One River local project artist Heidi Kenyon launched her project Turn Back to the River, in Murray Bridge South Australia on a perfect autumn day. The installation event took place under the iconic Murray Bridge railway bridge at the site of three disused railway carriages which Heidi had converted into pinhole cameras, or ‘camera obscura’.
“Like many towns and communities located on the waterways within the Murray-Darling Basin, Murray Bridge has developed away from the river which 100 years ago was very much a working river,” Heidi said. “What I was trying to do with my project was to invite local residents to rethink the river, and to reimagine it as a beautiful asset to the community.”
Turn Back to the River is part of a project called One River, a Centenary of Canberra project which aims to use the Canberra’s birthday celebrations during 2013 to highlight the common stories of life within the Murray-Darling Basin. Like Murray Bridge, Canberra’s location is very much linked to its proximity to a viable water source and as the largest city in the basin, it was fitting to use this occasion to reimagine the Murray-Darling Basin, to document local stories and experiences and create a new story for future generations.
Heidi has been working with Murray Bridge residents for some months, inviting them to share their personal stories of the river through postcards. These postcards are currently on display at the Murray Bridge Gallery until 30 April.
“There are some amazing stories,” Heidi said. “The grand-daughter of a former paddesteamer captain told me that in the 1920, concerned passengers, travelling here by boat, were roundly assured that they weren’t drinking the rather filthy looking river water on their journey. In fact, at night, while passengers were sleeping, water was draughted from the river and treated with Epsom Salts, and by the morning, the sediment has settled and the water was clear.” The postcards make fascinating reading. Floods, births, deaths, weddings, holidays and swimming lessons are all recounted in loving detail.
Residents were at first a little reticent about the strange projections in the old railway carriages, but at the launch on Sat 13 April, almost 200 people passed through and as many the day before and again on Sunday. Most have been amazed at how seemingly easy it is to create an image in a darkened room of the world outside. Most agree that the project has made them reflect on how much the river means to them.
Mayor of Murray Bridge Allan Arbon said the shire is very keen to open up spaces alongside the river to encourage new tourism to the area. Director of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery Melinda Rankin has also been pleased about the way the project has captured the imagination of residents who might not normally come to gallery events. She would love to present more work that enables local residents to tell their stories.
Turn Back to the River is the second of ten local projects that will be delivered as part of the One River project. The next project outcome will occur in Narrandera on Sat 20 April.