June 29, 2016 - Biennale of Sydney - Wrap up: 20th Biennale of Sydney : The future is already here — it's just not evenly distributed
June 29, 2016

Biennale of Sydney

Agatha Gothe-Snape with Brooke Stamp, Here, an Echo, 2015-16. Documentation of a scored walk from Speakers’ Corner in The Domain to Wemyss Lane, Surry Hills (April 17, 2016) for the 20th Biennale of Sydney. Courtesy the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney. Photo: Rafaela Pandolfini.

Wrap up: 20th Biennale of Sydney
The future is already here — it's just not evenly distributed

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Curated by Artistic Director Stephanie Rosenthal, the 20th Biennale of Sydney attracted attendances of 640,000 from March 18 until June 5, 2016. Titled The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed, the exhibition was structured around thematic clusters conceived as "embassies of thought," temporary settings without set borders, representing transient homes for constellations of thought. The themes allocated to each were inspired by the histories of the venues, while the "in-between" spaces spoke to a key idea in this Biennale: the distinction between the virtual and the physical worlds.

Performance featured strongly across the three-month period, with highlights including the Australian premiere of manger (2014) by Boris Charmatz, following his keynote address on March 19. Justene Williams collaborated with Sydney Chamber Opera to stage Victory Over the Sun, a radical revisioning of the legendary Futurist (anti-)opera.

Other performances and activated projects included Mette Edvardsen’s Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine gathering a collection of living books at a local library; ghost telephone, a month-long serial improvisation (curated by Adrian Heathfield) of interlinked works from Hahn Rowe, Chrysa Parkinson, Philipp Gehmacher and Benoît Lachambre; Neha Choksi In Memory of the Last Sunset (2016), in collaboration with Alice Cummins; Mella Jaarsma’s Dogwalk (2015-16); Adam Linder’s Some Proximity (2014); Alexis Teplin’s Arch (The Politics of Fragmentation) (2016); and Germaine Kruip’s A Square, Spoken (2015/2016) which took place daily. The midway point of the 20th Biennale was marked with a simultaneous act of obliteration and transformation, as Lee Mingwei altered his monumental work Guernica in Sand (2006/16) in a one-off performance. Agatha Gothe-Snape also developed Here, an Echo (2015–16), described as a "choreography for the city," a series of performances with dancer and choreographer Brooke Stamp. Richard Bell’s Embassy (2013–ongoing), appeared as an "in-between" project located on the MCA Australia forecourt, a restaging and homage to the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy first assembled by activists on the lawn of Parliament House, Canberra, in 1972.

Cockatoo Island hosted the Embassy of the Real, where artists explored how we perceive reality in our increasingly digitised era and the spaces between the virtual and physical. Major works were presented by Korakrit Arunanondchai, Lee Bul, Chiharu Shiota, William Forsythe, Cevdet Erek, Cécile B. Evans and Bharti Kher. The MCA Australia hosted the Embassy of Translation, bringing together a selection of works that contextualised historical positions, concepts and artefacts, alongside contemporary concerns and working methods. Artists presenting work at the MCA included Nina Beier, Noa Eshkol, Helen Marten, Shahryar Nashat and Dayanita Singh. The Embassy of Spirits at the Art Gallery of NSW saw artists consider the intersection between the spiritual and the philosophical. Works concerning personal and religious rituals were presented by artists including Johanna Calle, Sheila Hicks, Erub Arts, Jumana Manna, Sudarshan Shetty, and Taro Shinoda. The Embassy of Non-Participation was located at Artspace Sydney. For the 20th Biennale, artist duo Karen Mirza and Brad Butler considered how the act of "non-participation" may also be an active and critical position. A first time venue, Mortuary Station was reimagined as the Embassy of Transition. Works by two artists, Marco Chiandetti and Charwei Tsai were presented, in different ways each engaging with cycles of life and death, as well as rites of passage. The Embassy of Stanislaw Lem, conceived by Heman Chong, took the form of a roving book-stall which appeared at various locations throughout the exhibition. At Carriageworks, the Embassy of Disappearance brought together works by artists exploring themes of absence and memory, including disappearing languages, histories, currencies and landscapes. Artists included Lauren Brincat, Yannick Dauby and Wan-Shuen Tsai, Minouk Lim, Yuta Nakamura, Otobong Nkanga, Mike Parr, Bernardo Ortiz, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

The 20th Biennale continues with the Not Evenly Distributed blog. Hosting texts, images and video, the blog extends the idea of a process-led, artist-centric Biennale, which is developing over time. 

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The future is already here — it's just not evenly distributed
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