Image - Aerial photo of Smiths Lakes. Title text 'SONUS MARIS' in blue and white font.

Sonus Maris

Exhibition: From 6 February to 5 May 2023, UNSW Main Library Level 5

Sonus Maris is an exhibition navigating the intersections between art and science emerging from an ongoing collaboration between artist Dr. Nigel Helyer and water engineers and scientists at the UNSW Water Research Laboratory (WRL). Working in close partnership with WRL postdoctoral researcher Dr. Tino Heimhuber, Helyer employs audio-visual media to reinterpret data charting the unique dynamics of intermittently closed and open lakes and lagoons (ICOLLs). ICOLLs are the most prominent type of estuaries found on the NSW coastline and are unique in that they alternate between open and closed oceanic entrance conditions, driven by the dynamic interplay between oceanic and land-based forces. Through data archaeology and a novel algorithm, Heimhuber extracts valuable information from a three-decade archive of public satellite imagery, drawing attention to long-term morphological and eco-hydrological variations in these crucial sites. Helyer interprets this detail-rich source material to compose a musical score translating the changeability of ICOLLs as a multisensory experience. Helyer's experimental music invites audiences to rethink knowledge systems by seeing, feeling, and hearing the flows and patterns of coastal environments.

This exhibition is developed in collaboration with UNSW Water Research Laboratory and UNSW Engineering with funding support from the UNSW Global Water Institute.

Accessibility: UNSW Library is wheelchair accessible. Audio-described guides, braille, and large-text exhibition guides are available.


Event: An artistic and social perspective on human-environment interactions with water in a changing climate, a special World Water Day event co-hosted with the Global Water Institute featuring a panel discussion among academics and researchers in water-related fields across art, science, and the humanities.

Wednesday 22 March, 1-2pm. Free entry - registration required


Top image
Photograph of Smiths Lake by Dr Valentin Heimhuber, November 2022.


Exhibition information labels

Audio descriptions

Dr. Nigel Helyer audio-describes the artworks featured in Sonus Maris. The approximate run time is 19 minutes in total.

Audio description at exhibition entry

Audio description in exhibition gallery 1

Audio description in exhibition gallery 2

Audio description in exhibition gallery 3

Contact Us