Are you ready to chase arty escapades around the city? The Biennale of Sydney has announced a packed program for 2022, with over 330 artworks by 89 participants and 400 events as part of this year’s edition, which will be open to the public from March 12 to June 13. The largest contemporary art event of its kind in Australia, as always, the Biennale will be free and open to the public.
Audiences will experience large-scale immersive installations, site specific projects and living works. This year a giant woman clad in leaves will appear on a six-metre-tall LED wall set into a polished mirrored pavilion on Barangaroo headland, one of the largest bamboo structures ever produced in Australia will wind its way through the architecture and other artworks at The Cutaway, and an immersive soundscape will be created from recordings of over 15,000 animal calls.
For the first time, the Biennale will take over The Cutaway, the cavernous, below-ground, concrete event space at Barangaroo Reserve that has previously been used as an arts space at the Sydney Festival. And for the first time in ten years, the Biennale returns to Pier 2/3, after its major redevelopment as part of Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. The Biennale also returns to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Circular Quay, the Information + Cultural Exchange, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, the National Art School in partnership with Artspace, and the Rocks.
The title of the 23rd Biennale is ‘rīvus’, meaning ‘stream’ in Latin. Adding another dimension, the word ‘rivalry’ also has Latin and aquatic roots. ‘Rivālis’ is derived from rīvus, and means ‘one who uses the same stream or water source’.
The new title will carry on from the previous theme, ‘Nirin’, where the Biennale championed First Nations artists from near and far – a brook into a river, if you will. The new theme hopes to enable aqueous worlds – rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems – to share a dialogue with creators and raise unlikely questions. For example, can a river sue over psychoactive sewage? Will oysters grow teeth in an act of shuck-tastic revenge? What do the eels think? Are waves the ocean’s desire?
In a big change to previous years, creators invited to participate in the Biennale will be referred to as ‘participants’ rather than ‘artists’. This opened up the scope to more diverse talents, skills, practices and modes of being beyond the realm of the visual arts. So, expect to see experts like scientists, shamans, folk craftspeople and traditional singers amongst the throng. International participants include Kiki Smith, Marguerite Humeau, Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe, John Gerrard, Jumana Emil Abboud and Ackroyd & Harvey alongside Australian participants such as Badger Bates, Clare Milledge, Julie Gough and D Harding.
Another major difference is that representatives from each of the major cultural institutions involved have formed a team of curators – known as the Curatorium – and will have a stronger voice in curatorial choices than ever before. Overseen by the new artistic director, Colombian curator José Roca, this includes Paschal Daantos Berry from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Anna Davis from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Hannah Donnelly from the Information + Cultural Exchange (I.C.E.), and Talia Linz from Artspace.
Do you think it feels a little soon for the biannual event to return? Let’s not forget that the 22nd Biennale was unexpectedly waylaid as restrictions on mass gatherings meant venues closed their doors just days after it opened in March 2020, with the multi-venue exhibition series reopening later in the year from June to September.
The 23rd Biennale of Sydney will be presented from March 12 to June 13, 2022. Admission is free. Find out more at biennaleofsydney.art.