The highly talented Jo Mott and friends captured the spirit of a special place yesterday.
Laughing Waters Rd and Monsalvat in Eltham have a history of being a gathering site for visual and environmental artists, writers and performers and we were privileged to join Jo and fellow artists for the launch of a gallery exhibition and a book about the inhabitants that have lived at Laughing Waters over distant and more recent years.
Jo’s installation of sinuous interlocked rock forms re-imagines the people who changed the landscape around the area of Eltham in ways that can still be seen today; the Wurundjuri people who created an eel trap within the rapids of the Yarra, Edna Walling, who created many of the early formal gardens of the era in the 1920s, and Gordon Ford, whose works of stone and water slowly embedded the Australian landscape as a possibility for interpretation even in suburban gardens.
Jane Willard’s book Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape and Memory in Eltham was formally launched by Wurundjeri Elder, David Wandin. and Jane told the story of how the research for the book evolved from a history through the artists in residence program to an even richer portrayal of the country, especially after the discovery of the ancient eel trap enclosure on the Yarra.
The setting at Monsalvat for Jo’s installation was perfect – although far less bohemian than I recall from my last visit in the 80s – and there was standing room only in the gallery for the tribute to the history of one road and its river.
Given the perspectives of the Wurundjeri Council and the shared custodianship of the Birrarung’s laughing waters with all the people of Eltham, made me feel that perhaps, street by street, there can be a revolution for the environment, for our communities and, as David Wandin declared, the seeds planted for a real reconciliation.
Linda Swinfield wrote some lovely posts as one of the artists who took up a residency on Laughing Waters Rd a couple of years ago: