archaeology of bathing

date 1999
location sculpture walk‚ woolloomooloo bay, sydney
medium morse code light generator, mixed media
dimensions 14 x 18 x 4m
photographer neil mackenzie, brett boardman
collection archive collection - city of sydney


Between 1833 and 1955 this area of the bay was the site of four separate ladies’ bathing establishments—mrs biggs’ ladies’ baths, robertson’s ladies’ floating baths, the corporation ladies’ baths and finally the domain baths for ladies.

about the artwork

The Woolloomooloo Bay shoreline has a long association with bathing. It is reported to have been used by the Cattigal people prior to and after European settlement and it is along this shore that Sydney’s first baths were built. The Woolloomooloo baths nurtured some of Australia’s greatest national and Olympic swimming champions.

Between 1833 and 1955 this area of the Bay was the site of four separate ladies’ bathing establishments - Mrs Biggs’ Ladies Baths, Robertson’s Ladies Floating Baths, the Corporation Ladies Baths and finally the Domain Baths for Ladies.

This artwork traces the perimeter of the former Domain Baths for Ladies. The elements form a collage … a floating jetty evokes the memory of the boardwalk and marks tidal changes … a concrete path defines the poolside deck and changing cubicles … a bathing machine is evoked by the stair, cage and portal frame to represent the closeted space of expected modesty associated with the early days of bathing…the portal frame of the bathing machine signals across the bay via the obsolete language of Morse code.

morse code message

other references

A walk on the short-sighted side by Elizabeth Farrelly, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 June 2001

Artist choice by Joan Brassil, Art and Australia, Spring 2000


Curator: Sally Couacaud

Assistant curators: Amanda Sharrad, Jo Spark

Project management: Neil Mackenzie - Tonkin Zulaika Architects

Waterway construction: Mal Hiley, Greg and team

Solar Technology Australia: Bruce Hawkins and Graeme

Engineers: Taylor Lauder Burston, Howard Burston

Construction: Richard Downes, Paul McGaw - McGaw Metal Electronic construction: Stephen Jones, Alan Galt

Surveyors: Michael Bell and Partners, Nial McCarthy - Page Kirkland Partnership

Light Guides: John and Liz Crowley

Hadfield Signs: John Hadfield

Waterways: George Gaweda and Jack Higgs

Botanic Gardens: Ian Innes and Cas McCallan

Special thanks to Tim Axelsen, Chris, Paul and Grant and Multiplex and Sydney City Council