A Glossary of Water

River with trees each side

27 October 2021 – Online Webinar
In partnership with Biennale of Sydney

Western Sydney University Research Week 2021

View event recording here

Listen to GoW Spotify Playlist here

The Glossary of Water playlist, is a companion to the Biennale of Sydney’s A Glossary of Water book, co-edited by José Roca and Juan Francisco Salazar. Each of the tracks has been carefully curated and selected, in connection to the theme of the Biennale, rīvus, and the one hundred terms that make up the A Glossary of Water book. The playlist has a tidal length, following the long rhythms of oceans, rivers and estuaries, and resisting the lengths of playlists imposed by music industries. So, yes, a long playlist of 10 hours. Tracks selected are linked to the work of participating artists in the Biennale, the commissioned and republished texts selected by the book co-editors, which speak to a range of matters of concern around rivers and waters. They are arranged in alphabetical order but are weaved together in a permanent diffraction pattern. The list includes songs/tracks about 21 rivers. It has 25 First Nations artists from Australia, Aetearoa, Canada, US, India, Ukraine, Chile, Colombia, including the voice of Berta Cáceres, Indigenous Lenca activist murdered in 2016 for defending her river in Honduras. It contains an incredible diversity of music, including more than 30 Black artists from the Caribbean, Africa, Brazil, US, Europe, who have who through afrobeat, afrofuturist jazz; hip hop; wolof, reggae, rhumba, cumbia sign to water and rivers. The list is intruded by experimental sounds and field recordings of bodies waters, rivers, waves, glaciers, fogs and rains. Along the 10 hours listeners may hear at least 50 different musical instruments, some invented by the musicians themselves, to replicate the sounds of waters or communicate with rivers. Many non-human characters make cameos: Albatross, Saltwater Crocodile, Mangroves, Whales, Sea Urchins. The lyrics speak of many forms of rain, of flood devastations, of water spirits, Orishas, and deities. They tell of water conflicts, of slavery and colonialism; and the need for caring for rivers. The selected list includes poems from renown poets such as Farouk Farrokhzadi (Iran), and Nikki Giovani (US) and the experimental folk musician Hermeto Pacoal (Brazil); as well as cult bands such as Australia’s Dirty Three, popular indie bands, Latin American folk, Australian punk;  Japanese traditional Koto music, Chinese traditional 7-string bridgeless zither and Inuit throat singing. And on top of that a few classic pop, rock and electronic tracks.

Event Description

Western Sydney University (WSU) and Biennale of Sydney (BOS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2021 to develop a wide range of collaborations over the next five years. This partnership is integral to the recently launched Western Sydney Creative(opens in a new window), the University’s Arts and Culture Decadal Strategy. This collaboration manifests in a co-edited book titled A Glossary of Water to be launched in March 2022 for the opening of the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, rīvus(opens in a new window), led by Colombian curator José Roca, with a Curatorium of highly respected local curators. To celebrate this partnership between WSU and BOS, this online webinar invites curators, academics, activists and artists working-with water and rivers to a conversation on the theme of the 2022 Biennale, captured in the BOS Curatorial statement:

Rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems feature in the 23rd Biennale of Sydney (2022), titled rīvus, as dynamic living systems with varying degrees of political agency. Indigenous knowledges have long understood non-human entities as living ancestral beings with a right to life that must be protected. But only recently have animals, plants, mountains and bodies of water been granted legal personhood. If we can recognise them as individual beings, what might they say?

rīvus invites several aqueous beings into a dialogue with artists, architects, designers, scientists, and communities, entangling multiple voices and other modes of communication to ask unlikely questions: Can a river sue us over psychoactive sewage? Will oysters grow teeth in aquatic revenge? What do the eels think? Are the swamp oracles speaking in tongues? Do algae reminisce about the days of primordial soup? Are waves the ocean’s desire?

