8 July 2008

PRESS RELEASE - Artwork Sings for Sustainability (Kumi Kato)

A UQ academic is overseeing a unique art project which will bridge the environmental and cultural history of Brisbane and Japan.

Dr Kumi Kato from the School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies has received $50,000 in funding from Arts Queensland for the installation of a “sound garden” in the Roma Street Parklands, which should be completed in August and will be used as part of the 2008 Queensland Multicultural Festival.

Dr Kato said the site would provide a meditative public space whose central feature will be a purpose-built Japanese water harp, known as a suikinkutsu.

The harp will be installed by sinking an inverted earthenware pot into the ground, with drops of water falling through onto a permanent layer of water at the base creating a pleasant musical effect.

This will be accompanied by surrounding natural sounds such as the calls of birds and frogs, and those generated by trees, wind, water and human interaction.

“Such attentive listening allows the individual to create their own soundscape, so there is an element of performance art as well as experiencing audience reactions at any given time,” Dr Kato said.

The building of the sound garden will involve local architect Will Marcus working alongside Mr Kubo Yoshinobu, a master suikinkutsu builder from Kyoto who recently collaborated with Dr Kato with an installation in a Tasmanian forest.

“The installation will address the importance of public space in the ever-changing urban environment and will also help the general public to regain a sense of connection with the surrounding environment,” Dr Kato said.

“The space will be a learning area suitable for diverse interests, including an education in environment, visual and sound design, landscape design, architecture and sound engineering as well as having recreational and tourism implications.”

The project is the latest in a series of creative approaches to cultural heritage and sustainability issues designed by Dr Kato.

“The Roma Street Parklands is an ideal space for installing a suikinkutsu, as the area was once an important water source for the city of Brisbane, and also an early example of civil engineering – a drainage system – still remains. It was also an important gathering place for Indigenous people,” she said.


Dr Kato (07 3365 6810, k.kato@uq.edu.au), Wendy Burford at UQ Arts (07 3346 7898, w.burford@uq.edu.au) or Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, c.pegg@uq.edu.au)