In Italian, Biennale means ‘Biennial’, or an event that occurs once every 2 years. But it is most commonly used within the art world to describe a contemporary art festival originating from Venice. Sydney has a similar art event too, known as the Biennale of Sydney, and this year marks the 18th installment of the festival. Last weekend, we were walking around Circular Quay and noticed a poster showing a free ferry service to Cockatoo Island for the exhibition. Feeling adventurous, we hopped on the ferry having no idea what the biennale was about.
Free ferry to Cockatoo Island
Leaving the Sydney Opera House
On the ferry
Goodbye Circular Quay
Leaving behind Sydney Harbour Bridge
The famous Sydney skyline
Within 20 minutes, our ferry docked on what seemed to be a deserted island and all of us alighted.
Cockatoo Island is a World-Heritage-listed island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Retaining all its character from decades of human endeavour by convicts and shipbuilders alike, Cockatoo Island is open to the public daily, offering major events, exhibitions, tours, venue hire, accommodation including the world’s first urban waterfront campground, a waterfront bar (The Island Bar) and licensed kiosk (The Canteen).
Aerial view of the Cockatoo Island (courtesy of www.bos18.com)
The whole island looked like an abandoned industrial site with big factories and vast open areas – perfect location for art display indeed! Since we arrived at 4.30pm, we only had half an hour to tour before the exhibition closed at 5pm. It was quite an amazing feeling to look at art with such a non-traditional way. To most people, art would mean a piece of drawing on a canvas but the display here was nothing of that sort. We saw huge models of machinery made from polystyrene, moving shadows with mysterious music in the background, blinking lights, water-fog, you name it! It was really a clever play of not only the sight, but the hearing and touch of human senses as well. Some of the art pieces that we saw and brief description of them are shown below, with extracts taken from www.bos18.com.
Domesticated Turf, 2012 by Cal Lane (Picture from www.bos18.com)
Cal Lane’s ‘industrial doilies’ play upon juxtaposition by transforming industrial objects such as spades, wheelbarrows, oil drums and car doors. The works highlight an unexpected relationship between the delicate and domestic patterns of lace, carved into an expanse of steel to illustrate a comparison and contrast of materials and ideas that compliment and clash with one another.
In the dark
Gravitas Lite, 2012 by Peter Robinson (Picture from www.bos18.com)
Peter Robinson employs polystyrene to investigate the gallery as site. Scale is manipulated, presenting contradictions in weight and strength which often have the effect of destabilising the viewer’s sense of perception. The works are often massive and require teams of people working together to physically structure the work and solve problems, creating a sense of community.
They’re made from polystyrene!
The River, 2012 by Monika Grzymala & Euraba Artists and Papermakers (Picture from www.bos18.com)
Monika Grzymala’s architectural interventions are site specific, temporary, often ephemeral installations, based on the language of the line as mental and physical perception. Within a representation of relations of the human body to the environment, she uses with a wide array of materials, including handmade Washi paper, adhesive tapes, lead wire, confetti, leaves and other linear objects found in the surrounding landscape.
All made from paper
Source, 2012 by Ed Pien with Tanya Tagaq (Picture from www.bos18.com)
Source (2012) is a site-specific installation for Cockatoo Island and explores the symbolic, mythological and political ramifications of water. To conceptually develop Source, I researched mythologies and folklore pertaining to water recounted by elders from various cultures. From these narratives, a hybridised story was created, focussing on the commonalities and differences between peoples and cultures. The political ramifications of water also inform the work, in particular, the lack of accessible clean water experienced by many First Nations’ communities.
Looking inside the hole (Picture from www.bos18.com)
Using drawing, paper-cuts, installation, sound and video work, he explores curiosity, wonder and enchantment while celebrating diverse ways of being in the world. Participants enter his work to engage and explore its labyrinthine interior.
Spot a prawn!
Before we knew it, our time was up! Someone came to usher us out and we left with a feeling of awe at how very advanced and modern art has evolved. If you have not been to an art festival this scale before, you should give this a try. After all, it’s free!
18th Biennale of Sydney at Cockatoo Island
Date: 27 June to 16 September 2012
Getting there: Free ferry from Wharf 6, Circular Quay (outside MCA) and Pier 2/3
Opening hours: Open daily 10 am–5 pm