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the Birrarung_Yarra Yarra speaks


St Paul's Cathedral




LIVING WATER: Birrarung/Yarra speaks is a public artwork created by artist Annique Goldenberg, installed in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. It is the second in a planned series of installations of handmade water-papers, where a site-specific sheet of paper is created through a participatory process with a local community, a body of water, and the artist. Stories about these waters and their communities emerge from the act of making, offering participants and viewers an opportunity to experience a multisensorial connection to environment. The materiality of the paper—made from participants’ clothing and texts, local plant fibres, and water from the site—adds another layer of meaning and memory to the work. Water is used both literally and metaphorically as a creative tool to enable physical and emotional self-awareness about how we interact with and care about our immediate surroundings. The work asks can an immersive, creative experience in the local environment be extended to stimulate awareness about interconnection and ecological impact on the global environment? Can this felt experience encourage an enhanced sense of care and connection?​


For LIVING WATER people were invited to participate in several ways:

  • donate a personal item of clothing to be pulped for the substance of the paper

  • collect a jar of river water to be used in the paper making process

  • record a thought or memory that connects them to the River

  • assist in pouring the pulp to make the sheet of paper.

The installation consists of an 8 metre sheet of handmade paper and its accompanying elements of text, sound, pulp, and river water. The idea had its genesis in a 2019 meeting between Annique and the Dean of St Paul's, The Very Reverend Dr Andreas Loewe, where a socially engaged environmental project was conceived involving members of St Paul's community, the Birrarung/Yarra River, and the artist. In the research, planning and execution of the project, it quickly expanded to connect and include local Indigenous groups, paper-makers, and other Melbourne residents and artists, who all contributed to the realisation and installation of the work in the Macartney Chapel, St Paul's Cathedral, in late February 2020.

The work forms part of the artist's Doctor of Visual Art (DVA) research at the Queensland College of Art (QCA), Griffith University, Brisbane.

This project was undertaken on the lands and river of the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung tribe of the Kulin Nation.

I pay my respects to the Traditional Owners and their Elders, past, present and emerging.

the story


image: AG - detail of transcription sheet 


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image: AG - Birrarung/Yarra River
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