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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!?

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

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

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Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
Archie Moore, 'A Home Away From Home (Bennelong-Vera’s Hut)', 2016 / Photograph: Ben Symons
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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.

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Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
Archie Moore, 'A Home Away From Home (Bennelong-Vera’s Hut)', 2016
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Cnr Vine & Eveleigh St, Redfern
Daniel Boyd, 'What Remains', 2016, site-specific installation / Photograph: Ben Symons
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Cnr Vine & Eveleigh St, Redfern

More often a painter, Indigenous artist Daniel Boyd has replicated his trademark 'dots' with tiny reflective mirrors, on the 'Redfern Wall'.

You can see a suite of other works by Boyd at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Biennale exhibition.

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95 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills
Ricardo Basbaum, 'diagram (the future of disappearance)', 2016, billboard / Photograph: Ben Symons
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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.

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86 George St, Redfern
Brown Council, 'Making History', 2016, Regular performance and installation / Photograph: Leïla Joy
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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.

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16 Vine St, Redfern
Keg de Souza, 'We Built This City', 2016 / Photograph: Leïla Joy
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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.

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Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
Dane Mitchell, 'Remedy for Agoraphobia, Ataxia, Anxiety (AgNO3)', 2016 / Photograph: Ben Symons
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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

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.”

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By: Dee Jefferson

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