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth are currently completing the first CABAH Art Series Commission, built up around the fieldwork of Dr Tim Cohen, Dr Cassandra Rowe and Dr Michael Bird, working with Traditional Owners, rangers and participants from the Mudburra, Jingili, Jawoyn and Larrakia communities.
Commissioned by ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH).
Where Lakes Once had Water takes us on an imaginative journey, exploring the labour of scientists and traditional owners as they dig and delve into the past, reading the signs and signals in the landscape, over concepts of deep time.
From fieldwork in the expansive desert environment, to microscopic labwork, the scientists seek evidence of earth's processes over long-term cycles of wet and dry. Climate evidence is extracted from the earth and captured in tubular cores where the banded sediments can be interpreted as a long-term 'score' of periods of wet and dry.
Leber and Chesworth deploy video as a tool, scanning the surface of the earth, observing and reading signs and markings in rocks and landscapes, registering erosions, tree lines, and the effects of sun and water. The camera follows the path of a dusty riverbed over many kilometres, revealing unceasing aridity. We experience vegetation through the jerking head movements of a falcon.
Many of Earth's forces – wind, temperature, long-term aridification and tectonic movement – are invisible to the human eye or lie beyond human timescales. However, Where Lakes Once had Water reveals some of these forces, sonically mobilised, as they converge and interact with each other. The 'frozen time' bandings in the sediment cores are reactivated through movement and sound.
'Our project tests the hypothesis that the earth is experienced and understood through different ontologies. These ways of being, seeing, sensing, listening and thinking can align with art, Indigenous thought, science, ancient and modern cultures, the non-human, and somewhere in between.
'Our method is to uncover and create special kinds of experiences that are sensorial, performative and speculative, through images and sounds collected in the field and in the research laboratory.
'To create the soundtrack we used an array of contact microphones, hydrophones and electromagnetic transducers, alongside regular microphones. We were interested in capturing, and also translating, the hidden signals and energies both in the field and the laboratory.
'This is analogous to the work of the earth scientists, who firstly capture sediments in cores to take back to the lab where they unlock the energies in these sediments – in electrons, isotopes, ancient pollens and other carbons – to analyse patterns in the long-term record.
'Our project develops the idea that different investigative pathways can coexist, resonate, and converge in surprising ways.'
- Sonia Leber & David Chesworth