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Art and Science Come Together in New MAG&M Exhibition

Source: Northern Beaches Council
Archived 14 Jan 2020 - Posted: 16 Nov 2019
Nicole Welch, Yarrahapinni # 1 (still), 2019, infrared time-lapse film (2)
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

Participating Engineers

  • Ian Coghlan
  • Chris Drummond
  • Francois Flocard
  • Mitchell Harley
  • Alice Harrison
  • Tino Heimhuber
  • Gabriella Lumiatti
  • Ben Modra

 PUBLIC PROGRAMS:                                                                                                 

Artists ‘in conversation’               

Sunday 8 December, 3 - 4pm

Katherine Roberts leads a conversation with the artists about their experiences working on the Manly Dam Project, their creative processes and artworks in the exhibition.

Sound Walk Workshop

Mon 10 February 2020, 10am – 12.30pm

Join sculptor, sound-artist and writer, Dr Nigel Helyer, (a.k.a. DrSonique) for this workshop which will lead you on an audio journey which will test the power of language to find the descriptive and analytical language to describe sound in the environment.

For bookings and further details, search ‘Sound Walk Manly’ on Eventbrite

Water Research Laboratory Open Day

Saturday 15 February 2020, 9am – 1pm

The WRL Open Day is a fantastic opportunity to experience first-hand this unique, world-class research facility. Tour the massive labs, meet the experts, and see engineering and science at work. All are welcome! If you are interested in water, engineering, science or the environment, then come along!

110 King Street, Manly Vale

For further details, visit Water Research Laboratory UNSW

Guided Walk at Manly Dam

Friday 21 February 2020, 10am – 1pm

Join Karen Smith, the Aboriginal Heritage Office’s Education Officer on a guided walk from the Dam Wall, along the escarpment and to the Curl Curl Creek waterfall and returning along the water’s edge. Bring your own picnic lunch and water.

Bookings via Eventbrite, search ‘Manly Dam Guided Walk’.


Manly Art Gallery & Museum     

West Esplanade Reserve, Manly NSW 2095

Open Tue – Sun, 10am – 5pm (closed Mondays & Public Holidays) Free entry

T: 02 9976 1421   E:  Email

Blak Douglas, Dam Nation, 2019, synthetic polymer on canvas, 200 x 300cm
Melissa Smith, Eva's walk I, 2019, intaglio collagraph print (3 panels), 76 x 168cm
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