Drawing Water: a cross-cultural, cross-institutional collaborative project

The Drawing Water initiative is a collaborative exchange project between fine art students from three institutions: Queensland College of Art, GU, Geidai (Tokyo University of the Arts) and Joshibi University of Art and Design in Tokyo. The project is initiated and lead by co-curators Professor Pat Hoffie and Dr. Linda Dennis (Joshibi) and coordinated by Dr. Bill Platz. QCA doctoral candidates included Carol McGregor, Anthony Vanghua Vue, Sally Molloy and Nat Koyama.

Conceived as the second iteration of GCCAR’s DIG (Drawing International Griffith) series of three major events between 2015 and 2017, the initiative produced an exhibition in Tokyo in September, a series of exhibitions in collaboration with Brisbane City Council’s Vibrant Laneways programme between December 2016 and March 2017, an exhibition at a nominated QCA postgraduate gallery early 2017, videos, online works and a major online publication with essay contributions by leading scholars.

The theme:
The thematic framework for Drawing Water is based on the understanding that both Australia and Japan are island-nations; that the shores of each are washed by a number of seas, and that that both countries are linked by the currents of the Pacific Ocean. The project acknowledges the primacy of water in our lives, and the fact that, as humans, both our brains and our hearts are composed of 73% water. It’s based on the expectation that it is, in part, this watery dimension of our existence that draws us to the dimensions of other fluid possibilities and realms.

The process:
Drawing Water project involved a lead-up time of three months prior to residency, when the artists engaged in online communication responding to specific prompts. During that time and while together in Tokyo the artists worked in four collaborative teams. Each team nominated a particular ‘water site’ in Tokyo to travel to during the first days of the two-week residency and in the following ten days worked in a workshop/think tank/ laboratory situation to produce a finished work.

The outcomes (Part 1):
Over a ten-day collaborative project in Tokyo, the artists came up with four artworks that prompt us to think about the power of water.

(a)   The artist-team including Sally Molloy produced a video work, titled Tokyo Protocol: The Water Monsters’ Summit, in which two mythological water monsters meet on a Pacific shoreline to discuss their shared concerns about cultural differences and ecological crises. Like a fairytale dreaming, the two unlikely ambassadors realise there is a lot more cultural sharing to do if the Pacific’s environmental future is to be secured.

(b)   In works titled shared Pacific and tied close together, Carol McGregor and her artist-team linked Australian Aboriginal coolamon and dillybag shapes to vessels from ancient Japan’s jomon culture. In the adjoining work traditional South East Queensland possum skin cloaks sit side by side traditional calligraphic kanji text that describes Turrbal and Jaggera words for water.

(c)    Water Followings, an installation produced by a team including Anthony Vanghua Vue examines the way all bodies of water – oceans, rivers, waterfalls, Japanese onsen, Australian waterholes, swimming pools and streams – call to us. Whether through awe and veneration or simply through relaxation and contemplation, water draws us out of ourselves. Via epic pilgrimages or simple camping trips, we are drawn to water sites to find out as much about ourselves as the landscape.

(d)   In Tokyo/Brisbane Identity Disassembly Centre, the artist-team including Nat Koyama looked at the way our cities are supported over an underground network of sewage pipes that intertwine to run all the way to purification processes and back again. The recycling of water-waste to a reusable element is a process that takes everyday dross and transforms it. Artists use this system to reflect on future possibilities for re-circulating excess data and information into more interconnected, meaningful approaches to the world’s future.

The outcomes (Part 2):
(a)  New works are currently in the process of being designed for the Vibrant Laneways project with the Brisbane City Council. These will involve 5 outdoor galleries. These sites will be linked together via an online app that fleshes out the broader questions about water, art, artists and cross-cultural participation. (see the story "Drawing Water in Vibrant Laneways" for an update.)

(b)  Writing and new artworks for the online publication are currently being worked on.

Professor Pat Hoffie