The invited speakers will share their views and experiences on the role of creative and curatorial practices, practice-based research, and art-academic partnerships in fostering collaborative action towards socio-ecological transformations.


09:15 Welcome and Acknowledgements

Chair: Juan Salazar, School of Humanities and Communication Arts / Institute for Culture and Society

Charlotte Galleguillos, Head of Programs and Partnerships, Biennale of Sydney

Dolla Merrillees Director, Western Sydney Creative

Heather Horst, Director, Institute for Culture and Society

Session 1: 9:30 ­– 10:45

Chair: Juan Salazar, School of Humanities and Communication Arts & Institute for Culture and Society

José Roca (Artistic Director, Biennale of Sydney)

Astrida Neimanis (University of British Columbia)

Macarena Gómez-Barris (Pratt Institute)

Andrea Ballestero (University of Southern California)

Session 2:  11:15– 12:30

Chair: Anna Pertierra, School of Humanities and Communication Arts & Institute for Culture and Society

Gay Hawkins (Institute for Culture and Society)

Joni Taylor (New Landscapes Institute)

Talia Linz (Artspace)

Brett Neilson (Institute for Culture and Society)

Session 3: 13:45 – 15:00

Chair: James Gourley, School of Humanities and Communication Arts

Hannah Donnelly (Information and Cultural Exchange)

Michelle Maloney (Australian Earth Laws Alliance) and Louise Crabtree-Hayes (Institute for Culture and Society)

Margaret Somerville and Jen Dollin (School of Education)

Leo Robba (School of Humanities and Communication Arts) and Ian Wright (School of Science)

Speaker Bios

Andrea Ballestero is Visiting Professor of Anthropology at University of Southern California. Her work looks at the unexpected ethical and technical entanglements through which experts understand water in Latin America, in spaces where the law, economics and techno-science are so fused that they appear as one another. Her first book, A Future History of Water(opens in a new window) (Duke University Press, 2019) which is open-access asks how the difference between a human right and a commodity is produced in regulatory and governance spaces that purport to be open to different forms of knowledge and promote flexibility and experimentation. She worked with regulators, policy-makers, and NGOs in Costa Rica and Brazil where she traced how technolegal devices embody moral distinctions,  pose questions about the foundations of liberal capitalist societies, and help people inhabit non-linear and generative futures.

Louise Crabtree-Hayes is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Society and Culture. Her research focuses on the social, ecological and economic sustainability of community-driven housing developments in Australia; on the uptake of housing innovation in practice and policy; on complex adaptive systems theory in urban contexts; and, on the interfaces between sustainability, property rights, institutional design and democracy. Her work is based in a relational understanding of dwelling that foregrounds and seeks to uphold decommodified relationships of stewardship between humans and others. It is underpinning the emergence of forms of permanently affordable and community-led housing in Australia, such as housing cooperatives and community land trusts, on which she is Australia's leading expert.

Jen Dollin is Head, Sustainability Education in the Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor Learning Futures at Western Sydney University. In her current role Jen oversees a range of high-profile sustainability curriculum and engagement initiatives and collaborative partnerships across Greater Western Sydney and the Asia-Pacific. She is passionate about feminist approaches to thinking with water and is deeply entangled with the Darug riverlands of Dyarubbin in the Hawkesbury. Her research interests are in transdisciplinary learning, ecofeminism and queer ecology and she is currently finalising her PhD - a multispecies ethnography on river-eel-human relations.

Hannah Donnelly is Producer, First Nations Programs, at Information + Cultural Exchange (ICE). Hannah is a Wiradjuri curator, writer and producer interested in Indigenous futures, speculative fiction and responses to climate trauma. Winner of the National Indigenous Story Award in 2018, most recently she was Head Curator of Aboriginal Programs at Carriageworks. Hannah is a curator on the Curatorium of the 23rd Biennale of Sydney. She worked as a producer on Next Wave Festival 2018 and Laukatim Solwara AsiaTOPA 2017. Performing regularly as DJ SOVTRAX, she curated First Nations events and playlists, and hosted a feature segment on PBS Radio. She is currently a participant of the Australia Council’s 2020 Custodianship program and chief editor of BLACKLIGHT, a new Sweatshop anthology of First Nations storytelling.

