Not a Drop to Drink, is an installation commissioned for REFUGE at Arts House, Melbourne inviting community to prepare for climate crisis through conversations around two of the biggest climate concerns in Australia; droughts affecting crops and food supply, and water scarcity. This comprised of a temporary architecture, large circular glass table with pressed plants embedded within it and an immersive soundtrack that fills the space, this setting hosted a series of five performative meals.
The meals invited people into this experiment in collaborative learning that prioritised First Nations knowledge systems and other marginalised voices. Through building relationships and relationality, the meals centred learning about place. Not a Drop to Drink is a space for Deep Listening, sharing stories and bringing the margins to the centre.
The menu for the meals was developed through interviews with various experts including; an Elder, farmer, water-policy lawyer, botanist, mycologist, chefs and others. Some of these people were present at each meal to continue these conversations and spoke about the ingredient they had suggested and the reasons behind this. For example, Erin O’Donnell, the water law policy specialist suggested the Murray Cod, but as this fish is unable to be bought commercially in Victoria as it is protected there was a noticeable absence of it on the plate – mackerel, a more sustainable fish was used – this led to a conversation about the health of the Murray Darling Basin, rivers and oceans and their connectivity and also to the personage, and rights of rivers as Erin as published widely in this space. The mushroom was suggested by mycologist, Tom May from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, who spoke about the possibility of growing mushroom protein in vats when thinking about the future and water scarcity. Barkandji researcher and author of Indigenous plant use guide to the region, Zena Cumpston suggested native River Mint, reminding us of our connection to river systems.
The ingredients list from the interviews, the stories people had shared with me about these were given to Naarm based, Torres Strait Islander chef Nornie Beru from Mabu Mabu, who thoughtfully put together the menu, the ingredients served as talking points during the meals.
Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey created the immersive soundscape, integrating creative audio description featuring narratives behind the table’s drought-tolerant plants and dialogue from the interviews. This was created in consultation with artists/access consultants; Fayen D’Evie and Andy Slater. The soundscape expanded the learnings to continue in between the meal sessions.
Listen to a sample stereo audio clip from the soundtrack here
(Note: Installation is a 15 track immersive soundscape)
Not a Drop to Drink is a project by Keg de Souza with:
Cultural Consultant: Senior Boonwurrung Elder Dr N’arweet Carolyn Briggs
Interviews/participants: Senior Boonwurrung Elder Dr N’arweet Carolyn Briggs, Niyoka Bundle (Kirrae Wurrong/Gunditjmara), Zena Cumpston (Barkandji), Claire G. Coleman (Wirlomin-Noongar) , Nornie Beru (Torres Strait Islander), Dr Jen Rae (Métis), Aviva Reed, Adam Grubb, Dr Erin O’Donnell, Caitlin Molloy, Lien Yeomans, Aheda Amro, Rouada Elhajja, Neville Walsh and Tom May.
Sound: Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey
Sound Consultants/ Collaborators: Fayen d’Evie, Andy Slater
Additional Field Recordings: Lucien Alperstein
Food: Nornie Bero, Mabu Mabu
Pressed plants: Lucien Alperstein and Keg de Souza
Table design/collaborator: Lucas Abela
Studio Assistants: Ruby Henderson-Leconte, Marleena Oudomvilay
Creative Producer: Sarah Rowbottam
Commissioned by Arts House for Refuge 2021
Supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and the NSW government through CreateNSW. Arts House is a key program of the City of Melbourne, and supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. Studio supported by Clothing Stores Studios, Carriageworks. Special thanks to Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Kara Ward, Emer Harrington, Dr James Oliver and Dr Brian Martin
This project forms research towards a PhD through Wominjeka Djeembana; MADA, Monash University
I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters this project is centered on, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation. I pay my respect to Elders both past and present and through them, to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sovereignty was never ceded.