Weir – The Infrastructure of Flow

Dr Tracey M Benson | Josiah Jordan | Ross Thompson

The definition of a weir is described as:

  • a low dam built across a river to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow.
  • an enclosure of stakes set in a stream as a trap for fish.

In this work, the weir is the theme for exploring how the flow of the river is contained and how that infrastructure impacts on the life of the aquatic species. The notion of e-flow or e-water (environmental flows) are means in which humans give back to the river, enabling it to flow downstream. This process is managed using an array of digital tools including remote sensing of water levels. These interventions into the river system have dramatic impacts for the ecologies of these ecosystems.

This project explores some of the more-than-human stories of the river by focusing specifically on fish species and their story of survival.

Projection

The projection work will also have a sound component which will be presented as part of the provocation – Invasives. The Invasives project is a collaboration between Tracey Benson (AU) and Josiah Jordan (NZ/US) with initial funding provided by the Centre of Applied Water Science at University of Canberra. It uses DNA from the iconic native species Murray Cod in contrast with DNA from the invasive European Carp in a musical score with data points which traces both the journey of the river downstream and 111 years of the regulation of the Murray Darling through its locks and weirs.

Visual content for the project is a combination of video documented along the MDB by Tracey as well as edits of news reports in the public domain to create a collage of imagery which tells the story of the more-than-human impacts and consequences of human management of the river system as an economic resource.

Provocation: Invasive

Invasive is a collaborative project that explores the health of the Murray River. By creating music from the DNA of two fish species that inhabit the river, a story is created about the interplay of the fish as they compete in the ecosystem. One species is native to the river (Murray Cod) and the other (Carp) is an invasive species.

The music interplays the relationship between the species and outlines the drama and issues that underpin the management of this ecological system. The proposed release of Carp herpes will have a significant impact on the river and it remains to be seen how the river will manage such a ‘shock’. Invasive also has the potential to include other data about the river – temperature and flow – both of which will be affected by the release of the virus. Also data that measures fish populations is also an area that could be explored.

This project is intended to educate people about river health in an innovative way, encouraging them to experience the river using different forms of media.

The project builds on the existing “Journey of the Ancients” work by Tracey and Josiah which brings together storytelling, connections to place, ancestry, migration and DNA to creatively explore how technology can be used to inform, educate and engage audiences. The goal of the Invasive project is to explore a range of data and scenarios to create a range of experiences including virtual and augmented reality, installations and exhibitions which focus on the role of science communications as well as an aesthetic exploration of possible forms. It also is an opportunity to build on workshop methodologies being developed that explore how to engage and activate participants to be more aware of issues and make changes in behaviour which support healthy ecosystems.