Macarena Gómez-Barris is a scholar and writer who works at the intersections of art, environment, feminist-cuir politics, and decolonial theory and praxis. She was an invited visiting professor at HCA in 2019 as part of the Environmental Humanities Lecture Series with the Australian Museum and presented at Interventions and Intersections PG conference. She is the author of four books and is completing a new book on what she terms the colonial Anthropocene, At the Sea’s Edge: Liquidity Beyond Colonial Extinction (Forthcoming Duke University Press 2022). She is Founding Director of the Global South Center (globalsouthcenter.org) and Chairperson of Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.

Gay Hawkins is a Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society. She is recognised for research in three distinct areas: the relations between culture and governance, environmental humanities, and economic sociology, markets and materiality. She brings to this research theoretical and empirical approaches that are concerned with the intersections between everyday cultural and material practices and political processes. Professor Hawkins' work on environments, natures and cultures has been internationally recognised. Between 2008 and 2013 she worked on a major ARC project investigating the rapid growth of bottled water markets over the last thirty years. This research was published in Plastic Water: the social and material life of bottled water, co-authored with Emily Potter and Kane Race and published by MIT Press in 2015. Over the last ten years she has done a range of related projects investigating the cultural and political history of plastic and its complex remaking of environments, economies and everyday practices.

Talia Linz is Curator at Artspace, Sydney, working with artists across generations on major exhibitions, new commissions, multi-platform projects, public programs and publications. She was previously the Nick Waterlow OAM Curatorial Fellow at the Biennale of Sydney, Executive Producer of Arts and Culture at FBi Radio 94.5FM and Assistant Editor at Art & Australia. She has published widely on contemporary art for institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Biennale of Sydney, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Kaldor Public Art Projects and Hatje Cantz. Talia is currently one of the curators for the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, 2022.

Michelle Maloney is an Earth-centred human with a passionate love of the living world. She is Co-Founder and National Convenor of Australia Earth Laws Alliance (AELA), Director of the New Economy Network Australia (NENA) and the Co-founder and Director of Future Dreaming Australia. She has a Bachelor of Arts (History and Politics) and Laws (Honours) from the Australian National University and a PhD in Law from the Griffith University, Brisbane.  Michelle has more than 30 years’ experience designing and managing climate change, sustainability and ecocentric projects in Australia, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and the USA. This includes working in solidarity with Indigenous colleagues around Australia, on a range of community building, sustainability and cultural heritage projects. Michelle's system change work connects with law, economics, ethics, education, the arts, fostering cross-cultural understanding and decolonising knowledge systems.

Brett Neilson is a Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society. His research and writing aim to provide alternative ways of conceiving globalisation, with particular emphasis upon its social and cultural dimensions. Drawing on cultural and social theory as well as on empirical studies, his work has derived original and provocative means for rethinking the significance of globalisation for a wide range of contemporary problems and predicaments, including the proliferation of borders, the ascendancy of financial markets, the pressures of population ageing, the governance of logistical chains, and the role of digital infrastructures.

Astrida Neimanis is a cultural theorist working at the intersection of feminism and environmental change. Her research focuses on bodies, water, and weather, and how they can help us reimagine justice, care, responsibility and relation in the time of climate catastrophe. Her most recent book, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology is a call for humans to examine our relationships to oceans, watersheds, and other aquatic life forms from the perspective of our own primarily watery bodies, and our ecological, poetic, and political connections to other bodies of water. Additional research interests include theories and practice of interdisciplinarity, feminist epistemologies, intersectionality, multispecies justice, and everyday militarisms. Astrida’s research practice includes collaborations with artists, writers, scientists, makers, educational institutions, and communities, often in the form of experimental public pedagogies. Her writing can be found in numerous academic journals and edited collections, artistic exhibitions and catalogues, and online media.

