18th Biennale of Sydney

Peter Robinson’s Gravitas Lite

Eat your heart out, The Amazing Race contestants. I trekked across Sydney by ferry, water taxi, bus and foot, visiting four spectacular venues in just one day for the 18th Biennale of Sydney. I braved the miserable winter winds and a swarm of journalists to preview the work of more than 100 artists from over 44 countries.

The Biennale is Australia’s largest contemporary visual arts event and is presented free to the public from the 27 June until 16 September 2012.

Destination 1: Museum of Contemporary Art

An opening address from the Biennale’s Co-Artistic directors, Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster kicked off the day at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The pair delivered their address under a canopy of origami cubes and handmade glass suspended from the ceiling in Pinaree Sanpitak’s installation ‘Anything Can Break’. This year’s works are curated under the premise ‘all our relations’, and explore the interconnections forged between people, artists and audiences across the globe.

The MCA exhibition simultaneously unites and juxtaposes works of epic scale and miniature proportions, from the monumental room of painted glass bottles in Liu Zhuoquan’s work ‘Where Are You?,’ to Zoe Keramea’s intricate paper moths scattered throughout the gallery space. ‘A Journey’ is a quirky assemblage of found objects from the imagination of Judith Wright. A sure-fire crowd favourite is Lee Mingwei’s ‘The Mending Project’, which encourages visitors to bring along a garment or object to be repaired.

Phillip Beesley’s Sibyl

Destination 2: Cockatoo Island

A short ferry ride across the rainy, hazy harbour led to our second destination, Cockatoo Island. You’ll find art in the strangest places on the island, tucked away in every nook and cranny – a dark tunnel suddenly transforms into a mesmerising glow worm cave thanks to Daan Roosegaarde’s motion-sensing installation.

Standouts include the multisensory experience of Philip Beesley’s work ‘Sybil’ and Peter Robinson’s ‘Gravitas Lite’, in which enormous polystyrene chains loop around the building’s industrial scaffolding.

We were so absorbed by the art (and wine) at the Cockatoo Island launch that we missed our connecting ferry to Walsh Bay. But after some fast talking from MegaphoneOZ editor Pam, we scored a ride on a water taxi, and even managed to beat the ferry to our next destination.

Destination 3: Pier 2/3

The Walsh Bay exhibition features three artworks of grand scale and ideas, from New Zealand, Belgium and Canada. Tiffany Singh’s work, ‘Knock On The Sky Listen To The Sound’ features a rainbow cascade of wind chimes suspended from the ceiling – a visual and aural delight.

Destination 4: Art Gallery of New South Wales

Amazing what you can do with a shopping bag at Arts Gallery NSW

The last stop on the Biennale trail was the Art Gallery of NSW, which featured a number of striking and immersive video installations. ‘The Mapping Journey Project’ by Moroccan-born artist Bouchra Khalili charts the clandestine travels of migrants across the globe, whilst Farideh Lashai’s video synthesises Charlie Chaplin’s performance in ‘The Great Dictator’ with the Egyptian revolt and Arab Spring.

Tackling the Biennale in just a few short hours was a satisfying, yet immensely tiring task. By the time I reached the final venue, my hyperstimulated brain had fallen prey to the very serious medical condition known as ‘ART’ (‘Art Related Tiredness’). The Biennale runs for twelve weeks in Sydney, so there’s no need to rush – enjoy the enchanting colours, sights and sounds at your own pace.

18th Biennale of Sydney, 27 June – 16 September. More information at: bos18.com/

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