LOCATION: Broken Hill Musicians Club Gallery Bar 276 Crystal Street
Four years ago I was the lead CI on, and acquitted, a substantial linkage grant: Testing experimental technologies and ecological models for new interdisciplinary installations aimed at regenerating degraded sites. Part of the research project was sited in Broken Hill working with The Broken Hill Art Exchange. While out there, during a tour of old mine sites, my guide commented that Broken Hill’s water supply came from over 100kms away via a pipeline, despite the fact that there was “the equivalent of Sydney Harbour sitting directly beneath the city”, in old mine shafts and excavated pockets. It seems that the condition of most of the water beneath Broken Hill is extremely poor—a ‘punch’ infused with old mining vehicles, batteries, lead, oil and other contaminants—and therefore cannot be tapped as is. Broken Hill’s water supply has been drawn from Menindee Lakes for the past 50 years; however, with the lakes currently dry, and Broken Hill due to run out of water in April 2017, plans are underfoot to pipe water from the Murray River, 100km away.
As director of The Environmental Research Initiative for Art, UNSW I am proposing a project which will investigate the extent and nature of the pollution of Broken Hill’s subterranean water resources, then create a test model which will remediate a portion of this water and put it to public use.
The project would involve building a very large, scale aquatic model of the Darling River in a park in Broken Hill. Polluted water drawn from directly under the land would be decontaminated onsite, and the resulting water, clean enough for children to play in safely, would flow through the model. The whole system would be powered by renewable energy. The artistic nature of this test model will be employed firstly to drive interest in, and support for, the research, while the finished model will articulate many of the outcomes in an overt and publicly accessible manner. The projects aim (chronologically) would be to:
As a ‘value add’ it is intended that flora will be planted along, and irrigated by, the model river. This flora would symbolically represent each town, event or highlight along the real Darling river, with this relationship made clear in a ‘map key’. This historical and topographic flora information would be best conceived in close consultation with local indigenous elders and community leaders.
Although this will be largely an engineering project with discernable social impact, the art component will foster interest and enthusiasm, serve to embed the idea, and set a goal, which will be tangible and valuable to the local community. If we were to succeed in purifying the water to such an extent that it is safe for children to paddle in, we will have made a very strong statement; In reality I think a working system that purifies to a ‘grey water’ level is a more likely outcome down the track to best serve municipal needs, but children’s paddling water is a strong statement to aim for initially and will best push the systems while making the point.
Allan Giddy -ABCInterview 26-9.mp3