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Water, water.

Rebecca McEwan understands the preciousness of water. Her childhood in dry, hot South Australia drew her to FLOAT.

Feb 6, 2020

Words: Rebecca McEwan

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Four years ago, I became the custodian of a beehive. I was soon mesmerised by these ancient creatures. The stories of bees, through mythology and folklore, described the arc of a devastating change in our relationship with them.

Stories of bees as messengers from the heavens, and of honey’s place, once central to ancient ceremonies, rituals and celebrations, were diminished. We lost sight of their role of keeping balance in our ecosystem. Through neglect of ritual, celebration and ceremony, we lost the reverence they deserved.

And it’s mucking everything up.

My recent studio work has drifted from bees … to water. The experience of immersion in water has been proven to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and calm the mind. But it’s the unquantifiable responses elicited by water that have a profound effect on our state of being. We are drawn to it. It cleanses, calms, purifies and rejuvenates. It appeals to all our senses and gives us life. It’s an essential element in ritual and ceremony.


I live in South Australia, the driest state in the driest inhabited continent. I have grown up understanding the preciousness of water. I have lived through serious water restrictions and serious drought.

Now, I am spending my days on FLOAT, a purpose-built, off-grid artist’s residency that floats on Lake Tyers in East Gippsland. My motivation for joining the project was to deepen my experience of engaging with water, and to spend time in a community for whom the Lake is of central importance. Here on the Lake. Lake Tyers. Bung Yarnda.

Learning from the stories of the Gunaikurnai about a place of gathering, a common ground to fish at times of abundance. The ‘glory days‘ of Lake Tyers House and the boats that toed and froed with adventurous guests. The rituals of family holidays. And these days, the fascination for waterbird surveys and the ever-hopeful measuring of salinity, and lake levels.

Here it seems water is celebrated. Everyone is constantly aware of the lake and how it behaves. The water unites us. FLOAT is working hard to make that happen.

To spend time in a community so deeply connected with a body of water has resonated with my work. How do we celebrate this gift? How many rituals do we embed in our daily lives that reconnect us with our natural world? I have been forced to reconsider.

To spend a week celebrating the stories of water while Australia burns is a jarring reality. It makes the time spent floating on Lake Tyers all the more precious, if a little disconcerting.

The wind has howled at times. FLOAT’s wind-driven drawing machine — engineered by MONA-fave Cameron Robbins — has screeched and scratched in protest. Reminding me. Reminding me.


As an artist the feeling of vulnerability is a common experience. It tends to feed self-doubt, allowing the insidious and mostly unhelpful inner critic to creep in and challenge creative flow.

FLOAT has reinforced to me that vulnerability can be much more valuable than the unnecessary evil it’s made out to be. Away from family, friends and daily habits, floating on a self-contained, off-grid vessel on a lake in a regional area was a process of stripping back, clearing the mind of clutter and opening myself to the elements.

The first few nights were a little daunting: new sounds to understand and adjust to, and the seemingly long days ahead of isolation with none of the usual distractions and not being committed to being anywhere in particular.

But this experience of vulnerability and rawness allowed for the creation of space, space in which to observe, absorb and process.

I became acutely aware of my surroundings, attuned to the dawn chorus that gently woke me at 5am, attuned to the subtle changes in wind direction and its hypnotic effect on the water’s surface, the change in weather and the rhythm and patterns which began to emerge as I settled into my time on Lake Tyers.

All this sensory input has filled my cup and I leave with a clarity and expanded sensorial library from which I can draw for a very long time.


Here at FLOAT we are being inundated with artists who care deeply about our sneaky mission — to make art great again, and to make sure it’s part of every conversation and every Gippsland experience.

Sometimes the art we make is very gentle. You could almost miss it. There’s no gallery here to shout about it. But it is permeating our lives. Creating rituals. Connecting the unconnected. Word of mouth travels. Ephemeral work in algae. Sticks on the water. Not shouting. Waving.

Getting somewhere now. — Andrea Lane @ FLOAT.


On February 15, 2020 at Lake Tyers House, FLOAT will celebrate a year of ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE.





As a weather-dependent event, we encourage you to register in advance, in case details change

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