Art facilitates conversations and change. The Biennale of Sydney 2020 provides a space for 110 international artists to consider sovereignty, inclusivity and activism. Indigenous Australian artist, Brook Andrew (b. 1970), is invited as Creative Director for this year, pulling together a mixture of lectures and workshops which counter stereotypes, stigmas and misinformation. Topics include: Healing Land, Remembering Country and Memorial Lecture: Youth Activism.
The focal point of the Biennale is an exhibition which combines video, photography, installation and performances. A range of artworks query why social and cultural divides exist across the country’s diverse population. The show’s title, NIRIN, is taken from the Wiradjuri language – translating to “edge.” It recognises Indigenous and First Nation artists from across the globe – foregrounding the creation of new dialogues through marginalised voices. The presentation shares a range of personal stories and histories – drawing on themes of heritage, autonomy and shared social customs.
Andrew examines the importance of inclusivity and diversity through photographic series, Possessed (2015). Mountainous countryside and vast waterways are transformed into otherworldly scenes with the addition of collage. The multi-layered monochromatic environments emphasis our shared connection with the earth, altering historic ideas of land ownership and hierarchy through visual immersion. Andrew reflects: “the urgent states of our contemporary lives are laden with unresolved past anxieties and hidden layers of the supernatural.” By presenting an ethereal landscape for contemplation and engagement, an alternate vision of a hopeful, unified future is considered.
South African photographer Zanele Muholi (b. 1972) is also included as a renowned practitioner that tackles hetero-patriarchal ideologies, reworking a visual narrative of black and LGBTQI+ identities. Featured above is MalD IV, New York (2018), an image which depicts a powerful subject sitting alone, purposely staring out of the frame. The figure wears a large feathered headdress and dark hood, exploring the history of clothing as a marker of tradition and identity. The bold portrait challenges prejudice and intolerance, introducing a lone individual who is confident and strong. The image underlines the event’s goal to amplify marginalised voices and reframing histories to disrupt pre-existing ideologies.
Some of the other contributing artists include: Arthur Jafa (America), Aziz Hazara (Afghanistan), Barbara McGrady (Australia), Denilson Baniwa (Brazil), Emily Karaka (New Zealand), Paulo Nazareth (Brazil) and Taqralik Partridge (Northern Quebec).
The Biennale of Sydney 2020 is from 14 March. Find out more here.
Image: Zanele Muholi, MalD IV, New York, 2018, Silverjet gelatin print, 80 x 70.5cm. Courtesy of the artist and of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg.