Along the Well
Participatory performance, 2014
at Woodford Academy
Curated by Sarah Breen-Lovett
For the National Trust Australia
Located on Dharug and Gundungurra Country in the Blue Mountains, Australia, the Woodford Academy is the oldest colonial building in the Blue Mountains area, and is now managed as a museum by the National Trust of Australia. It was built adjacent to a sacred First Nations site.
The participatory performance work Along the Well acknowledges the natural resource of water as the reason this greater site became a meeting point across cultures and through the complex and brutal history of Australian colonisation. It pays homage to the fact that the site has been point of navigation for thousands of years, for many who have passed through, or stopped to hydrate, rest and revive before moving on to the next place.
The participants were led on silent walking tours of the expanded site, encompassing the museum and the adjacent reserve, following the pathways the water took historically across the grounds, before being welled, and drying up. This gesture was approved by the Indigenous board of the Blue Mountains council due to its silent nature.
The silence was in respect of the sacred histories of the site that for cultural reasons will not be spoken.
The silence acknowledged lost histories, private moments that were never recorded, and so can never be spoken.
Walking practice was engaged to commune with the land and embody travel, as the site was transient for many.
Scattered around the grounds, performers dressed in white stood still, bringing attention to the significant places with their gaze. Along the path of dried-up water sources, the unmarked graveyard, the marks in the rock, and around the well, bodies appeared as apparitions to the performative walkers who traversed the site in single file, stopping periodically for silent reflection.
This work was a gesture in collectively extending peaceful intentions into the earth through silence, presence, and respect.