This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

What To See At The Sydney Biennale

Art

For the next few months, the 21st Biennale of Sydney will take over the city.

At the helm is curator Mami Katoaka, whose main gig is as chief curator at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum. The major exhibition spans multiple locations across the Sydney, featuring the work of 70 artists and collectives from 35 countries responding to the theme ‘SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement’.

Since its inception in 1973, the Sydney Biennale has been known for its boundary-pushing exhibitions featuring major global artists. Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei is the headlining artist for this 21st iteration, with two major installations, a documentary screening and a keynote address centred around rights for refugees – or as he stresses – human rights.

We scoured the program (so you don’t have to!) to assemble this must-see list.

16th March, 2018

Ai Weiwei, ‘Law of the Journey’. Photo – courtesy of the Sydney Biennale.

Sally Tabart
Friday 16th March 2018

1. Ai Wei Wei ‘Law of the Journey’

The prolific Chinese contemporary artist and Biennale headliner brings a politically-fuelled installation of epic scale to Carriageworks. Law of the Journey features a 60-metre inflatable boat lined with over 300 larger-than-life human figures huddled in life jackets and packed in body-to-body. The installation is made from the same rubber used to manufacture the vessels that carry refugees across the Aegean Sea from Turkey, towering above onlookers and filling the cavernous space.

Ai Weiwei has gained celebrity status through his activist artwork, and is outspoken about the Australian government’s shameful treatment of refugees in offshore detention centres. Law of the Journey forces visitors to visually comprehend and confront the plight of refugees.

Ai Weiwei Law of the Journey

Cockatoo Island

Mit Jai Inn, ‘Planes (Hover, Erupt, Explode)’. Photo – courtesy of the Sydney Biennale.

2. Mit Jai Inn ‘Planes (Hover, Erupt, Explode)’

Sometimes looking into an artist’s workspace is as impressive as the actual artwork they create. For Mit Jai Inn, that’s kind of the point. Considered a pioneer of Thai contemporary art, Mit’s Planes (Hover, Erupt, Explode) looks like the abandoned studio of an eccentric (and giant) artist, where the visible process of creation is as important as the final product.

Defying traditional methods of display, the works hang haphazardly, layered with dense, painterly texture. Draping, looping, suspending and unfurling canvases from great heights, Planes (Hover, Erupt, Explode) traverses multiple levels of the space at Cockataoo Island, where the artist has spent months developing this site-specific work.

Mit Jai Inn Planes (Hover, Erupt, Explode)

Cockatoo Island

Maria Taniguchi, Untitled. Photo – courtesy of the Sydney Biennale.

3. Maria Taniguchi ‘Untitled’

Leaning up against a wall of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Maria Taniguchi’s work seems innocuous enough. Look a little closer and you’ll notice that what looked like textural details from a distance, are actually rows and rows (and rows and rows) of tiny bricks. The labour-intensive, process-driven task of bricklaying acts as a symbol for Maria’s own work as an artist.

The young Filipino artist who lives and works in Manila is known for her brick paintings, which she started making 10 years ago. Meticulous and disciplined, Maria draws out a grid and painstakingly paints one brick at a time until the canvas is filled. This ritual has become part of Maria’s daily routine.

Fluid, sculptural works hang adjacent. The languid ‘O’ and ‘I’ formations made out of Java Rod are invisibly suspended as though hovering in the thin air, acting as a relief from the rigidity of the ominous brick painting.

Maria Taniguchi Untitled

Museum of Contemporary Art
140 George Street, The Rocks

Marlene Gilson, What If?. Photo – courtesy of the Sydney Biennale.

4. Marlene Gilson

Over at the Art Gallery of NSW, Wathaurung Elder Marlene Gilson presents an alternative to what the history books tell us. Taking up painting later in life while recovering from an illness, in her work Marlene reflects on stories of Wathaurung history she was told by her grandmother. In her detailed, narrative paintings, Marlene reclaims the past by re-contextualising typically ‘Australian’ events like Captain Cook’s landing and Botany Bay and Eureka Stockdale, from an Indigenous perspective

Marlene Gilson various works

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, Sydney 

Semiconductor, Earthworks and Where Shapes Come From. Photo – courtesy of the Sydney Biennale.

