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Medal Winner 2019

Surface Tension: Blueprints for Observing Contamination in the Sydney Harbour Estuary

Part 2 Project 2019
Victoria King
University of Melbourne | Australia
Sydney Harbour is one of Australia’s most significant biodiverse estuaries, yet it is also one of its most contaminated. Over two hundred years of industrial occupation, the topology of this fragile environment has radically transformed. Remnant wharves, shipyards and water-bound infrastructure now define a highly modified and dilapidating shoreline. In what way might the delicate ecosystem of the Sydney Harbour Estuary be renewed amidst an extant landscape of post-industrial degradation?

Professor Iain McCalman claims that in times of climate uncertainty, artefacts possess the power to inspire awareness of the imminent threat of climate degradation. He suggests that because such objects “are part of history’s archive and fiction’s imaginary, they bear witness to both the deep past and the distant future.” (1)

Using drawing as a critical method for historical and material exploration, this thesis presents a survey of three sites of post-industrial instability. The maritime artefact is reconceived as productive infrastructure to form a network of monitoring and observation sites across the Estuary. The inherent qualities of these artefacts (The Cardinal Mark, The Slipway and The Vessel) afford performative functions for observation. A set of blueprints emerge from this survey, exploring instances where contamination may open opportunity for renewal within the Estuary.

(1)Iain McCalman, 'An Introduction to the Idea and Implications of the Anthropocene' in Making Futures: A Slam Event hosted by the Anthropocene Campus (Melbourne, VIC: Museums Victoria, September 5, 2018)

Victoria King


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