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Biennale of Sydney: the guide

Everything you need to know about the city-wide takeover – from who to where to what the hell!?
Biennale of Sydney 2016
Photograph: Daniel Boud Lee Bul 'Willing To Be Vulnerable' (2016) installation view, Cockatoo Island

Every two years the Biennale of Sydney takes over the city's major art institutions and Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, creating a wonderland of art curated by a different person/team per edition.

Below is our guide to the latest Biennale of Sydney - BOS 20.

The in-between spaces

Oscar Murillo, meandering – black wall (unfinished), 2016.

130 Abercrombie St

Just two works in the Biennale of Sydney tackled the global refugee crisis head on – and the most striking (not visually but conceptually) was Murillo's 'art of omission'. Instead of presenting the work he'd planned, the Colombian-born London-based artist flushed his passport down the plane's toilet while he was in transit to Sydney. Consequently, when he landed in Sydney he was deported.

In a statement released by the artist, he said: “Destroying my passport was a way of challenging the conditions in which I have the privilege of moving through the world, as a citizen.” You can read more about the incident in the New York Times.

You can see a trace of Murillo's work-to-be in this between-building gap on Abercrombie Street: a series of medical autopsy tables stacked on top of one another, with black canvas stretched over the top. 

You can also find a book and a sound installation in the ticket office at the Embassy of Transition, Mortuary Station.

Biennale of Sydney 2016 Royal Botanic Gardens Archie Moore A Home Away From Home install shot 01 RBG Courtesy the artist and The Commercial gallery Sydney
Archie Moore, 'A Home Away From Home (Bennelong-Vera’s Hut)', 2016 / Photograph: Ben Symons

Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Archie Moore’s ‘hut’ has been built on the Bennelong Lawn in front of Government House – and is a reimagination of the hut that Governor Philip built for Indigenous leader Bennelong in around the same spot. The inside of the hut, with its dirt floor, is not only an imagination of Bennelong's hut, but an evocation of Moore's grandmother's hut in in Glenmorgan (Queensland), as he remembers it.

Biennale of Sydney 2016 Ricardo Basbaum diagram (the future of disappearance) Courtesy the artist and BOS Photographer credit Ben Symons
Ricardo Basbaum, 'diagram (the future of disappearance)', 2016, billboard / Photograph: Ben Symons

95 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills

Brazilian artist Ricardo Basbaum created one of his trademark diagrams in large, bill-board scale. The Biennale's statement about the work reads: "In it, or through it, Basbaum advances his bioconceptualism to propose to Sydney passersby a poetic-choreographic cartography for the afterlife of conditioned presence."

We have no idea what this means. But we like it when billboards are not selling us shit, but rather making us curious.

Biennale of Sydney 2016 86 George St Redfern Brown Council 2016 Making History installation view feat Brown Council courtesy BOS photographer credit Leïla Joy
Brown Council, 'Making History', 2016, Regular performance and installation / Photograph: Leïla Joy

86 George St, Redfern

Local collective Brown Council have taken over the former premises of Grantpirrie gallery to continue their ongoing project paying tribute to pioneering Australian performance artist and feminist Barbara Cleveland. 

Join them Sat Jun 4 from 4pm to see the work in action. Pop in on Sat from 10am to check out documentation of the project.

Biennale of Sydney 2016 Keg de Souza 2016 We Built This City Installation view at 16 Vine Street Redfern courtesy BOS photographer credit Leïla Joy
Keg de Souza, 'We Built This City', 2016 / Photograph: Leïla Joy

16 Vine St, Redfern

Crawl through a tent tunnel into the patchwork wonderland of Keg de Souza's temporary venue: the Redfern School of Displacement – for discussions of local and global displacement.

Biennale of Sydney 2016 Royal Botanic Gardens Dane Mitchell 2016 Remedy for Agoraphobia Ataxia Anxiety AgNO3 installation view courtesy BOS
Dane Mitchell, 'Remedy for Agoraphobia, Ataxia, Anxiety (AgNO3)', 2016 / Photograph: Ben Symons

Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Two more of Dane Mitchell's 'Remedy' tanks are at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as part of their Biennale of Sydney exhibition.

Meet the curator

Image of Biennale of Sydney curator Stephanie Rosenthal with her hair out and wearing loose-fitting white robes, standing with her arms folded against the bright turquoise wall of Mortuary Station
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Stephanie Rosenthal

“I still have this romantic view of, you know, a 12 year old wandering down the street and thinking, ‘Oh this is really interesting’ – and maybe going and investigating art a bit more.”

More to explore