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A still photograph of a masculine-appearing person making a splash in dark, almost black water (DETAIL)

We evolved in water and emerged from water. We carry the ocean within. On a cellular level, our bodies move to the deep-remembered rhythms of this early environment. ‘Water’ drew together works by international and Australian artists to express the many ways in which this vital element connects us.

Just beyond the Gallery, the Brisbane River rises and falls — with rain, with the tides. For tens of thousands of years people have gathered here at Kurilpa, named after the water rat Kuril. Megan Cope’s layered midden of cast concrete oyster shells reminds us that water sustains generations. Her installation echoes the heaped mounds of discarded shell once found along the river and around Moreton Bay.

Nurturing and destructive, infinitely renewable, water cycles through us and through the atmosphere, the deepest aquifers and the oceans. Water defines this blue planet, comprising 70 per cent of our bodies and the surface of the globe alike. The patterns of how water flows are changing rapidly. Rising sea levels, water scarcity and extreme weather events — drought, fire and storm — now require our coordinated ingenuity and action.

We are born fluid. Full of creativity and potential, we are always learning new skills. William Forsythe’s field of suspended rings, The Fact of Matter 2009, asks us to lift and extend our bodies. Although the work is playful in spirit, the challenge represented is real: how will we navigate rising sea levels — as individuals and collectively? Deciding where to focus our energy, which way to go, is no easy task. We live in times of immense change. Can we learn to move together differently, with urgency, agility and care?


From major immersive experiences to smaller-scale treasures by Australian and international artists, ‘Water’ highlighted this precious resource and aimed to spark conversations on the environmental and social challenges faced by the world today.

‘Water’ was held across GOMA's Gallery 1.1 (The Fairfax Gallery), Gallery 1.2 & Gallery 1.3 (Eric and Marion Taylor Gallery) from 7 December 2019 to 23 March 2020.

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