18th Biennale of Sydney – Connecting to the World we Inhabit

Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster, Artistic Directors, 18th Biennale of Sydney - Photograph: Sebastian Kriete

The 18th Biennale of Sydney will take place from 27 June to 16 September 2012. It will be happening every day in various city venues, which are all connected by a spectacular art walk around Sydney’s famous harbour. The Biennale continues to play a central role in helping to develop the visual arts culture in Australia by connecting artists from around the world. Every two years it is presented free to the public over a twelve-week period. Since its inception in 1973 it has provided an international platform for innovative contemporary art, showcasing the work of more than 1500 artists from over 83 countries. Contemporary artists and aritsans have quickly embraced new technologies and processes, alongside the old and traditional, seeking to connect in a positive way to the world we inhabit. This show will presents works by more than 100 artists from Australia, New Zealand, the Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East. Alongside other such shows the Venice Biennale, São Paolo Biennial and Documenta in Kassel, the Biennale of Sydney is one of the longest running exhibitions of its kind. It was the first biennial to be established in the Asia-Pacific region. Major venues participating in 2012 include the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Pier 2/3 and Cockatoo Island.

Slippers and Wire by Hassan Sharif 2009 - Courtesy the artist and The Flying House, Dubai Photograph: The Flying House

At the Art Gallery of NSW, the exhibition is subtitled In Finite Blue Planet. The work of Hassan Sharif, who currently lives and works in Dubai will be highlighted. He will have a large presence with his work Slippers and wire (2009) and Suspended objects (2011), together with a selection of seventeen works from his series Objects. Sharif has developed a body of work by manipulating his materials – twisting, knotting, folding and wrapping to create sculptural forms that explore ideas of consumerism, mass production and the simplicity of daily life.

The Sydney Biennale wants to emerge from the engagement of all participants, people and artists, by using a model that begins with its two curators in dialogue. The matrix of conversation then will extend to both artists and audiences, in what it is hoped will be, a multi-vocal correspondence.

Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster are the Artistic Directors for this Australia’s largest and most respected contemporary visual arts show. It’s manifesto says that it ‘focuses on inclusionary practices of generative thinking, such as collaboration, conversation and compassion, in the face of coercion and destruction‘.

Arm Chair by Robin Rhode 2011 - Courtesy the Artist and White Cube, London

In the arts analytical reflection has led to a deeper understanding that as human beings we are highly dependent upon our often overlooked relationships with others and with our common world. While this connective model is still embedded in a few societies, established western cultural patterns have tended to emphasize the gradual fragmentation and isolation of the individual. Art has the power and influence to inspire us all to seek the time out for contemplation and for opening up both our minds and hearts to the world and what it has to offer.

Robin Rhode was born in 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa and she lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Her work Arm Chair is a single channel digital animation, running for 1:20 mins.

Contemporary Art is always controversial in its time and, for many people it can be both confronting and uncomfortable. This is because it reflects who we are, our attitudes and philosophies, fashions, passions and changing values, all of which influence the designs we create and shape within both our aesthetic and active imagination.

Do You Remember When? 2009 - 12 by Postcommodity Formed 2006 in Phoenix, USA Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, Kade L. Twist, Nathan Young and formerly Steven Yazzie Postcommodity artists live and work in Phoenix and Albuquerque - Courtesy the artistsPhotograph: Jason Grubb

We are always seeking the new, while exploring the past, striving for the personal, while enjoying the popular and learning how to appreciate the handmade beside the mass-produced.

At the Art Gallery of NSW the Interdisciplinary arts collective Postcommodity, which comprises four Indigenous American artists, will cut a hole into the floor of the Yiribana Gallery to create their work – Do you remember when? (2009–12).

The hole reveals the earth below, symbolizing a spiritual, cultural and physical portal, and a point of transformation between worlds.

As part of this work, Postcommodity will collaborate with Aboriginal language speakers in New South Wales to create a sound component.

Small Business - Karaoke 2009 by Jin Shi - Courtesy Artist and White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney

Jin Shi lives and works in Beijing.

