Artistic Director Stephanie Rosenthal unveils a dynamic artist list and sci-fi-inspired exhibition programme.

71 artists will be exhibiting at seven venues, reimagined as “Embassies of Thought”, across the city of Sydney.

Lee Bul, 'Diluvium', 2014. Installation view (2014) at the Korean Cultural Centre UK, London. Photo by Junyong Cho. Image courtesy Korean Cultural Centre UK, London.

Lee Bul, ‘Diluvium’, 2014. Installation view (2014), at the Korean Cultural Centre UK, London. Photo: Junyong Cho. Image courtesy Korean Cultural Centre UK, London.

The 20th edition of the Biennale of Sydney is set to open on 18 March 2016. Last week, Stephanie Rosenthal, Artistic Director of the Biennale, unveiled an intriguing exhibition concept as well as the initial list of artists selected for the much-anticipated event.

The future is already here

Running until 5 June, the 2016 Biennale is entitled “The Future is Already Here – it’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” – a line taken from science fiction author William Gibson, according to the press release (PDF download). Rosenthal explains the concept thus:

If each era posits its own view of reality, what is ours? One of the key ideas this Biennale explores is how the common distinction between the virtual and the physical has become ever more elusive.

Choice of venue was a central focus for the 2016 Biennale, which extends beyond the Sydney Harbour and Central Business District towards Sydney’s vibrant inner west. Rosenthal adds that:

A focus on ‘in-between spaces’ is key: in terms of our interaction with the digital world, displacement from and occupation of spaces and land, and the interconnections and overlaps between politics and financial power structures.

Lee Mingwei, 'Guernica in Sand', 2006 and 2015, mixed-media interactive installation, sand, wooden island, lighting, 1300 x 643 cm. Photo by Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei. Image courtesy JUT Museum Pre-Opening Office, Taipei.

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

Embassies of thought

The various exhibition venues are divided into seven “Embassies of Thought”, situated at Cockatoo Island (Embassy of the Real), the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Embassy of Spirits), Carriageworks (Embassy of Disappearance), Artspace Visual Arts Centre (Embassy of Non-Participation), the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (Embassy of Translation), a bookshop (Embassy of Stanislaw Lem) and the former train station Mortuary Station (Embassy of Transition), respectively. Rosenthal comments:

The embassies are […] inspired by the unique locations and individual histories of each venue; they will provide safe spaces for thinking, convening for the three-month duration of the Biennale.

Ben Strout, CEO of the Biennale, says of the Biennale’s unique curatorial choice of venues:

Stephanie’s programme for the 20th edition of the Biennale of Sydney captures the essence of our vision. We’re working with fantastic artists from around the world, exhibiting inside established cultural organisations while also inhabiting new and surprising sites across the city.

Chen Chieh-jen, 'The Bianwen Book', 2014, 'The Route', 2006. Image courtesy Chen Chieh-jen Studio.

Chen Chieh-jen, ‘The Bianwen Book’, 2014. Image courtesy Chen Chieh-jen Studio.

Artist-centric approach

Rosenthal adds that the upcoming Biennale adopts an “artist-centric approach”, “exploring the represented artists’ practice in depth by showing several works by many participants”. In addition, site-specific installations will be set up at various locations throughout inner Sydney, including a work by Bo Christian Larsson at Camperdown Memorial Rest Park. Rosenthal says, quoted in the press release:

I’ve also encouraged artists to make works that are site-specific, and around 70 per cent of artists participating in the 20th Biennale of Sydney are presenting new commissions.

According to the press release, performance is also an integral part of this Biennale. Highlights include works by boychild, Boris Charmatz, Neha Choksi, Mette Edvardsen, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Mella Jaarsma, Lee Mingwei, Adam Linder, and Justene Williams with the Sydney Chamber Opera.

Other Asian artists in the list include, among others:

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: biennales, curatorial practice, contemporary art as soft power, connecting Asia to itself, art and the internet, events in Sydney, news

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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