Biennale of Sydney wrapup

The Biennale closes soon after over two months. I blogged about some of the textile works (27-August), but want to record my impressions of some other works – not really in themselves, but in ideas I want to learn/remember from them. All the photos below were taken on my phone, so check the Biennale website above for better images.

This is Claire, fellow OCA student and member of ATASDA, interacting with Philip Beesley’s work Hylzoic Series: Sibyl in the old industrial buildings on Cockatoo Island. (Claire’s blog entries of our Biennale vists are here (Cockatoo island) and here (Museum of Contemporary Art).)



We were immersed in the experience, wandering through the huge, darkened space, surrounded by sound and light and scent, gently touching the work which responded to our presence. There was a sense of wonder and joy. Even the shadows on the old walls were fascinating.
I’ve said it before (24-June-2012), scale is important. Small can be exquisite, being big isn’t going to save bad work – it’s more that size should be a conscious choice, not just how it turns out or what’s convenient.
Light and shadow – very evocative. I want to incorporate this in my work. Lots of research to be done.
These photos show just part of Ed Pien’s work Source. It’s made of paper, mylar, rope, sound and video – the sound being throat singing by Tanya Tagaq.

In this the viewer, or participant, wanders through a labyrinth, exploring a watery world.

Scale, light and shadow, multiple senses engaged, immersion of the viewer…

Switching venue to follow the theme, this is Anything can break
by Pinaree Sanpitak, installed at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Once again large, with light, shadow and sound. I imagined it as walking just below the surface of the ocean, but have since read that the work is based on watery clouds and the female form, particularly breasts.

Some of the glass forms are lit using fibre optics. There are motion sensors in some of the grey origami “flying boxes”, which trigger speakers issuing a huge variety of sounds which meld together creating a world around the viewer/participants. The gallery is a double height space in the new part of the MCA and the lowered ceiling effect further enhances the feeling of being enclosed within the work.

The thumbnail photo gives an idea of the significant engineering required to support the work. Another common element is that a team was needed to produce and install each work.  Planning, project management and getting funding must have been huge tasks in each one.

Jumping back to Cockatoo Island, this is Gravitas Lite by Peter Robinson. The thumbnail photo is to give an idea of scale, but these shots show less than half of this amazing work in polystyrene. There’s an interesting clip of the artist speaking here.

Once again we have scale, light and shadow (I think all natural, thanks to the rows of skylights). Collaboration was an important element – around 60 crew and volunteers worked over a 5 week period to put it together. The sense of place is something I want to remember and think on. The work was conceived and created for this place, this event, and the polystyrene will be recycled afterwards. The chain motif references the convict and industrial past of the Island. The chains wrap themselves around and through the detritus of previous use.

I’m also taken by what I see as whimsey or humour – what the artist describes as the “contradiction of motif and materiality”. Some of the works in the Biennale seemed turgid, so (over)full of concept and meaning and gravitas. I like the idea of being thoughtful, meaningful and serious with a light touch.

In the video linked above Peter Robinson talks about the decisions that crew and volunteers made as the work was installed, and the sense of collaboration and ownership that each developed. Mit Jai Inn goes further his work No 112, leaving decisions about arrangement of his work to others. These abstract works use oil paint and pigment on canvas and the colour is complex and beautiful. Reading in the catalogue, there is a deep philosophical and political base to the artist’s work. I enjoyed it on a simpler level of rich colour and also rather intriguing speculation about how I would approach arranging this work.

How much can and should one let go of work – create it then send it on its way in the world? Robinson’s work will be recycled, confounding assumptions about the impact of the material he has used.

When I revisited Cockatoo Island a couple of weeks later, areas of Beesley’s touch sensitive lights no longer worked.

This beautiful gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art has work by Liang Quan on the back wall, moon jars by Park Young-Sook on the left and Yeesookyung’s creation using ceramic shards on the right. On a return visit various sections had been roped off.

I’ve been told Li Hongbo’s bright paper Ocean of Flowers (actually based on the silhouettes of weapons) now has areas crushed and ruined where people have simply walked on them.

I’m not sure of my point here. Is it that one needs to let go, or that one should only use robust materials? Is this just the nature of such a large and long exhibition, especially one that attracts so many who don’t normally go into galleries?

That’s rather a muddled and low thought, so rather than finishing there I’ll show some shots of Air and Inner by Honore d’O, installed at Pier 2/3. You can read the artist statement here – I have absolutely no idea what it means, if there’s anything lost in translation, if it is intended as a joke or if it’s just I don’t get it. But I enjoyed experiencing the work 🙂

Resource
de Zegher, C. and McMaster, G. (ed.) (2012) all our relations: 18th biennale of Sydney 2012, Sydney: Biennale of Sydney Ltd.

5 Responses to “Biennale of Sydney wrapup”


  1. 1 Meg in Nelson September 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    The Beesley we saw in Wellington had the bottom-of-the-sea darkness and I didn’t like it all that much. If I could go see one work here, I’d go to see Mit Jai Inn’s work. Wonderfully uplifting colors!

  2. 2 fibresofbeing September 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Hmm – I hadn’t noticed how particularly uncolourful most of my choices are! There was certainly a lot of colour around – David Aspden for a start. Perhaps it’s the result of my recent obsession with light and shadow.


  1. 1 More reading about weaving « Fibres of Being Trackback on October 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm
  2. 2 Exhibition: Double Take at the White Rabbit Gallery « Fibres of Being Trackback on November 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm
  3. 3 13 Rooms exhibition | Fibres of Being Trackback on April 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm

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In Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition Sunday 2 July. More info fibresofbeing.wordpress.com

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