He is driven by compassion for the “little people”—those who scrounge a living at the bottom of the social heap, making their homes in cracks unnoticed by the upwardly mobile, confining their hopes to a miniature version of the new Chinese dream.

His installations, accurate down to the battered cooking implements, faded posters and layers of dust, could be mistaken for the real thing in every respect but their scale: his Mini Home (2005) and Small Business—Karaoke 2009m on show at the Art Gallery of NSW are about two-thirds full size, made to match the “half lives” of the urban poor.

These folk are so ground down by lack of jobs, money, choices and space, that “it is as if even their heights are shrinking”, Jin Shi says.  For Jin Shi, the life of the desperately poor is “more artistic than art”—so moving that “any further [artistic] processing will only pale beside it”.

Neon by Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano 2010 - Courtesy the Artists and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Sydney

Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano have been shortlisted for the Basil Sellers Art Prize to be awarded in August, 2012. There work Neon 2010 is a single-channel high definition digital video full of colour and sound. Born in Stanthorpe they both live and work in Melbourne exhibiting at the Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne and Sydney. Their impressive bibliography reveals that they have works in The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Chartwell Collection, Auckland New Zealand, The Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, the National Gallery of Australia at Canberra in the A.C.T., The University of Wollongong, The University of Queensland Art Museum and in Private Collections in Australia and Italy.

Today as they continue to create, by working skilfully and directly with many media and materials, artists and artisans continue to explore a range of cultural and historical traditions while developing their own ideas in new contexts. Because of technology, with its expanded reach, they can now also enjoy national and international reputations for their work. It is our social and cultural stories that connect us all and allow us to care, collaborate, connect and communicate to build a better global community. New ideas are generated, people become inspired and change happens in a myriad of positive ways, far outweighing any negatives.

White Porcelain Moon Jar 2006 by Park Young-Sook South Korea - Courtesy the Artist and Gallery Hyundai, Seoul - Honouring an age old tradition for the contemporary age

Due to the devastating upheaval of two world wars, the first half of the 20th century saw far reaching changes to the way people lived and operated within society.  Driven by the success of the 19th and early 20th century Industrial Revolution, the dream of a classless society inspired new ideas about being ‘modern’.

Modernist themes thrived between the two world wars. They were mostly devoid of applied decoration. They concentrated solely on geometry, uninterrupted lines and form.

It was all about creating a Utopia, that visionary system of political and social perfection where life would be lived on the highest ground of a moral and social plain.

Modernism, in its many forms, became the defining international design concept that survived World War One intact and culminated in the 1925 Parisian “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes”, of which the term “art deco” was a 1960’s contraction.

Since the sixties there has been a decisive shift in focus. For over two decades Post-Modernism was about a new approach to life, about cultivating an attitude of mind, not just a ‘look’, although that helped too.

Post Modernism was about design going ‘back to the future’. It ranged from the luxurious to the ludicrous as it reacted against, or rejected continuing trends in modernism.

It fuelled out of control consumerism and spawned a corrupt corporate culture, which became encircled by circuits of money, wealth and power.

Stylistically and realistically by the turn of the millennium it had collapsed under the weight of its own success as ideas about sustainability, and being green became integral to philosophies underpinning the future development of international art, design and style.

Since then art and design has been inspired by radical social, cultural and technological change.

The emergence of the consumer market and new manufacturing industries and techniques have dramatically changed the landscape, look and popularity of design over the past decade.

Translated Vase - The Moon 2008, by Yeesookyung - Courtesy the Artist and Gallery Hundai, Seoul

From being only available to an elite in society art and design has become a global phenomenon promoted through and by celebrities, signatures, brands and labels. New technologies are constantly explored and global communications and distribution have effectively dissolved national design boundaries.

