Spatial Dialogues: Public Art and Climate Change (2011 - 2014)

ARC Linkage Project: [LP100200088]

This project will yield both social and environmental benefits through the creative ways it combines highly innovative public art projects with electronic social network systems to initiate transnational civic dialogues on the problem of adaptation to climate change. It extends our sense of urban space to include the regional and global ecologies upon

which cities are dependent. The role of water in the city will not only be represented as a vital resource, but as an element essential to life and, as such, replete with deep cultural values frequently overlooked in the expedience of everyday urban life.

Chief Investigators

Linda Williams
Philip Samartzis
Larissa Hjorth
Dominic Redfern
Simon Perry
Kristen Sharp

Industry Partners
Grocon Pty Ltd
Fairfax Media Ltd

Melbourne: Drowned Worlds 2012

CI Redfern’s Video of Melting Ice– Fairfax Public Screen, Media House Melbourne.

CI Perry’s Drowned Worlds installation on the banks of The River Yarra (2013).

Japanese sound artist Haco & CI Samartzis producing sonic artworks at Drowned Worlds.

CI Sharp at Drowned Worlds.

This event took place in the evening at two locations- on the public screen of Fairfax Media House across the road from Melbourne’s main  Southern Cross Railway Station- and at nearby Batman Park  on the banks of the River Yarra, In the 1930’s this part of the Yarra riverbank was subject to repeated flooding, and the artists have collaborated with the City of Melbourne to present a multimedia artwork on this site to call attention to how global climate change is beginning to affect the world’s oceans, glaciers and rivers. 

Tokyo: Underground Streams 2013

CI Perry’s performance as a fisherman looking for the lost Streams of Shibuya.

A boat stranded on the busiest intersection in the world seeks the Underground Streams of Shibuya.

The team’s Shipping container is lowered into Shibuya in May.

CI Redfern’s video of Shibuya’s Underground Streams projected onto the container- June.

From the container -CI Hjorth launches the Keitai Mizu digital game as a treasure hunt for the aquatic creatures of the Underground Streams.

Across the world water and rivers are vital to the life of cities. Most people in the world now live in cities, and with global climate change the water on which our growing cities depend is now widely recognised as a limited, precious resource. Spatial Dialogues is a three-year cross-cultural collaborative study responding to the contemporary revaluation of water by exploring the importance of rivers and water in the Asia-Pacific region through public artworks in Melbourne, Tokyo and Shanghai.

There once was a river flowing in the middle of Shibuya, channelling life and beauty into the area. However, as Shibuya developed and became more economically powerful, the river was concreted over. Roads were built on top, and the river forced underground. The river had been erased for human convenience, and the story of the Shibuya River has similarities with the major environmental changes that are happening everywhere on earth. In June, 2013 the Spatial Dialogues team will collaborate with the Boat People Association on the Shibuya: underground streams art project, when Shibuya will be home to a shipping container full of art that will reflect on such change, inviting audiences to reconsider how local places are shaped by the urban waterscape. 

CI Sharp & CI Samartzis with the sound team and Boat People Association.

CI Williams with Genichi Ide and Tadashi Iwamoto.

A small boat is launched above streams below the concrete inside a shipping container in Tokyo.

Postscript: 2022

On 30 August 2022, Mr Ken Hasabe, Mayor of Shibuya, wrote to the Spatial Dialogues team:

‘…In response to your research into ways of activating public space, we recovered and restored Shibuya River near Shibuya station into a new public space lined with green vegetation and water features….this project has led to a new restoration project of the Tamagawa-Josui waterway which is a 43-kilometer freshwater canal built in the 1600s that crosses into the Shibuya ward. This project provides an excellent opportunity to develop another green corridor for the local community …(and) to increase biodiversity by attracting birds fish and other animals.’

SHANGHAI: Water and Reflections 2013-2014

CIs Williams & Redfern in Dialogue with Professor Ling Min Public forum on Climate Change, Shanghai.

Esteemed Chinese artists Wang Zheng and Hu Jieming with Williams at the Water and Reflections exhibition in Shujiajiao 2013.

Hu Jieming with his interactive ‘porthole’ video Water and Reflections 2013.

CI Samartzis and Wang Zheng -Sonic and material installation moving in response to two rivers in real time: The River Yarra in Melbourne, and the Yiangtse River, China 2013.

A traditional Chinese landscape made entirely of plastic bags- Water and Reflections.

Professor Ding Yi and his team from the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art.

Team Photo with Curators in centre Williams, Ling Min and Mr Wong Director of the Himalayas Gallery, Shanghai.

CI Perry’s Tokyo fishing gear turns up in Shanghai.

MIT Press, 2016.

HEAT: Art & Climate Change. RMIT Gallery (2008).

HEAT catalogue

From left:  Prof. Wendy Wheeler (Keynote) /Symposium participants/ Prof. Mark Wilson’s paper.

Tony Lloyd: We have all the time in the world (2008)
  • Max Eastley and David Buckland (UK)/Bonita Ely (Aus)/Rew Hanks (Aus)
  • Ash Keating and the 2020? Project (Aus)/ Janet Laurence (Aus)/ Sam Leach (Aus)
  • Tony Lloyd (Aus)/Anne Noble (NZ)/Jill Orr (Aus)/ Simon Perry (Aus)/ Greg Pryor (Aus)
  • Georgina Read (Aus) /Martin Rieser (UK)/ Klaus Rinke (Germany)/Cameron Robbins (Aus)
  • Philip Samartzis and Michael Vorfeld (Aus/Germany)/Roslyn Taplin (NZ)
  • Mark Wilson & Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir (UK & Iceland) /Ken Yonetani (Japan)

Curator: Linda Williams

Extensive coverage in press and art journals, ABC Radio National. ABC TV. 

Over 10,000 attended the exhibition (RMIT Gallery records)

Public Symposium: Cultures of Sustainability attended by 110 people.

Bob Brown gives opening address.

AEGIS Public Seminar 2012 


Ursula Heise (UCLA)
Tim Morton (Rice University, Texas)
Darryn McEvoy (RMIT)
Harry Nankin (RMIT)
Linda Williams (RMIT)

An AEGIS public seminar held at RMIT in August 2012 on cultural imaginaries and climate change was well attended by over 100 people.

Acknowledgement of Country

AEGIS acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we work. We respectfully acknowledge their Elders, past and present. We also acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waters across Australia and its Dreaming.