T1-MMT-P5 Exhibition – 20th Biennale of Sydney – partial view

This post about the current Biennale of Sydney is partial in that I’ve only visited a couple of the sites so far, but even more because I am anything but an impartial viewer. Everything I see is through the lens of my own recent work, considering alternatives, possible future options. Such bias feels uncomfortable – I feel partly closed to entering another’s view of the world. Is it to an extent a good thing – a personal voice, a personal perspective, isn’t that what I am meant to be developing as an artist? Whichever, clearly it’s something I need to work through.

Jumana Manna Installation view

Jumana Manna
Installation view

At the Art Gallery of New South Wales A magical substance flows into me is a 70 minute HD video with sound by Palestinian artist Jumana Manna. It’s a complex compilation based on research into broadcast music recordings from across Palestine in the 1930s. Manna documents playing these recordings to musicians across the country, asking them to perform in response. She “investigat[es] the spiritual nature of music and its capacity to shape both identity and cultural and religious rituals” (from gallery signage). I’ve watched sections of the video during different visits and what struck me was the personal nature of the footage, often in domestic settings, the intensity and interest of the musicians and their joy in performance.

Jumana Manna

Jumana Manna

Jumana Manna White elbow

Jumana Manna
White elbow

The video is shown in a space that includes a number of sculptural works by Manna. This untitled collection of sculptures, made of plaster, pigments and laquer, are domestic in scale. They are strangely familiar in form – dried gourds perhaps, or human lungs. Empty containers that would resonate, like a musical instrument, like a human body. To me there’s a sense of the domestic, the hospitable, in providing an installation with inbuilt padded seating.

There is variation in shape and colour of the sculptures, but connections in line and material. There are similar forms in different colours, for example the double lobed form that is reminiscent of body parts. The grouping is varied but cohesive. As can be seen in the installation view there are two larger sculptures, separated in space, size and the inclusion of additional found elements, but clearly connected.

The installation brings the viewer in, a participant in the journey of discovery through a divided land where music knows no boundaries.

Manna’s work is in the Art Gallery of NSW, the biennale’s Embassy of Spirits. The following two artists are being exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Embassy of of Translation.

Nina Beier Installation view

Nina Beier
Installation view

Two works by Nina Beier can be seen – Allegory of Charity and Tileables. Tileables are the ceramic squares seen on the floor in the photograph above and are based on textures developed for 3D modelling software. Allegory of Charity is a group of works showing coffee cups suspended in the air, a stream of coffee beans apparently pouring from them.

Nina Beier

Nina Beier
Allegory of Charity (detail)

Beier examines the translation between objects and image, taking stock images of mass produced products and recreating them in three dimensions. This could be viewed as the opposite of my recent work, where highly individual three dimensional works were created, then transformed into images using photography. Particularly in the black and white photographs and those of wrapped objects, the individual nature of the objects was in part repressed.

Beier’s individual elements are repetitive with slight differences. Most obviously the coffee cups are different sizes and shapes. However all the cups appear to be commercially mass produced. The impact of the familiar object reminded me of observations in the workshop with Ruth Hadlow (25-Feb-2016). I took inspiration from drawings by John Bokor, whose work appears firmly located in the domestic and familiar. My own layered drawings included some of my collection of objects – not at all familiar or ordinary. At the time I asked where can ordinary lie. Beier has taken something very ordinary, impersonal, trite, and turned it into something unfamiliar, surreal.

Dayanita Singh Kitchen Museum (detail)

Dayanita Singh
Kitchen Museum (detail)

Dayanita Singh Kitchen Museum (detail)

Dayanita Singh
Kitchen Museum (detail)

Dayanita Singh has an extensive photographic archive, built up over more than 30 years. Here Singh presents some of these in “mobile museums”, travelling to different locations, with a unique selection and display at each venue, the series of photographs open to a unique interpretation of meaning or narrative by each viewer.

Dayanita Singh Suitcase Museum (detail)

Dayanita Singh
Suitcase Museum (detail)

I don’t see the overall idea as new – Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise comes to mind (I’ve seen the version at the National Gallery of Australia). At a very different level my weaving Cacophony traveled Australia as part of ATASDA‘s The Maharajah’s Garden suitcase exhibition (5-Feb-2010).

Singh’s two collections are beautifully presented, a series of moments that had me looking at details, wondering about other places and lives.

Bringing it back to my current obsession, an accordion fold book of my collection photographs could be an effective way of making a final presentation, a sense of completion to my final work. It even has that lovely reference to the very first sample done for the course. I have a skype tutorial coming up in a few days, so can discuss the idea with Rebecca then.

Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 5: A final piece
Exhibition – 20th Biennale of Sydney
T1-MMT-P5 Exhibition – 20th Biennale of Sydney – partial view

3 Responses to “T1-MMT-P5 Exhibition – 20th Biennale of Sydney – partial view”


  1. 1 JulieB April 6, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Manna’s sculptures and Beier’s installation provide contrasting examples of evoking a strong response through 3D pieces and are interesting to view alongside your own explorations of vessels and groupings. Thought-provoking post.

    • 2 fibresofbeing April 8, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      Yes, I see more and more to investigate on this path. So many different purposes and approaches… It’s been interesting to watch your developments in 3D too.


  1. 1 Weekly roundup – a new rhythm? | Fibres of Being Trackback on April 3, 2016 at 7:17 pm

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