5. Semiconductor ‘Where Shapes Come From’ and ‘Earthworks’

Who would have thought numbers, graphs and spreadsheets can form the basis of art? Even if spreadsheets aren’t for you, you’ll be amazed by Semiconductor’s large-scale video works, formed completely by data!

Exploring the intersections of art, science, and technology, UK-based duo Semiconductor have brought two major video installations to the Biennale, Earthworks at Carriageworks and Where Shapes Come From at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

An everlasting loop of mesmerising pulsations and undulations, Semiconductor use seismic data (aka. the information measured from vibrations of the earth) gathered from landscapes and terrains around the world as a way to control animation and sound of their work.

Semiconductor

Earthworks at Carriageworks
245 Wilson Street, Everleigh

Where Shapes Come From t Cockatoo Island

 

See the full program for 21st Biennale of Sydney at Biennaleofsydney.art.

Similar Stories

Melbourne Design Week 2018

'Designwork 02' At Sophie Gannon Gallery

An exhibition of inventive, artful, (even Seuss-ian?!) Australian design, on now as part of Melbourne Design Week.

Art

Inlet/Outlet By Julian Meagher

Previewing Julian Meagher’s latest exhibition of dreamy sapphire beachscapes, opening next week in Sydney.

Roundup

10 Unmissable Art Exhibitions of 2018

Our pick of the not-to-be-missed art exhibitions this year, Australia wide – diaries at the ready!
Elle Murrell

This Week

Interiors

Before + After: A Dated Brick Home Turned Coastal Holiday Pad

Dark timber and dated tiles have been replaced with light and bright interiors in this Mornington Peninsula beach house.
Christina Karras

Creative People

The New Small Business Making Mid-Century-Inspired Furniture In Australia

Culture Cush are making velvet-covered modular lounges inspired by retro designs, with the best materials of today!
Christina Karras
  16 hours ago

Studio Visit

Local Artist Hannah Maskell Creates Mesmerising Grids Of Colour

The Melbourne-based artist's geometric drawings and wooden sculptures are a cross between 'colour theory and colour therapy'.
Christina Karras

Architecture

An Unconventional Beach House Elevated On Steel

Steel beams elevate AB House by Office MI—JI to form an unconventional beach house in Barwon Heads.

Homes

A Quirky Redfern Terrace With A Hidden Green Roof

The unconventional family home of designer Sacha Coles, split over 4 levels!
Lucy Feagins
  24 hours ago

Gardens

A Lush Secret Garden, Inside A Converted Melbourne Church!

This surprising garden in East Melbourne has its own lagoon pool, a natural fish pond and 10m-tall walls covered in ivy.
Christina Karras

Sustainable Homes

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Food

Julia's Crunchy Crumbed Fish With Cos Salad + Yoghurt Tartare

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's delicious take on a classic summer fish dinner – on high rotation for the rest of the season!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

On The Market

A Rare Robin Boyd House Is Available To Rent

You could be the next tenant of this house, designed by Australia's most famous architect.

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Creative People

How Powerhouse Designer, Yuwaalaraay Woman Lucy Simpson Is Making Waves

How the Sydney based designer weaves stories of Country and culture into her collaborations with leading brands, such as JAG and Breville.
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Studio Visit

Dani McKenzie’s Detailed Paintings Look Like Familiar Photographs

The Melbourne artist recreates local streetscapes and everyday scenes, filled with intimate reminders of our own inner-worlds.
Christina Karras

Similar Stories

Melbourne Design Week 2018

'Designwork 02' At Sophie Gannon Gallery

An exhibition of inventive and artful Australian design, on now as part of Melbourne Design Week.

Art

Inlet/Outlet By Julian Meagher

A stunning exhibition of dreamy sapphire beachscapes, opening next week in Sydney.

Roundup

10 Unmissable Art Exhibitions of 2018

Our pick of the not-to-be-missed art exhibitions this year, Australia wide – diaries at the ready!
Elle Murrell

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net