Friday, August 3, 2012

18th Sydney Biennale at Cockatoo Island - 1 August

The 18th Biennale of Sydney ( on the web but #18bos on twitter - work that one out) runs until 16 September so you've got plenty of time to catch the free ferry over to Cockatoo Island to see this for yourself.  It is a great outing and reasonably family friendly.  Despite this, we only took our 4 year old junior critic with us as it makes it slightly easier to see some art.  So what did the team think?

Firstly we love the free ferry, and are very grateful for whoever keeps sponsoring that.  I think it is the Balnaves Foundation but the signage was tastefully discrete which is rather un-Sydney like.  Onto the art.  First up was the modern day midden of oyster shells and teacups creatively called "untitled" (pictured at top).  I quite liked this work, from an artist who I had never heard of before, Jonathan Jones.  It was a strong start and if no one was looking I would've souvenired something, but then I thought replicating this installation would be pretty easy. In fact come summer when I feel like eating oysters al fresco I just might try this in the backyard.  Next up for us was one of the tunnels which contained "Dune" by dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.  My daughter loved this interactive work of sound and lights and we had to swing back later in the day to get one more turn at it.  Other highlights were Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya's "living chasm" which was a fog installation that seemed eerily appropriate for this naval dockyard; Sachiko Abe's trancelike papercutting performance; kiwi Tiffany Singh's "knock on the sky and listen to the sound" wind chime install (which we had seen back at the Dowse last year); and the Canadian pair Pien and Tagaq's "Source" which defies description in a sentence, if you've seen it you'll understand when I say we liked running through the ropes.  Lastly we really enjoyed Li Hongbo's "Ocean of Flowers"which masses together lots of honeycomb paper lantern type thingys.  It is great that he has some unfurled examples and the end and this is where you find out that (spoiler alert) they are actually designed as weapons.  Nice touch.  As always in a show as diverse as the Biennale there was plenty of stuff that didn't float my boat, Alec Finlay's bee hives and Maria Cardoso's insect organs come to mind. It's not that I am anti-insect, I would love an urban hive of my own in Paddington, but I felt Alec could've gone further and had some real bees instead of the recordings.

Points.  3 to Li Hongbo for the paper thingys (above).  We all liked this one.  I will give 2 points to Jonathan Jones whose work I thought really worked well in his allocated space.  The last point is tough as there were quite a lot of pieces that we liked.  I will give 1 point to both Tiffany and Daan as these both worked well on the Island, were interactive, and were adored by my 4 year old.  All in all a good show, definitely not as flashy as last time (I am probably thinking of the exploding cars and the Brook Andrew bouncy castle) but still worth the price of admission (I realise it is nominally free but the nice cafe at the top of the island doesn't miss you!).

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