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Powerhouse Commission Captures Liddell Power Station Closure

Section of Liddell Power Station with gridlike metal gate, light flowing from open rooftop sectionApril 28, 2023

Image: Yesterday New Future. Photo by Merilyn Fairskye.


Powerhouse today announced the new commission Yesterday New Future (Liddell) by Merilyn Fairskye – a photographic and social history recording of the closure of Liddell Power Station in the Hunter Valley, NSW, which was switched off today after 52 years in operation.

Fairskye, a Sydney-based artist whose work explores the effects of milestone moments on humans and the environment, is capturing the transformation of the plant owned and operated by AGL from one of the world’s oldest operating coal-fired power stations to a clean energy renewables hub.

Fairskye was drawn to Liddell as a microcosm of geological time, human settlement, and industrial transformation, and will examine the central role the plant has played in the local community for over half a century.

Through photography and video interviews, Yesterday New Future (Liddell) will document the power station’s buildings, technology and stories of the individuals connected to the site. Fairskye will produce a video and series of photographic artworks for Powerhouse, as well as delivering an extensive collection of material gathered in the field, including interviews with former and current employees of Liddell, local First Nations groups, union members and the local community.

The artist’s fieldwork will be acquired into the Powerhouse Collection, a reflection of the significance of the closure of the plant in terms of social history, energy production, engineering and technology, as well as themes of industry disruption and resilience.

“Through this work, I will address the place of Liddell as an icon of re-invention, a soon-to-be-rehabilitated landscape indelibly marked by the expiry date of technology, with a complex natural and social history. Liddell is a flashpoint for high environmental, economic and political stakes beyond the local economy,” said artist Merilyn Fairskye.

“The story of Liddell echoes the history of the Powerhouse Ultimo site, which operated as a coal-fired power station from 1899 to 1963, before being reimagined as a museum of applied arts and applied sciences in the 1980s. Liddell likewise is entering a new era of existence. As it shifts gears and embraces a more sustainable future, we felt it was essential to document this turning point in the Australian energy industry for the Powerhouse collection,” said Powerhouse Chief Executive Lisa Havilah.

Yesterday New Future (Liddell) by Merilyn Fairskye is a Powerhouse Photography commission and was made possible through funds generously donated by the Australian Centre for Photography. Powerhouse Photography is dedicated to amplifying Australian photography and lens-based practice via a series of commissions, acquisitions, publications, and public and learning programs.

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About Powerhouse
Powerhouse sits at the intersection of arts, design, science and technology and plays a critical role in engaging communities with contemporary ideas and issues. We are undertaking a landmark $1.4 billion infrastructure renewal program, spearheaded by the creation of the flagship museum, Powerhouse Parramatta; expanded research and public facilities at Powerhouse Castle Hill; the renewal of the iconic Powerhouse in Ultimo; and the ongoing operation of Sydney Observatory. The museum is custodian to over half a million objects of national and international significance and is considered one of the finest and most diverse collections in Australia. We are also undertaking an expansive digitisation project that will provide new levels of access to Powerhouse collections.