Juliana Engberg, Artistic Director of the 19th Biennale of Sydney, today revealed details for the Asia Pacific’s largest contemporary visual arts event, to be presented free to the public from 21 March until 9 June 2014 at five venues across Sydney.
Announcing a vibrant list of more than 90 artists from 31 countries, Engberg commented at an event held at the Sydney Opera House: ‘At its heart, the 19th Biennale of Sydney celebrates the power of artistic imagination. You Imagine What You Desire is an optimistic biennale that presents an exploration of the world and contemporary aesthetic experience through the inventions and desires of well-known artists, as well as many exhibiting in Sydney for the first time.
‘For me artists are active philosophers who seek to engage the audience and viewer in an exploration of our world through metaphor, narrative and poetry. They do this so that we might find inspiration in the sensations and intensities produced by art, and so that we might, temporarily, step aside from our commonplace experiences and feel something uncanny and unusual.’
Marah Braye, Chief Executive Officer, Biennale of Sydney added: ‘Juliana Engberg is curating a much-anticipated exhibition that will be remembered by audiences for many years to come. We are thrilled to be working with a group of exceptional artists, many of whom are developing new projects especially for Sydney.
‘As we celebrate our 40th anniversary in November – making the Biennale of Sydney one of the oldest exhibitions of its kind – we are proud to present one of the world’s truly great biennale experiences.’
19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire
In addition to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), venues for the 19th Biennale of Sydney include two heritage-listed locations: Carriageworks, a former rail yard; and Cockatoo Island, a former prison and shipyard in Sydney Harbour. The 19th Biennale will also present works at Artspace and include several performative projects in Sydney’s CBD.
Inspired by the exhibition title You Imagine What You Desire, Scottish artist Nathan Coley is creating a new multi-venue work. Known for his thought-provoking text-based installations constructed from lights and scaffolding, Coley’s works will be installed at various Biennale locations across the city.
Areas of the city will be infiltrated during the Biennale’s opening weeks with a range of performative works and events designed to alter the sense of the everyday. Lithuanian artist Eglė Budvytytė will activate busy streets with her work, Choreography for the Running Male (2012–14), in which a group of men run through the city gesturing emotions ranging from shame to seduction.
Polish artist Hubert Czerepok will also disrupt a sense of the ordinary in Sydney’s CBD, with a performance that will see children marching with placards calling only for good things. Let’s Change It All (2011, 2014) inverts the accepted notion that a public demonstration is a negative activity, as well as the adage that children should be seen and not heard.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, the 19th Biennale of Sydney will be presented across two floors, with artworks drawing on the elements of air and water, as well as the realms of the imaginative and the surreal. The double-height gallery space will feature a site-specific video installation by renowned Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, commissioned especially for the 19th Biennale. For Mercy Garden Retour Skin (working title) (2014), viewers will be able to immerse themselves in a sensual pleasure-world created from vivid colour and light.
Elsewhere at the MCA, the Biennale will feature the work of acclaimed Scottish artist Douglas Gordon, the first artist to win the Turner Prize in the field of video. Gordon will present a large-scale, mixed-media installation featuring the haunting voice of musician Rufus Wainwright. The dramatic installation, Phantom (2011), takes the audience on a rapturous journey. Darkness and light, tragedy, and salvation through redemptive love are the ideas and emotions encountered here.
A forest built inside the Art Gallery of NSW will be home to Chinese-born, Germany-based performance artist Yingmei Duan throughout the 12-week exhibition. As part of Happy Yingmei (2014) visitors are invited to travel through the forest to meet and interact with Duan, who will inhabit the installation dispensing prophecies and poetic observations.
Also at the Gallery, Romanian artist Mircea Cantor will present his work Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (2012), a short film and installation of wall text created with dynamite. In line with Cantor’s interest in the personal trace of people, nations and civilisations on earth, the Latin wall text translates to ‘thus passes the glory of the world’, a phrase more commonly used to convey the idea that all worldly things are fleeting. The Gallery will feature works that explore the diversity of human, geo-political and cultural behaviour through metaphor, fable and collective endeavours.
Inspired by a sense of ‘happy anarchy’, Cockatoo Island will feature numerous new site-specific projects, producing an atmosphere of joyful energy. In the Industrial Precinct, Danish artist duo Randi & Katrine will create an anthropomorphised wonderland in the style of a typical Danish village. Surrounded by a city wall with a forest at one end, and with buildings designed to have human features – rooftops as hair, windows as eyes, and doors for mouths – The Village (2014) promises to be a magical environment for visitors of all ages.
Inside the cavernous Turbine Hall, Danish artist Eva Koch will present a towering life-sized, projection of Gljufrabui, the Icelandic waterfall, accompanied by a roaring soundtrack. Bringing into question our ideas of contemporary worship and our changing relationship to the natural environment, I AM THE RIVER (2012) will be both awesome and sublime.
In 2014, the Biennale takes over the newly expanded space at Carriageworks, with works that explore the language, materials and narratives of the theatre and film worlds from which contemporary artists take inspiration for reinvention.
Artists at Carriageworks include Austrian artist Mathias Poledna; Israeli-born Yael Bartana; and Dutch artist Gabriel Lester. Working on a new commission and large-scale work, Lester will speak to the cinematic and its penchant for seductive illusion using modelling techniques and the unique architectural interior of the space. The Biennale of Sydney and Carriageworks will also co-present the world premiere of a new work by celebrated British artist Tacita Dean.
Artspace returns as a venue partner for the 19th Biennale, presenting work from artists including Ugo Rondinone, Maxime Rossi and Henna-Riikka Halonen.
Image: Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger, Souls, 2011, collage, 24 x 37 cm. Courtesy the artists