All the former boundaries are now down, and new and emerging designers and artists are being nurtured by an increasing number of major events that showcase their work to the world. Commenting on the curatorial premise for the exhibition, Co-Artistic Director Catherine de Zegher said:

‘While collaboration is a working method and informs the premise of all our relations, with particular projects inviting the public to engage and thus expand the creation of the work, the larger stories of the 18th Biennale of Sydney directly address current local and global issues, such as migration, contamination, corruption and coercion. … For audiences, the art walk from venue to venue will be a slow reveal, where an understanding is shaped in the participatory act, and where the full story will only come later. There is a zooming in from the macrosphere of the global to the microsphere of everyday experience, which allows us to recognise the importance of the harmony between these spheres, how one can in turn influence the other. In the end, it is the audiences who will themselves make the relations and connections. Quite literally: all our relations.’

All our relations relies on the meeting and making of ideas together. Then and only then a constructive consequence can follow.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

18th Biennale of Sydney: All Our Relations

There will be an expanded education and public program attached to the 2012 exhibition which is entitled ‘all our relations’.

Highlights include specially designed Art Lounges and Learning Zones on Cockatoo Island and Pier 2/3, as well as a range of artists’ talks, guided tours, special programs for kids and families and after-dark events. Teachers and schools will be catered for through dedicated publications and guided tours, comprehensive online resources, as well as special educator programs.

For the duration of the 18th Biennale of Sydney, Art Lounges on Cockatoo Island and at Pier 2/3 will provide visitors with a place to sit and connect with the ideas behind the exhibition. Furnished with comfortable seating and flat screen televisions allowing visitors to access videos of artist interviews and other resources, the Art Lounges will provide visitors with information about artists, artworks and other Biennale programs.

Learning Zones on Cockatoo Island will provide students with space to explore the concepts and themes behind the exhibition, with access to online resources, interactive touch screens and engaging hands-on facilities.

Artist Talks and Guided Tours
In 2012, the Biennale continues its successful program of daily Guided Tours and weekly Mystery Tours of Cockatoo Island hosted by a number of celebrity tour guides. For the first time, the Biennale will offer school students special Education Guided Tours on weekday mornings with trained Art Activators.

Programs for Families and Kids
Parents, families and kids will also have a range of great opportunities to engage with the 18th Biennale of Sydney.

Three Biennale Family Sundays will be held on Cockatoo Island, unpacking the art and ideas behind the exhibition for children and families. Each fun-filled event will include hands-on art making activities, family-friendly tours, artist performances and storytelling.

Biennale Family Sundays
Will run from 10.30 am–4 pm on the following days: Make Your Mark on 15 July; Have Your Say on 12 August; and Make a Connection on 2 September – a special Father’s Day edition. Biennale Family Sundays are presented in association with The Sunday Telegraph.

For younger audiences, Baby Biennale is a hands-on workshop for parents and children three years and under. Baby Biennale gives parents with very young children the opportunity to share a different kind of experience: discovering art together. They will be able to touch objects, find out how the artwork was made and share in a hands-on art making activity.
Baby Biennale runs each Wednesday morning on Cockatoo Island from 18 July – 12 September, from 10.30 am–12 pm.

During the Biennale ‘School’s Out’ Holiday Program on Cockatoo Island, kids will be able to discover the artworks and history of the Island through fun, creative activities. Monday, 9 July – Friday, 14 July from 10.30 am–3 pm.

After Dark Events
This year the Biennale presents Biennale Bar @ Pier 2/3 on Friday nights throughout August, opening up Pier 2/3 for an unexpected evening of art. These special pop-up events invite audiences to experience the exhibition after dark with program support from FBi Radio, The Thousands and the Sydney Symphony Vanguard program. These free social events run from 6.30–9.30 pm every Friday throughout August (3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 August) at Pier 2/3, Walsh Bay. The Biennale Bar @ Pier 2/3 is presented in association with Asahi Super Dry.

Outreach and Access Programs
In 2012, the Biennale will again provide Priority Schools Funding Program Travel Subsidies to financially assist priority, regional and remote schools to plan excursions to the exhibition and experience an Art Activator-led tour of Cockatoo Island.

The successful Access Program – with Auslan and Audio Describer tours for visitors with hearing or vision impairment – will also return in 2012. The Lord Mayor Community Access Days, supported by the City of Sydney, will take place at Cockatoo Island on Saturday, 21 July; the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia on Saturday, 4 August; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Saturday, 8 September.



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