The Dam(n) Project

The Dam(n) Project

Leah Barclay

27th May 2013

The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around the common concern of global water security.

The project was conceived and developed by Sydney based producer Jehan Kanga, Queensland based composer Leah Barclay, and Shakthi Sivanathan, the director of Curious Works. It presents the lives of remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dam development securing hydropower for Indian cities.

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. This holistic project integrates innovative technology, diverse community perspectives and true stories of resilience to create an immersive multi-sensory performance involving original compositions, digital projections and two dancers.

The DAM(N) Project explores the cultural significance of water and contrasts the strikingly similar experiences around water management in Australia and India. Water scarcity is a significant issue for both Australia and India and the issue of controlling and managing hydrological systems is extremely politicised in both countries due to the cultural and economic significance of these systems.

The DAM(N) Project wish to contrast the strikingly similar experiences in Australia and India around water management and showcase the value of music, digital technology and creative collaborations as a framework to inspire change, activism and ultimately a future where these communities will have a voice.

The first stage of this intercultural project was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and involved working directly with remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India. In the initial phase the team collaborated with Attakalari, India’s leading contemporary dance company who selected two dancers, Meghna Nambiar and Sylvester Mardi, to participate in the field research and create site-specific choreography onsite. Shakthi Sivanathan and Leah Barclay facilitated workshops and collected a rich diversity of audio-visual material and Jehan Kanga interviewed the key activists involved in the Narmada Protests, now recognised as one of the most important social issues in contemporary India.

The DAM(N) project uses the many viewpoints and the living culture in the affected areas as building blocks for the creative process for an immersive audio-visual dance installation.

The first major outcome from The DAM(N) Project has been supported by Arts Queensland and is touring Australia in 2013, premiering at the ENCOUNTERS: India Festival in May 2013 in Brisbane, Queensland followed by a site-specific residency on Lake Cootharaba in the UNESCO Noosa Biosphere Reserve as part of Floating Land Festival 2013. The DAM(N) Project team will then attend ISEA2013 to present a panel on the creative development of this intercultural project.

Ultimately The DAM(N) project is designed to connect global communities around the common concern of global water security and reveal the ramifications of damming rivers that hold cultural and spiritual significance for indigenous communities world-wide.

This first stage of The DAM(N) Project highlights the validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in environmentally engaged interdisciplinary art practice. While the initial stage is focused on the relationship between Australian and India, the long-term vision for The DAM(N) Project expands into other communities and cultures worldwide.

(Photo: Creative Development onsite in the Narmada Valley, North India, Photograph by Shakthi Sivanathan)

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