Proximity festival 2015
Meditations on Water
Words by Nerida Dickinson for Real Time Arts
"Mei Saraswati’s Meditations on Water is grounded in the vanished geography of inner Perth, a chance to experience the history of the gallery site. A degree of trust is required as the artist takes me on a blind tour through bygone wetlands. Senses are heightened in the dark, leaves crunch underfoot, releasing eucalypt scent. Fingertips are taken on their own journey through bowls of fine sand and leaves. The feel of water droplets connects with Saraswati’s vivid descriptions and a soft soundtrack of nature’s movements. The sudden sensation of sunshine on eyelids as an external door is opened brings the large water feature by the side of the gallery to new life and cacophonous birds seem to perform myriad antics in the trees around the edge. Saraswati’s description continues, relentless, explaining how and why rich wetland life disappeared.
Then we go to another place, the former lakeside site by night, and on opening my eyes find vessels of water, gentle night sounds and cool native vegetation. Sitting on a stool, I work with Saraswati to create sound loops with the water. Splashing, dribbling and stirring to learn the song of the ripples creates a meditative recreation of a vanished place. Returning to the bright, dry gallery, a subtle palimpsest lingers of a mighty lake that once dominated this landscape."
Write up by AMBER FRESH
Art Gallery of wa - swamp gospel
19 May 2016 – 27 February 2017
"Swamp Gospel is a new sound work by Mei Saraswati. Created with the research expertise of wetland ecologist Jacqueline Giles, the work features Giles' recordings of long-necked turtle calls and sounds of underwater invertebrates.
Swamp Gospel is an ode to the former wetland and lake site on which the Art Gallery is situated. Audiences will sonically travel either up or down the water column in AGWA's new vertical sound gallery, immersed in melodic collaboration between species and the orchestral noise of biological activity.
At the bottom, the visitor will feel rumbling of the bass tones of swirling water from the Swan River. Travelling up, you’ll hear the percussive and melodic calls of Chelodina Colliei (Long-necked Turtle) which is only found in the South-West corner of WA. Just under the surface you’ll hear choruses of underwater invertebrates from Blue Gum Lake, Lake Leschenaultia and Piney Lake, before resurfacing on the first floor to field recordings taken from Joondalup, Smith’s Lake, Hyde Park and Maylands boat yard. You’ll hear black cockatoos, honey-eaters, willy-wagtails and motorbike frogs. Human music is threaded throughout the piece, as a gesture suggesting humans are not all that separate from other livings beings.
The work is a reimagining of a place we never knew, that was drained and buried. Sometimes the water creeps back up around the building site of Yagan Square, a pump lies under Wellington Street and the Myer’s basement floods occasionally. Lake Kingsford, named after the man who drained it, lies mostly where the Perth train station is.
Swamp Gospel invites the audience to hush their voices and be immersed in the biophony of the swamp, to perhaps get a better understanding of the intensity of biological activity and vibrancy of other living beings that our senses often do not perceive."