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Reviews/Visual Art

A project for the climate crisis

22 November 2019

Sete Tele and Lisa Hirmer, ‘Drinking Water’ ·
Moores Building ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

“Drinking Water”, a project by Australian dance artist Sete Tele and Canadian interdisciplinary artist Lisa Hirmer, cultivates a timely awareness of (and appreciation for) water as a precious natural resource.

A field of floor tiles, scattered over the ground level gallery of the Moores Building, frame an assortment of furniture, plinths and tableware containing varying levels of water. Piles of photographs have been spread over these plinths, and arranged on the floor, depicting various methods of improvised, small-scale water gathering.

Photo: Lisa Hirmer

As the Fremantle Biennale’s website explains, Tele and Hirmer began this iteration of their project by enlisting Fremantle locals to participate as volunteer “water collectors”. Together the artists and participants workshopped survival water gathering techniques, before designing and implementing a collection method bespoke to each person’s home.

The resulting photographs in this exhibition presumably document the efforts of this community, showing buckets, ice-cream containers, dewy plants, and hands squeezing wet cloths. Lacking any explanatory text, these loose photographs act as an informal archive; capturing multiple moments of water collection in a human-scale format that can be re-sorted and rearranged.

Resembling the remnants of a domestic ritual, these images seem to collectively speak to personal interactions with the natural landscape, our communal relationship with water, and our place as citizens within a wider ecology. However the lack of personal presence from the participants in the exhibition space is keenly felt – with this absence emphasised by the sounds of the bustling café surrounding the show.

Exhibited as a part of “UNDERCURRENT 19”, the second edition of the Fremantle Biennale, the considerations raised by this project could not be timelier in our current era of climate crisis.

“Drinking Water” runs until 24 November 2019.

All photos: Lisa Hirmer

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Author —
Jenny Scott

Jenny Scott received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) from the University of Western Australia, and has spent the past ten years working and volunteering in the arts sector on Whadjuk Noongar boodja. She has fond memories of the dangerous thrill of the playground roundabout.

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