Projection on side of Civic Centre building at night

Arts & Culture

A moving experience: projections of the Murrumbidgee River

Published: 13 Nov 2020 9:54am

A creative interpretation of the Murrumbigee River is lighting up the city’s Wollundry Lagoon Precinct each night, with the release of the final projected artwork from Wagga Wagga City Council’s NightLights program.

Exploring how water links community and land, Time Tracing is an original performance video created in Wagga Wagga, which tracks and projects the ever-changing conditions and lines of the Murrumbidgee River catchment.

Projection and installation artist Kellie O’Dempsey worked with a local videographer Damian Jenkins and performers to create the work, which incorporates dance, movement and montage to simulate the power and life of the river.

The map lines of the Murrumbidgee River were recreated through the moving bodies of local performers Wes Boney, Zoë Hadler, Natasha Strimpf and Marcus Wright.

“We filmed the dancers down on the beach at dusk – it looks quite mysterious,” Ms O’Dempsey said.

“There’s a tracing of the river that moves across the whole image, but it’s actually very fine.

“The dancers move through the space and become these great big figures that occupy the landscape, standing with the trees along the beach with the same presence and strength.

“First Nations culture is reteaching everybody that people, environment and landscape are one and the same – the river is an ancient part of life that needs to be protected.”

Originally planning to project her light drawings directly onto the dancers as they moved, Ms O’Dempsey had to reimagine the work after the COVID-19 shutdown put a halt to their planned workshop.

“Together we came up with a choreography script and broke it down into three parts – the idea of drought, flood, and the river coming back to its middle ground,” Ms O’Dempsey said.

“It was a cooperative production. There was a lot of improvisation and conversation, and we did it all online!”

Created for the 50m x 8m facade of the Wagga Wagga Civic Centre, the projection is the largest artwork Ms O’Dempsey has ever made.

“I think it looks fantastic and with the reflection in the lagoon – it kind of blew me away,” Ms O’Dempsey said.

“As a visual projection experience, it’s quite haunting. I think the river has a lot of ancient stories to tell – we’re just passers-by.”

Time Tracing can be viewed from the Wollundry Lagoon Precinct nightly from 8.30pm, from 9 November – 3 December 2020.

The projection is the final commission of the NightLights program, which was funded through the Council’s ‘Enliven’ Public Art Plan 2017 – 2021.