24 & 25 MAY Water: A public forum

The Potter Museum of Art presents Water: An Interdisciplinary Public Forum, with co-presenters CoVA

This year, we are teaming up with our partners at the University of Melbourne to explore some of the biggest themes of our time – and you’re invited to join us.

Bringing together visual artists, performers and researchers from a variety of disciplines, our interdisciplinary forums propose art making as a form of knowledge creation alongside other academic fields of inquiry.

Commencing on 24 May, our first forum engages the theme of water, exploring its significance in a range of areas including climate change, river rights and sovereignty, customary song, water policy, the ocean as a border crossing site and more.

Over two days, experts in law, geography, chemical engineering, criminology and literature from the University of Melbourne will join a range of visual artists, performers and curators for a robust program of talks, performance, conversation and song.Hoda Afshar Remain 2018 (still) single channel digital video 24 minutes colour, sound Courtesy and © the artist

FRIDAY 24 May, 5.30–8pm
VENUE: Old Quad (opposite Student Union, Parkville campus)


The performance Ocean Island Mine 2015 by Latai Taumoepeau has been regrettably cancelled.


6.15pm FORUM INTRODUCTION: Professor Su Baker AM | Pro-Vice Chancellor Community & Cultural Partnerships | Director, Centre of Visual Art, University of Melbourne

6.30pm PUBLIC READING: Professor Alexis Wright | Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature, Australian Centre, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
Professor Wright will read about drought and swans from her novel The Swan Book, set in a future environment fundamentally altered by climate change.

7pm IN CONVERSATION: Curator and artist Maree Clarke with Sam Comte, Curator, Ian Potter Museum of Art on the exhibition Ancestral Memory.

7.10–8pm DRINKS

SATURDAY 25 May, 10am–4.30pm
VENUE: Ian Potter Museum of Art, Swanston Street, Parkville campus


10.30–10.40am INTRODUCTION AND WELCOME: Kelly Gellatly | Director, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne


10.40-11.30am Chair: Dr Suzanne Fraser | Coordinator, Centre of Visual Art

10.40am Professor Peter Scales | Professor of Chemical Engineering | Director, Particulate Fluids Processing Centre, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Melbourne, What are the Outcomes if the Environment was Sitting at the Table?

11am Professor Lesley Head | FAHA FASSA DFIAG | Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor, Head, School of Geography, University of Melbourne, What is a river? Competing values of water in the Lower Darling region, NSW

11.20–11.30am Q & A


11.30–12.40pm Chair: Dr Danny Butt | Associate Director (Research), Victorian College of the Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne

11.30am Dr Erin O’Donnell | Early Career Academic Fellow, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne; Birrarung Council Member, A voice for the Birrarung? River rights, sovereignty, and water management

11.50am Jordan Smith | Wurundjeri Water Officer, Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, Valuing Wurundjeri Culture in Water Governance. Our Journey

12.10am Dr Olivia Barr | Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Law School, The Tankstream: Where Was Australia Day?

12.30pm Q & A

12.40–2pm LUNCH: A free lunchbox will be provided.


2–2.50pm Chair: Jacqueline Doughty | Curatorial Manager, Ian Potter Museum of Art

2pm Dr Celia McMichael | Senior Lecturer, School of Geography, Faculty of Science, University of Melbourne, Sea-level rise and ‘large ocean states’ (AKA Small Island Developing States) 

2.20pm Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow | Curatorial Manager, International Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Water – between beauty and deep complexity. How can an exhibition contribute to conversation, aspiration, action? 

2.40pm Q & A



3–4pm Screening and In Conversation, Chair: Dr Kyla McFarlane | Curator of Academic Programs (Research), Ian Potter Museum of Art

3pm Hoda Afshar, Remain 2019, video screening

3.30pm Artist Hoda Afshar in conversation with Dr Claire Loughnan | Teaching Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne

3.50pm Q & A


4pm John Wayne Parsons | Yugerra / Ugaram Le high baritone opera singer; Schools and Community Liaison Officer at the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development, Faculty of VCA & MCM, University of Melbourne, Zenadth Kes: Living Waters. Three songs in Meriam.

Image: Hoda Afshar, Remain 2018 (still) single channel digital video, 24 minutes, colour, sound. Courtesy and © the artist