Treatment art exhibition back at WTP for number two

An art exhibition that flushed through the history and colour within the bowels of Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant was so successful its curators have come back for number two.

Treatment 2017 Flightlines, a joint project between Deakin University, Melbourne Water and the Wyndham City Council, will open this week at the Werribee plant, as the second iteration of the hugely successful temporary art exhibition.

Treatment 2015 gave 500 people the opportunity to tour the Western Treatment Plant over two days, experiencing the work of five contemporary artists who responded to the environment, technology, and heritage of the site.

The number two version has grown to include the work of eight artists who will again provide an unusual way to experience western Melbourne’s oldest and biggest waste water treatment plants.

Treatment 2017 features on-location works by each artists spread across the 10,500 hectare treatment plant with free bus tours linking the artworks on a 2.5 hour journey.

Curator Dr Cameron Bishop, Senior Lecturer in Art and Performance in Deakin University’s School of Communications and Creative Arts, said that the 10 featured artists had immersed themselves in the unique space to develop their own individual site responses to the technologies, people, histories, landscapes and wildlife at the treatment plant.

 “Just like sewage has been transformed into liquid gold (water), ideas have taken form through material processes to become artworks,” Dr Bishop said.

“The Western Treatment Plant has played a key role in Melbourne’s history, yet before we began these exhibitions it was largely unknown to the public – understandably, given its contents and occasional odour, which is now largely under control thanks to a multi-million dollar facility.

Dr Bishop said Treatment aimed to support the transformation of perceptions of the Werribee region, which had grown dramatically and was now developing a strong focus on arts and culture.

“One of the benefits of placing art in a public space is that it engages artists in the rich complexities of the world we live in. Public art speaks to the world as it is, instead of being located in a ‘white cube’ or sterile gallery space,” he said.

The site’s heritage includes the abandoned former township of Cocoroc, which in the 1950s was home to over 700 farm workers and their families, before technological advances and improved transport options saw residents drift away until the township closed down in the early 1970s.

Melbourne Water Acting General Manager Customer and Strategy Gavan O’Neill said people would be surprised at everything the plant had to offer.

“It’s about so much more than sewage treatment. What people discover when they visit the Western Treatment Plant is what a diverse and culturally rich site it is,” Mr O’Neill said.

“The site is a real world leader in technical and environmental innovation, but also has such a sense of history about it. There’s a really interesting contrast between the important work we’re doing with renewable energy and other future-focused initiatives, and the fascinating history of the plant as well as its role as an environmental habitat for plants and animals.”

“Treatment is a great opportunity for the community to come and find out a bit more about all that goes on at our Western Treatment Plant, and what life used to be like for the community that lived here. To be able to do this through the lens of art makes this event even more exciting.”

Wyndham City Council’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Portfolio Holder, Cr Tony Hooper, welcomed the public art project back to the Western Treatment Plant.

“The Western Treatment Plant is more than just a vital piece of infrastructure. The plant is considered one of the best bird watching sites in Australia, second only to Kakadu, with hundreds of different bird species living in the area,” Cr Hooper said.

“Every year more than 7,000 people visit the plant just to get a glimpse of these birds, representing a significant asset for tourism in Victoria. It is great that so many talented artists are once again coming to Wyndham to share their skills and transform an area like the Western treatment Plant. This innovative art project will definitely be a must-see event."

The project has been made possible thanks to funding from the Australia Council, Melbourne Water and Wyndham City Council.

Artists include Louis Helbig, who will showcase his extraordinary aerial/modernist views of the plant; Zoe Scoglio, with her investigation of the biosolids precinct in her sound and participatory practice; 

Fiona Hillary and her sound project which will turn the 1845 blue stone water tower into a giant amplifier; and Maree Clark who will display her sculptural installation with video works and banner portraits of indigenous figures and grief markings.


Curator: Dr Cameron Bishop, Deakin University 

Dates: Saturday 22 and Saturday 29 April

Time: 9am – 5pm 

Location: Western Treatment Plant, Lot 1 New Farm Road, Werribee. A free shuttle bus around the exhibition will depart from the Discovery Centre. 

Cost: Free

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