The Sydney Biennale 2016 is on from 18 March to 5 June. #20BOS aims to create ’embassies of thought’ and discovery spaces in-between. Virtual and physical interfaces to ask ‘what’s real?’
I love the idea. Here’s what to expect.
The Sydney Biennale 2016 is inspired by a quote from science fiction author, William Gibson
The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed
It’s an idea that immediately raises images, questions and answers in your mind. Each one of us could speak for two minutes on this. So how do the artists interpret the quote?
Stephanie Rosenthal, the artistic director, articulates her concept in terms of clusters of urgency among artists, creating embassies of thought. The idea of an embassy – a state within a state, a space within a sometimes alien land, different from but connected to it – plays out over the different Sydney Biennale 2016 locations.
One of my favourite Biennale of Sydney locations, I love everything about it from the ferry ride there and back to its sometimes chilling history.
It will host the Embassy of the Real, the coming together of a historic site and a re-imagined reality.
This could be built structures on the island which look old but are actually modern film set backdrops (can you pick them?). Or the re-creation of the 1913 Malevich opera Victory over the Sun in a new translation by Sydney Chamber Opera. Or any of the myriad ways in which new technology changes how we perceive reality and the role of our physical body in this experience.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Here we’re questioning the belief structures we have today. What is their purpose, how do we build them up, how do we personalise them, and in which ways are they global?
The Sydney Biennale 2016 interrogates the purpose of spirituality and religion in the Embassy of Spirits. It explores philosophical ideas behind religion, rituals and art, continuing a conversation already in progress among the gallery’s Asian, Indigenous and European collections.
Carriageworks anchors the biennale’s inner west’s projects. The #20BOS stands out for its emphasis on the area. I think about 30% of the Sydney Biennale 2016 will be located in the inner west. That’s a first.
The Embassy of Disappearance looks at how we memorise history. How languages, cultures and landscapes disappear and how we deal with historic changes. Absence and memory.
Museum of Contemporary Art
What is a museum? What can it be? What do we do with performance art? How do we bring historic art into the 21st century? Explore these issues in the Embassy of Translation.
Is history just one material among others? What strategies can artists use to address historical work in a contemporary context? Does anything go?
One of the smaller, edgier but also more conversational spaces available, it’s used by the Sydney Biennale 2016 to interrogate the status quo through the Embassy of Non-Participation. Non participation as an act of resistance.
I wonder whether this grew directly out of the last biennale? You may remember that a number of artists pulled out of that biennale, at some personal cost, to protest the role of the then major sponsor (now gone) in managing Australia’s disgraceful gulags for asylum seekers. Sadly, as of today, these offshore hellholes remain, with conditions even worse for the inmates than they were then.
It will be interesting to see what eventuates here.
A new location for the Sydney Biennale 2016 and I’m thrilled to see it included. This Victorian train station used to be the starting point for funerals going to Rookwood cemetery. It’s been almost forgotten in the past forty years or so, and is the perfect place for the Embassy of Transition.
The artists exhibiting here work through the transition from life to death. The cycles as interpreted in Buddhist teachings, the relationship of birds to spirituality, different traditions and rituals, all of these are touched on here.
Sydney Biennale 2016 Bookshop
Not just any old bookshop,this is the Embassy of Stanislaw Lem. In a project within a bookshop an accumulated collection of the works of Stannislaw Lem will provide more hooks to examine concepts of science fiction, translation and misreading.
And the books, or at least some of them, will be available to read and to buy. So far as I know they’ll be in Polish and English.
An important part of the Sydney Biennale 2016 are the in-between projects. The idea of serendipity, stumbling across new things. The idea of folded spaces – turned inside out, upside down, one thing hidden inside another.
The biennale spreads past the official spaces to provide a space for these other projects. They’ll include Indigenous artist Richard Bell’s embassy in front of the MCA, possibly walks through Redfern with Keg de Souza, things that haven’t yet been fully nailed down.
Suffice it to say that it’s about opening up the formal program into a conversation with Sydneysiders and visitors, inviting them to share, to provide input and to carry on the discourse after the exhibitions finish. To achieve that would be a strong mark of success for this twentieth Biennale.