Team Spirit

Team Spirit

Sandra Conte

28th May 2013

The Australian based contingent of The Dam(n) Project are active in their ongoing role with what has become a world theme we should all be passionate about – WATER! The Dam(n) Project, you may have already encountered this engaging team as part of the International World Water Day Symposium held in March 2013. If you missed it, eARTh has scored some excerpts from the Abstract to their joint paper ‘which complements The Dam(n) Project article by Leah Barclay’.

Their teamwork provides food for thought about intercultural projects engaging with remote, Indigenous communities, something our African connection, Richard Field observes in the ‘Field Work’ story. These are great arm chair experiences for our readers to sense that the spirit of resilience is as vital to survival in these communities as is water.

The DAM(N) Project: The validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in environmentally engaged interdisciplinary art practice.

Such was the title of the abstract for The Dam(n) Project team’s paper. While the conceptual and development work for The Dam(n) project was undertaken by the Australian resident team of Sydney based producer Jehan Kanga, Queensland based composer Leah Barclay and Shakthi Sivanathan, the director of Curious Works in Sydney, the next phase of the project shows the direct engagement with the remote communities of the Narmada Valley in North India.

By raising the issue of communities displaced by large-scale dams securing hydropower for Indian cities the team paper stated, “The construction of large dams on the River Narmada and its impact on millions of people living in the river valley has become one of the most important social issues in contemporary India”. Collaboration with Attakalari, India’s leading contemporary dance company to take dancers into the field research with site-specific choreography is a highly engaging spectacle made possible for us to witness through the stunning photos by Shakthi Sivanathan also gracing the first cover of this inaugural edition of eARTh e-mag.

The Dam(n) Project team’s gathering of diverse audio-visual material, interviewing of key activists involved in the Narmada Protests and facilitation of workshops in digital technology and dance for the local community is rich and inspirational. Incorporating living culture and the creative process to build a framework to raise concern about the significance of water scarcity has taken this project to the world stage. Such intercultural activity highlights an issue of commonality for not only Australia and India. As the teams’ Abstract paper strongly advocates, “We wish to contrast the strikingly similar experiences in Australia and India around water management and showcase the value of digital technology and creative collaborations as a framework to inspire change, activism and ultimately a future where these communities will have a voice. The artistic outcomes range from immersive installations to dance productions all underpinned by the idea that innovative art is both a tool for community empowerment and cultural change”.

Now, that’s a world vision with legs!


Leah Barclay is an award winning composer, sound artist and curator working at the intersection of art, science, technology and the environment. Her work has been commissioned, performed and exhibited to wide acclaim across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Europe, India, China and Korea. Barclay’s adventurous nature has led her to complete projects on the floor of the Australian ocean, desolate lava caves in New Zealand, the Amazon Jungle and the evocative backwaters of South India. She is passionate about the role interdisciplinary art can play in community empowerment, social activism and cultural change.


As its Director, Shakthi Sivanathan has led CuriousWorks to deliver a series of creative initiatives that have had sustainable and innovative outcomes for all Australians. His first initiative was The Migrant Project, which brought together 40 Sydneysiders with cultural and artistic ancestries from across the globe. All of this work has focused on respectful collaboration with some of Australia’s most marginalised communities and the ongoing sharing of contemporary, untold, Australian stories through traditional and digital distribution methods.


Jehan Kanga is an interdisciplinary artistic director, creative producer, multi-instrumentalist and associate artistic director with The Song Company. Jehan is also a published researcher in materials chemistry and is undertaking a PhD researching photonic, electronic and magnetic properties of new high porosity coordination framework materials. His scientific research comes from his interest in the intersection between science and art, and the relationship those fields have with major social and environmental movements particularly the issue of energy and water scarcity and impact this has on communities around the world.

(The Dam(n) Project team onsite in the Narmada Valley, North India. Photograph by Shakthi Sivanathan.)

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