The DAM(N) Project: The validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in interdisciplinary art practice

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Session Title:

  • Political Resistance

Presentation Title:

  • The DAM(N) Project: The validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in interdisciplinary art practice

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Abstract:

  • The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around the common concern of global water security. The project was conceived and developed by Sydney based producer Jehan Kanga, Queensland based composer Leah Barclay and Shakthi Sivanathan, the director of Curious Works in Sydney. The first stage of the project involved working directly with remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dams securing hydropower for Indian cities. The construction of large dams on the River Narmada and its impact on millions of people living in the river valley has become one of the most important social issues in contemporary India. In the initial phase the team collaborated with Attakalari, India’s leading contemporary dance company who selected dancers to participate in the field research and create site-specific choreography. The project team collected a rich diversity of audio-visual material, interviewed the key activists involved in the Narmada Protests and facilitated workshops in digital technology and dance for the local community. The DAM(N) project uses the many viewpoints and the living culture in the affected areas as building blocks for the creative process. Water scarcity is a significant issue for both Australia and India and the issue of controlling and managing hydrological systems is extremely politicised in both countries due to the cultural and economic significance of these systems. We wish to contrast the strikingly similar experiences in Australia and India around water management and showcase the value of digital technology and creative collaborations as a framework to inspire change, activism and ultimately a future where these communities will have a voice. The artistic outcomes range from immersive installations to dance productions all underpinned by the idea that innovative art is both a tool for community empowerment and cultural change.

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