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Art and creative events highlight the Speaking With the River exhibition


Charles Wood
10 March 2021
river and wetland area
Are We Losing an Island? Monitoring Mangroves in the Richmond River (

Exploring how our region’s rivers provide a creative link to interpret the way we think, live and interact is the theme for a Northern Rivers based Speaking With the River exhibition that opens on 11 March.

The exhibition features the work of artists, historians and scientists from Southern Cross University, as well as Indigenous and community artists from the Northern Rivers region and is accompanied by a series of public events.

Southern Cross University combined with Arts Northern Rivers, Regional Arts NSW, The Federal Government and LabX to stage and fund the event.

The University’s Associate Professor Grayson Cooke is one of the exhibitors and curators.

artwork in gallery space"In Suspension" by Associate Professor Grayson Cooke: one of the exhibitors and curators.

“Looking either at the Richmond or at the fate of the Murray-Darling over the past few years, it’s hard not to be left with the impression that Australia’s rivers are in crisis,” he says.

“That crisis is more than just environmental, it is a crisis of understanding, with rivers as a site of conflict between often competing and unequal players. In a way, this exhibition is really about finding new ways to mediate that conflict, through bringing together Indigenous voices with history, art and science.”

Another one of the curators, historian Associate Professor Adele Wessell, also from Southern Cross, believes we need to do a lot more to care for our degraded local river systems.

“Prescriptions for change require political support as well as alignment to shared values,” according to Adele.

“Sharing creative works and stories about the Richmond River may have a productive force in communicating and shaping values held about the river system.”

Artist and Associate Professor Rob Garbutt’s large-scale work, “Fluencies” features an interactive wall mapping environmental soundscapes against the Richmond River and its tributaries.

Other featured artists include Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, Frances Belle Parker, Annique Goldenberg and Jo Kijas.

But it’s not just about art, the public can experience free ‘citizen science’ events and workshops dedicated to the sensory experience of the river, exploring new ways of seeing, listening, smelling, touching and tasting the Richmond river system.

Speaking With the River runs until 2 May 2021 at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina. Entry to the gallery is free.

Curators: The curators of this exhibition are all members of the LabX collective, an interdisciplinary research group from Southern Cross University. The LabX research cluster in Environmental Arts and Humanities at Southern Cross University brings together researchers from multiple disciplines who are concerned about humankind’s effects on and relationship with the environment – on local, national and international levels.


Media contact: Southern Cross University Media and content team,