13 November 2017

perthFLUX: Radiant Energy (2017)

Descent into Yarragadee  - artist exposes ancient aquifer in city crack

Sohan Ariel Hayes for "perthFLUX: Radiant Energy"

Shops in Perth’s Murray Street Mall may be forced to close after concrete foundations cracked to reveal an abyss that might connect with an ancient aquifer known as the Yarragadee. The cause of the collapse is still unknown and investigations have been hampered by groundwater gushing up into the abyss below the shop. 

Local business owners are pushing to seal up the crack, but Perth-based media artist Sohan Ariel Hayes wants to open the crack to public view.

This is like the tip of an iceberg” Hayes said, “Perth people need to witness this mystery”.

Hayes discovered the crack after leasing the shop for an upcoming exhibition. When the crack widened, and began to emit volcanic hissing sounds he called in Dr. Nura Squelch, senior Hydrologist for the Urban Water Authority.  She collected samples from the fissure and analysed them, returning surprising results. The water samples matched those extracted from the Yarragadee aquifer and show the water to be more the 40,000 years old.
While delaying building contractors, Hayes negotiated for black water diver, Stella Flux, to investigate. She descended nearly forty metres into the crack and was astounded to find a continuing network of limestone caverns. “Who knows where this bottoms-out?” she said. The upper region of the Yarragadee aquifer begins close to 1500 metres below the city and the aquifer itself contains an estimated 1000 cubic kilometres of water.  Flux said, “The only other ground level link to the Yarragadee aquifer I could find was the old Dalkeith hot spring located near the Sunset hospital. It was a hot spot for around 30 years before it was concreted over in the early 1950s.”
The crack that has opened under the Murray Street foundation could be a unique link to the aquifer. “I was dumbfounded by the reality of this enormous water body below Perth city. The idea of the thing gripped me liked the tractor-beam emanating from a black hole. I found myself reading Nura’s results over and over, pouring over Perth’s geological history. A sense of vertigo overcame me as I stood at the edge of the crack and stared into the abyss,” Hayes said.
The ancient aquifers below Perth are the result of a stunning geological event. “The Perth basin formed when a chunk of Western Australia slipped along a fault line (the Darling Fault). The basin area dropped 15km – (yes 15 kilometres!), but not all at once. This impressive event happened 300 million years ago, even before dinosaurs were there to watch. So here was this very deep hole between the Darling Ranges and the continental shelf. Down through the ages, sediments fell in and filled it,” said geology teacher Kingsley Fewster.
Of course, there was disappointment as there was no way to know just how deep the abyss extended; without light it is a black void. So, I had the idea to drop submersible drones into the abyss and shed light on it,” said Hayes.

Hayes has illuminated the abyss with an array of drones equipped with LED lights to enable the public to experience the immensity of this underwater cavern extending far below the foundations of the city. 
Here is a great opportunity to experience the Yarragadee and consider its relationship to this place. Authorities have confirmed the situation on site has stabilised and is safe for public access.

Sohan Ariel Hayes presents Descent into Yarragadee, a Perth Public Art Foundation commission for perthFLUX in partnership with the City of Perth and Artsource.
perthFLUX is a program of temporary public art projects commissioned by the Perth Public Art Foundation. Descent into Yarragadee is a part of the third installment - "perthFLUXRadiant Energy". Previous commissions have included Snapcat (Renae Coles and Anna Dunnill) for "perthFLUX: Interchange - Trade (2015)"; and Philip Gamblen and Chris Cobillis for "perthFLUX: Tone - Timbre (2016)".


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