On a perfectly still day when the surface of Lake Burley Griffin looked like glass, walkers and cyclists were taking a second glance on Thursday as works went up for the Contour 556 exhibition — otherwise already affectionately known as Sculptures by the Lake.
"I give up. Is it a whale?" one fast-walking-and-talking bloke asked as he watched Haeli Van Veen's Committee Meeting arise from the waters of the lake, off Bowen Drive.
Not quite. The Canberra artist , who enjoys making the viewer uneasy when they see her art, said her work was inspired by the "planned and fabricated" nature of the city and the lake.
"I thought we needed some planned or fabricated legends so these monsters are the bureaucrats or public servants emerging from lake and collecting what they have found from the lake," she said.
The forms are moulded from suits, raided mostly from Vinnies.
"There was one Jean Paul Gaultier one. I didn't see the label until I started cutting it up," she said.
Her husband Owen Davey was weighing down the works and kayaking them out to the water. The haunting forms will remain in the lake for the three weeks of the exhibition.
"I thought it was worth the effort to engage the work with the lake," Haeli said.
The works of 50 artists will be on display on the southern side of the lake from the Kingston Arts Precinct to the National Library until November 13, its name referring to the "metric-equivalent of Lake Burley Griffin's water level".
The exhibition's tagline is Interventions in the Landscape and one clear example of that was Brisbane artist Archie Moore's Crop (Noun/Verb) in which he has half-buried 700kg of encyclopaedias as a border for a garden of yam daisies, next to the otherwise clean lines of Bowen Place.
He said the work was about the clash between Western and Indigenous knowledge and what is "left out or discarded as not important or of having any value", while also being a strike against "the myth" that the Aboriginal people had no agriculture.
He went on Gumtree and to op shops to source the Funk and Wagnalls and World Books and Britannicas, which were in surprising short supply.
"These books represent Western knowledge and are very America-centric," he said. "When I looked up 'yam' there were ones grown in Florida and South-East Asia and China, but no mention of Australia."
The exhibition's curator, landscape architect Neil Hobbs, also sourced the yam daisies, mainly from Greening Australia, showing he is a man of many talents.
For more details on the exhibition and special events go to www.contour556.com.au.