Having gone to a lot of effort to visit the Venice Biennale, I thought I should make a little more to get out the door and into some of the galleries and other venues to check out the 19th Sydney Biennale – a contemporary art event that is rather well-regarded. I must say I was pretty impressed with some of what I saw, though – as is natural – not everything. I didn’t manage to get to every venue, but did check out the works at The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of NSW; and I took the ferry to Cockatoo Island, an ex-industrial site, and spend a long afternoon wandering around and being surprised.
The curator for the 19th Sydney Biennale was Juliana Engberg, and she chose the ‘theme’ “Imagine What You Desire” — loosely interpreted, naturellement. You can’t corral artists too much, especially the contemporary kind.
I’ll just touch on a few favourites of mine. As usual, I found way too much video — digital needs to be special to resonate with me, but one did: Eva Koch ‘I Am The River’ (2012). It was inspired by a Borges quote:
Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river.
At the MCA I liked John Stezaker’s surprising collages, Jim Lambie’s striped floor and ‘Ten Liquid Incidents’ (2010-12) by Roni Horn. At the AGNSW, I was intrigued by ‘The Library of Unborrowed Books’ by Meriç Algün Ringborg (2012) – a sad collection of rejects from the Stockholm Public Library.
Visiting Cockatoo Island was great – the spooky dilapidated old industrial buildings, some parts going back to the convict era, strangely off-set a variety of contemporary art works. I liked a spooky sound work in an abandoned concrete space, called “This is before we disappear” by Sonia Leber and David Chesworth. I also very much liked a stop-motion film called ‘Maison’ (2012), made in a soon-to-be demolished house, by Augustin Rebetez and Noé Cauderay (Swiss artists). I discovered it by chance in an old weatherboard house in the convict precinct, and it was so absorbing that I almost missed the last ferry back to the city.
This is just a very brief glimpse of a big Biennale, but the experience was enough to make sure I visit the next one in two years’ time.