Not to be missed at this year’s Biennale - Art Collector

Lee Mingwei, Guernica in Sand, 2006 and 2015. Mixed-media interactive installation, sand, wooden island, lighting, 1300 x 643cm. Courtesy: JUT Museum Pre-Opening Office, Taipei. Photo: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei

The 20th Biennale of Sydney, titled The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed opens on 18 March. More than 200 individual art works from 83 artists hailing from 35 countries are to be presented across seven venues during the Biennale’s three-month exhibition period, making it one of Australia’s largest and most impressive contemporary art events. This year 14 Australian artists will participate, including Richard Bell, Daniel Boyd, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Jamie North, Justene Williams, Ken Thaiday and Nyapanyapa Yunupingu.

Each of the seven venues has been dubbed a different “Embassy of thought” – a concept that devised by artistic director Stephanie Rosenthal with the aim of giving each location a conceptual focus. Cockatoo Island becomes the Embassy of the Real, the Art Gallery of NSW the Embassy of Spirits, Carriageworks the Embassy of Disappearance, Artspace the Embassy of Non-Participation, the Museum of Contemporary Art the Embassy of Translation, a mobile book shop the Embassy of Stanislaw Lem and a new venue, Mortuary Station, the Embassy of Transition.

Embassy exhibitions are complimented by a dynamic program of guided tours, artist and curator talks, lectures, performances, workshops, salons, reading groups and gatherings held across the city. Highlights include Biennale Opening Night staged at Cockatoo Island on Friday 18 March, allowing ticket holders to see the art after dark, with ambitious installations lighting up the island for the one night only.

Also on Cockatoo Island, artist Justene Williams collaborates with Sydney Chamber Opera to present
Victory Over the Sun, a radical revisiting of the Futurist (anti-)opera first performed in St Petersburg, Russia in December 1913. The performance shows throughout opening weekend.

Rosenthal, known as a great advocate for performance art, has programmed three or four pieces in each venue – more than at any previous Biennales. In line with the performance heavy approach, Carriageworks will host the keynote address by radical innovator of dance and choreography Boris Charmatz on Saturday 19 March. Tickets to the Keynote Address also include advance access to a one-off performance and Australian premiere of Charmatz’s work
manger (2014). Another performance work not to be missed at Carriageworks is Lee Mingwei’s Guernica in Sand (2006/16) performed on Saturday 23 April, where the artist and his collaborators will transform the sand recreation of Picasso’s famous painting into an entirely new work.

At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a month-long chain performance titled
ghost telephone will feature a series of interwoven performances from an array of internationally celebrated artists. It’s presented daily from 15 March until 15 April, at which time performers will channel and transform the spirits of specially chosen art works currently on display. Rosenthal will also give a free exhibition talk at the gallery on Wednesday 30 March at 5.30pm.

The 20th Biennale of Sydney runs from Friday 18 March until Sunday 5 June 2016. Entry is free to all venues. Some program highlights are ticketed.

Camilla Wagstaff

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