The Manly Dam area is a picturesque landscape rich in natural biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural significance. It is also a landscape shaped by engineering and science as a result of the construction of the dam.
So it is very fitting that the area is the subject of a special exhibition, the third in a series of major art and science partnership projects involving the Manly Art Gallery & Museum.
The Manly Dam Project exhibition (6 December – 23 February) is proudly presented in conjunction with the Water Research Laboratory (WRL), a facility of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney and supported by the Aboriginal Heritage Office.
Mayor Michael Regan said the project was unique, bringing together artists and engineers in an open forum focussing on art, engineering and the environment.
“MAG&M is a an excellent venue for this fascinating exhibition that portrays in art form the man-made impact of engineering and construction on the local natural landscape and environment.”
MAG&M’s Senior Curator, Katherine Roberts said bringing the artists and engineers together on site at the research laboratories at WRL, adjacent to the Manly Dam, created real energy and an opportunity to say something meaningful about place and water.
“The result is that the eight contemporary artists have created new works inspired by place, history, water management and engineering.
“The artists immersed themselves in the site, initiated their own research and enquiries, learned from the WRL engineers, educators and historians and created new series of works.”
The WRL has a strong connection with the area. 2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the laboratory in the grounds of the Manly Warringah War Memorial Park, adjacent to the Manly Dam, nestled in the bushland below the dam wall.
Katherine Roberts said many of the artists focused on the Dam itself.
“Four of the artists (Blak Douglas, Shoufay Derz, Melissa Smith and David Middlebrook) took as their inspiration the Manly Dam environment itself, all of them deeply respectful and responsive to the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the area. They researched its biodiversity, social history and engineering story to create work that is poetic, powerful and provocative.”
“We hope this project deepens our understanding of the Manly Dam area as a significant site for cultural understanding, environmental study and for raising the awareness of issues related to water management more broadly.”
The joint curator for the project, Director of the WRL, Professor Ian Turner said: “Artists and researchers share a common aspiration to discover, understand, interpret and communicate the natural and cultural environment we live in.”
“It is the very existence of Manly Dam that resulted in the decision in the mid-1950s to establish WRL at the University of New South Wales’ Northern Beaches Campus in Manly Vale.
“So with 2019 marking the 60th year that the UNSW Water Research Laboratory (WRL) has been in operation at the base of Manly Dam, it is especially fitting to participate in an arts-science partnership focussed on ‘place’, with a particular emphasis on the critical role of water and coastal management to Australia’s future.”
Participating artists and engineers are:
- Shoufay Derz
- Blak Douglas
- Nigel Helyer
- David Middlebrook
- Sue Pedley
- Melissa Smith
- Cathe Stack
- Nicole Welch
- Ian Coghlan
- Chris Drummond
- Francois Flocard
- Mitchell Harley
- Alice Harrison
- Tino Heimhuber
- Gabriella Lumiatti
- Ben Modra