Past Exhibition
24 September - 20 November 2021
A hand shoots a water pistol into the sky, aimed at the sun.
A hand shoots a water pistol into the sky, aimed at the sun.

Water as culture, concept and commodity


24 September to 20 November 2021


Water is the common element connecting and sustaining all living beings: we are all made of water. As sweat, tears and the ocean, saltwater indexes pleasure and pain, effort, escape and exaltation. Seemingly ubiquitous, but also increasingly scarce, fresh water is at the centre of a growing virtual marketplace of speculative futures, and is now the world’s most valuable commodity. There is a lot of weight on water.

In the Western conception, under what distinguished Indigenous professor and activist Aileen Moreton-Robinson calls ‘the possessive logic of white occupation’, all existence is read from a European, colonial viewpoint, which in turn positions humans at the top of the hierarchy of being.

What if, instead of being understood as an object (i.e. a commodity or a resource), water becomes a subject (a thing in its own right, a non-human actor, a vibrant force with agency)?

WATER RITES explores the ways water performs, works, manifests and asserts itself in human and other worlds through artworks, knowledge production and embodied acts.

Featuring sculptural assemblage, moving image, sound and fermentation, the exhibition is the result of a research-based, multi-part project engaging with environments and communities of coastal significance in South Australia. It commenced with an artist exchange in Galinyala (Port Lincoln) and will conclude with a public program of foraging and kayaking in the Kurangk (the Coorong).

Please be advised that parts of this exhibition contain very strong themes and language.

We encourage you to speak to an ACE Open staff member if you have any questions.

WATER RITES is presented as part of Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.

This project is supported by SA Water, Arts South Australia and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Feature Image: Image courtesy Danni Zuvela

  • Sculpture with steps leading to a clear rectangular prism with salt and mangrove mud inside.
  • A sculpture in a river configuration consisting of screens with text underneath rippled glass.
  • Close up of sculpture with text reading 'killing paddock' seen through rippled glass.
  • Gallery view of all artists works.
  • Video playing on large screen in gallery with image of water and a silhouette of a person with overflowing buckets in each hand.
  • Collection of words and phrases printed on a wall in serif font.
  • A kelp form is suspended in the air.
Sculpture with steps leading to a clear rectangular prism with salt and mangrove mud inside.

Guest Curator

Danni Zuvela

Lead Artists

Libby Harward,
Archie Moore,
Mandy Quadrio

Screen Artists

Tamara Baillie,
Sissel M. Bergh,
Denise Ferreira da Silva,
Libby Harward,
Skye Hopinka,
inhabitants/Margarida Mendes,
Natasha Naveau,
Natasha Naveau,
Tabita Rezaire,
Su Yu-Hsin,
Henry Jock-Walker
Henry Jock Walker

Sound Program

Betty Apple, Costa Stefanou

Language Advisor

Ghil`ad Zuckermann

Barngarla Artists

Jenna Richards, Vera Richards, Candace Taylor-Swan, Caitlin Taylor-Swan, Evelyn Richards


Lucien Alperstein

Kurangk Listening Public Program

Brad Darkson,
Chloe Darkson,
Chris De Rosa,
Sandra Saunders,
Major ‘Uncle Moogy’ Sumner

Cultural Advisor

Uncle Michael ‘Mickey’ O’Brien

WATER RITES was accompanied by a suite of public programs.

ACE tampinthi, ngadlu Kaurna yartangka panpapanpalyarninthi (inparrinthi). Kaurna miyurna yaitya mathanya Wama Tarntanyaku. Parnaku yailtya, parnaku tapa purruna, parnaku yarta ngadlu tampnthi. Yalaka Kaurna miyurna itu yailtya, tapa purruna, yarta kuma puru martinthi, puru warri-apinthi, puru tangka martulayinthi.

ACE respectfully acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today.