Leo Robba is a Lecturer at the School of Humanities and Communication Arts. He is a visual communications expert and leader in Social Design practice, theory and human-centred participatory approaches to Planetary Health. As an academic and well-known fine artist, his practice-based research examines the nexus between environment, culture, human health and well-being. He is recognised for his current research, the Painted River Project that links art, science and design to focuses on the ecology of water, the uniqueness of place and to advancing more tangible ways for diverse communities to care for natural systems. His extensive career as a fine artist has resulted in more than 35 solo exhibitions and participation in more than 250 group exhibitions in Australia and overseas. His artwork is in many private and public collections, including, Parliament House, Canberra and he is represented in Sydney by King Street Gallery on William.

José Roca is the Artistic Director of 23rd Biennale of Sydney. He is Artistic Director of the non-for-profit contemporary art space FLORA ars+natura in his home city of Bogotá. He was the Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art for the Tate, London (2012-2015) and for a decade managed the arts program at the Museo del Banco de la República (MAMU) in Bogotá, establishing it as one of the most respected institutions in Latin America. He was the chief curator of the 8th Bienal do Mercosul (2011) in Porto Alegre, Brazil and co-curator of the I Poly/graphic Triennial in San Juan, Puerto Rico (2004), the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2006) and the Encuentro de Medellín MDE07 (2007). He was the Artistic Director of Philagrafika 2010, Philadelphia’s international Triennial celebrating print in contemporary art, and served on the awards jury for the 52nd Venice Biennial (2007).

Margaret Somerville is Professor of Education and leader of the Planetary Wellbeing and Human Learning Program of Research in the School of Education.  Her long standing research in Indigenous understandings of connection to country has also contributed to the way scholars in the field conceptualize place and place-based learning in education. This pioneering work in place studies has informed the publication of seven authored books, an edited collection, and over 60 refereed publications, including 'Water in a Dry Land: place learning through art and story' (Routledge 2013) and Riverlands of the Anthropocene: Walking Our Waterways as Places of Becoming (Routledge 2021).

Joni Taylor(NLI) is a Sydney-based curator and founder of the New Landscapes Institute. She has 15 years of experience in organizing and producing art and architecture events and festivals.  Her curatorial projects explore the transformation of landscapes and address contemporary urban and environmental conditions though research-based projects. She maintains a multidisciplinary practice combining new media, public art, architecture and participation. Previous curatorial projects include The Long Paddock (Wagga Wagga Art Gallery), Groundwork: From the Archives Up ( Gaffa Gallery) , The Right of Way (Delfina Foundation) “Urban Wildlife Safari” for the “In the Balance: Art for a Changing World” (MCA,), “DIY Urbanism” and “The Third Landscape” (Tin Sheds Gallery) and User Generated Architecture – raumlabor Berlin (Sydney Architecture Festival). Her writings have appeared in POLoxygen, Artichoke, Landscape Architecture Australia, ArchitectureAU and Realtime. She has received funding from Create NSW, Australia Council, City of Sydney, Goethe Institute, Kier Foundation, Australian Postgraduate Award and ANAT. She has a Masters by Research (Design) in utopian urbanism and a Bachelor of Art History and Theory. She was a founding member of the international art collective Free Soil.

Ian Wright is a science communicator, researcher and senior lecturer in Western Sydney University's School of Science. He teaches classes in water science and management, environmental planning and environmental regulation across several degree programs. Prior to WSU, Ian was a scientist in the urban water industry, mainly working at Sydney Water. His research interests include freshwater ecology, water quality, water policy and water pollution (science and management). He also has a long-standing research interest in the impact of concrete materials on water quality and also on impact and management of coal mining activities on streams and rivers. Ian has provided independent expert testimonies for environmental science matters for the NSW Land & Environment Court.