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The Future is here… you just haven’t seen it yet

November 25, 2015

A preview of the ' Embassies ' of Sydney's 2016 Biennale

The theme of the 20th Biennale of Sydney (opens March 18, 2016) is inspired by a quote from leading science fiction author William Gibson "The Future is Already Here — It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed "

By Julia Champtaloup

Artistic Director Stephanie Rosenthal will be staging the Biennale across what are being called Embassies of Thought. Venues for these so called ‘constellations of thought’ or ‘safe havens for ideas’ include the MCA, Art Gallery of NSW and Carriageworks but also some selected ‘in-between spaces’ located around the city and in Sydney’s inner west. The embassies are also inspired by their unique locations and the histories of each venue.

Minouk Lim_Portable Keeper 2009


For the ‘in-between projects’, the Biennale has commissioned new projects, including one by artist collective Brown Council (Frances Barrett, Kate Blackmore, Kelly Doley and Diana Smith). Performance is an integral part of this Biennale, presented at each embassy and elsewhere by artists including Boris Charmatz, Neha Choksi, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Lee Mingwei, Adam Linder and Justene Williams with Sydney Chamber Opera.

Mass Action, Brown Council


Rosenthal has said ‘We have taken an artist-centric approach, exploring the represented artists’ practice in depth by showing several works by many participants. I’ve also encouraged artists to make works that are site-specific, and around 70 percent of artists participating in the 20th Biennale of Sydney are presenting new commissions’.

A first time venue for the Biennale is the Mortuary Station on Regent Street near Central Station. The unique history of this Gothic style, former Victorian-era train station that served to carry the dead and mourners to cemeteries outside of the city, has inspired artists who will be presenting works around the topics of life, death and rites of passage.

Here, the Embassy of Transition with its elaborate architectural features including carvings of angels, cherubs, and gargoyles will host an installation artwork by British artist Marco Chiandetti that includes live Indian myna birds eating sculptures made of seeds. Chiandettii was attracted to the idea of using a non-native species to represent issues around displacement and discrimination. Though Australians are very familiar with myna birds, they are generally not a very popular bird.

Marco Chiandetti Sculpture for Bird (Barn Owl)


Heman Chong, Everyday Life in the Modern World


Cockatoo Island will host the Embassy of the Real, providing spaces for artists to explore how we perceive reality in the digitised era, with major works by Korakrit Arunanondchai, William Forsythe, Camille Henrot, Lee Bul, Chiharu Shiota, Ming Wong, and Xu Zhen (Produced by MadeIn Company).

Cockatoo Island hosting "Embassy of the Real"


At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Embassy of Spirits will explore the intersection between the spiritual and the philosophical, including works concerned with personal and religious rituals. Works  to be presented by Johanna Calle, Sheila Hicks, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Jumana Manna, Sudarshan Shetty, and Taro Shinoda.

Archie Moore


The  Embassy of Disappearance  at Carriageworks will bring together works by artists exploring themes of absence and memory, including disappearing languages, histories, currencies and landscapes. Artists presenting work at this Embassy include Lauren Brincat, Neha Choksi, Yannick Dauby and Wan-Shuen Tsai, Yuta Nakamura, Otobong Nkanga, Mike Parr, Bernardo Ortiz, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Maria Rueda, The-Real


The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia will host the Embassy of Translation, bringing together a selection of works that contextualise historical positions, concepts and artefacts, alongside contemporary concerns and working methods. Artists presenting work at the MCA include Nina Beier, Daniel Boyd, Noa Eshkol, Helen Marten, and Dayanita Singh.

The Embassy of Non-Participation will be located at Artspace in Woolloomooloo, Here artist duo Karen Mirza and Brad Butler will take over Artspace, considering how the act of ‘non-participation’ might also be an active and critical position.

Ming Wong, Windows On The World (Part 1)

Biennale Of Sydney

Biennale of Sydney
The 20th Biennale of Sydney runs from March 18 to June 5, 2016.

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