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Birrarung Wilam (2006 - )

Go to Gallery Page Birrarung Wilam
Related EntriesAudio Visual Gallery
Computer-Controlled Installation, Interactive Installation, Outdoor Installation, Permanent Installation and Site Specific Installation
Location: Birrarung Marr, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Art installation by Lee Darroch, Treahna Hamm and Vicki Couzens. Sound design by Paul Doornbusch.


Project Proposal by Darroch, Hamm and Couzens <top>

(note: the sound design in this project proposal was reassessed and is described in Doornbusch's proposal below)

The ‘birrarung wilam’ proposal is a unique opportunity to present the distinct cultures of the language groups/tribes of Victoria in a manner that is culturally significant, appropriate and substantial. The elements of this proposal have a definite focus on the reclamation and regeneration of cultural knowledge and practice. Through the process of the re-creation of a mound camping site and related activities the Aboriginal communities of Victoria will gain recognition and acknowledgement of our Place in contemporary times. The tradition of storytelling and the passing of cultural knowledge will be nurtured and supported through the experience of the proposed works. The individual elements of this work, bond together to form a whole and integrated experience within the Yarra River precinct. Cultural barriers are broken down through knowledge and understanding. The experience of this site will foster gulpa ngulwa .

This story is about “place”, a spiritual and physical place. It is place that many people will pass through, linger awhile, sit and contemplate, or play. It is a place of ‘deep listening’; a space to learn and to listen with your Spirit.

The story begins with a Welcome to Country in the form of a replication of a William Barak message stick, representing the Woi Wurrong/Wurundjeri (kaarratpeeteen) placed at the westerly entrance to the site, facing towards Federation Square. At the easterly point, a message stick representing the Boonwerung will be installed. In Aboriginal cultural protocols a message stick is sent out to invite and welcome visitors to Country. The journey begins in this correct and appropriate manner.

The story continues with a contemporary re-creation of a traditional ‘sitting down’ place; a mound campsite (puulwuurn). The notion of a campsite is central to Aboriginal cultural life as well as being directly related to the significance of the Birrarung Marr site. When our family/clans gather our campsites are formed, as they are today in the community organizations and places we meet today. Some sites are temporary, used only for a few days or seasonally. Others were permanent and used for long periods of time over generations. ‘Puulwuurn’ are the mound style campsites used in the Western Districts of Victoria where people lived on large mounded sites on a rise near a waterway, marsh or swamp. The mound is of the feminine form and brings this energy to this proposal. This site will be renewed through this element.

The shortfinned eel (kuuyang ) evolves from larvae - elver - full grown eel, throughout its life journey; teaching us about growth and transformation. The pathway is representative of the eel swimming from site to site, traversing the eel traps set up across the river and symbolic of its migratory journey from its spawning grounds in the Coral sea, to its parents home place. This teaches us about belonging and connection to Place . The eel has a strong significance to Aboriginal people as a primary food source. An eel trap and weir were used at the William St. falls site and relate to the overall concept of a campsite and living. This element links the other elements of the site.

The river, adjacent to this site, was made from the actions of the Ancestors in the Creation times. It is the vessel (vein or artery) carrying water; the lifeblood of the Land. Water is essential to our survival. The significance and importance of water will be demonstrated through two sculptural works situated on the mound. These works will be a burl bucket and bark water trough used in campsites to carry and store water.

As the mound is the female energy, the shields will represent the masculine; the men who are the protectors and defenders of their families and Lands. Five shields will depict Kulin nations story of the creation of the Yarra river – Birrarung. They will stand as sentinels and guardians of the site. Facing towards their homelands, grouped together as a sign of strength and unity and to suggest the concept of family and clan.

Stories from each of the tribes will be denoted through the contribution from each tribe of a significant artefact . These artefacts will be interred in the mound during a ‘calling up’ ceremony . The ‘calling up’ ceremony will bring forth the Spirit of Place and imbue a sense of the sacred into the site.

This overall concept will link strongly with the proposed performance space. It is natural to have performance and ceremonial areas separated and away from the day to day living sites. In this proposal the performance space is a natural related space to the commission site and we have included the performance space in this context in our proposal with a suggested imagery that fits and links with the main commission site concepts.

Sound Design Proposal by Paul Doornbusch <top>

This is a discussion of the hardware and sound playback possibilities for Birrarung Wilam; it does not address the audio content issue.
The basic design is to have three large panels to play back audio content via touch control. Each large panel can consist of smaller panels. The large panels are something like a 'possum rug' made from etched stainless steel. This can include some basic controls for the sound playback, such as volume up/down, and track selection. Here is a very rough example:

The hands symbols are an example of a way to control the sound playback without using obvious western or modern symbols. Parts of the panel which are to be used for audio control need to be electrically isolated from all other parts. The whole panel of the cloak could be used to control the audio playback, or the cloak could be made of separate parts for that.

Many sound playback technologies and devices have been investigated. These include, CD players, DVD players, computers, personal audio players like the iPod, and others. The most promising technology is what are called "digital message repeaters".

Digital message repeaters have no moving parts, so they typically operate without intervention for over 10 years. The sound is contained on a memory card. The sound content needs to be organised on a computer and transferred to the memory card. Also, they often allow for simple switch triggering of sound files in addition to serial control.

The idea is indicated below:

The touch sensors are not inexpensive. The ones which look most suitable are about $60 each. The best way to control the digital message repeater is with a show control box. These controllers will take input from various sources (the one specified uses switch closures) and generate the appropriate codes to control various devices (laser disk players, CD players, DVD players etc). This will need to be programmed to control the digital message player.

Weatherproof speakers should be used, marine grade speakers being the most durable. These are in the quote, and two 6" speakers are the minimum required for the sound quality desired. One speaker can be higher for adults and one lower for children.

Related Entries for Birrarung Wilam



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Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 31 May 2006
Modified: 30 June 2006

Published by The University of Melbourne
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: i.mott@unimelb.edu.au
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 18 January 2007

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