Rights of Culture 2015 – Leah Barclay


I am an independent Queensland composer, artist and creative producer who specialises in electroacoustic music, sound art and acoustic ecology. I have directed interdisciplinary art projects across the Asia-Pacific and received critical acclaim internationally for my immersive environments ranging from the central Amazon Rainforest to the floor of the Australian ocean. My work is multi-platform in nature and often involves long-term community engagement accompanied by the development of virtual platforms to explore the value of digital technology in environmental crisis.
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My projects are always developed in close collaborations with communities and I have adapted my community engagement process over the years so it is responsive to each community I collaborate with. When working in a new environment, engaging with local Indigenous knowledge is always my first step. I feel it is critical to gain the permission from Indigenous custodians to work on new projects and open a dialogue for ongoing collaborations. As my work is quite experimental, I feel it is also important to demonstrate my creative approach and provide some examples prior to starting a new collaboration.
As a recent example, my installation WIRA explores rivers as the lifeblood of communities and reimagines the world beneath the surface of the Noosa River in Queensland. This project draws on ten years of collaborations with river systems across the world that all began in Noosa. The ideas evolved out of initial collaborations with Sunshine Coast Gubbi Gubbi artist, Lyndon Davis.
In late 2004, I composed my first piece inspired by the Noosa River. This was the beginning of a decade of creative work that explores the value of sound, digital technology and community engagement in environmental awareness and engagement. It was also the beginning of exploring the possibilities of technology in engaging with Indigenous knowledge systems.  WIRA launched on the Noosa River on August 27 for Floating Land 2015 at the Noosa Regional Gallery in Queensland.
WIRA reimagines the Noosa River in sound. The installation can be experienced by walking along the river with a smart phone and listening to content that is geotagged from Noosa Regional Gallery to the river mouth. As you walk along the river bank, the sounds of the Noosa River system are layered with sonic art, stories and soundscapes from Floating Land over the last ten years. Many of these soundscapes include the voice of Lyndon Davis speaking about gubbi gubbi language, the history of the Noosa River and his approach to creative collaborations. These recordings have been collected over the last five years and used with permission in the installation.
When experiencing WIRA on location, these geo-located soundscapes are layered with binaural and hydrophone (underwater) recordings and live streams of the Noosa River. These recordings and streams will evolve and adapt based on the conditions of the Noosa River meaning every walk will be a unique experience.
As WIRA stretches towards the river mouth, looking out towards the Pacific Ocean, the voices from Indigenous communities in Vanuatu can be heard across the surface of the water. These include the rich soundscapes from the Leweton Cultural Group and Vanuatu Women’s Water Music who have ongoing collaborations with Floating Land.
The theme of Floating Land 2015 is Reflect & Re-imagine. This theme provided an opportunity to pause and reconnect with the grassroots beginnings of this event, exploring the connection between art, the environment and the local community. Now in its 8th iteration, Floating Land is an international event celebrating art and the environment.
While many consider mobile technologies key factors in our disconnection to the environment, my work explore the possibilities for repurposing these technologies to reconnect us to the environment and facilitate collaborations that value and showcase Indigenous knowledge systems through accessible creative technology.
WIRA - Recho App - Noosa River
Leah Barclay – www.leahbarclay.com